MOST off-roaders are big and chunky and that makes them thirsty and slow, so although many of us have fancied one at some time we never get further than looking.
It is good to feel that you have all that metal around you with one of the big ones, but if you need the 4x4 capability in a smaller and more car-like package, the Subaru Forester could be just what you are looking for.
This good looking, chunky estate is easy to drive and to handle in confined spaces andshould you need the towing or off-road ability, it’s brilliant.
There are two versions of the same two-litre engine in the model built between 2002 and 2008, with 123 or 170bhp, and top models have a 2.5-litre with 208bhp.
All are mated to a five-speed gearbox driving all four wheels and are good to drive – very car-like and easy, with light controls and good power steering. The non-turbo covers ground well, but never feels particularly quick, while the top models are fast and very willing.
The interior is about the size of a Ford Focus estate so it can swallow a family and all their holiday gear without too much trouble.
The ride is comfortable but there is lots of roll when pressing on through corners, which helps cause understeer sooner that you might expect, when the front wheels gently lose grip.
Price: Pay about £6,600 for an '06 06-reg XE, or £8,200 for an ‘08 08-reg XC.
Mechanical: 155bhp, 1,994cc, 4cyl petrol engine driving four wheels via 5-speed manual gearbox
Max speed: 122mph
0-62mph: 9.4 seconds
Combined mpg: 30
Insurance group: 21
CO2 emissions: 220g/km
Main rival: Nissan X-Trail