Subaru Forester 2.0D XSn
IT'S too low to be classed as a typical off-roader and the wrong shape for an estate car but Subaru's Forester could just be a hidden gem of the sports utility vehicle scene.
This largest model in the Japanese company's range seems to combine the best of both worlds - plenty of interior space plus a large boot with a raised driving position for better visibility and permanent four-wheel drive.
The Forester has actually been around for donkeys' years and the fact that it has never been a name to roll off the tongue is almost certainly due to fact that the car has traditionally relied on petrol power.
These days though there's an oil-burning option - and it's one of the best diesels around.
Subaru has waved the flag for its horizontal 'boxer' powerplant for more than 40 years and the company's engineers were determined to use this format for their first diesel.
The result is a compact, lightweight 2.0-litre common rail unit producing 147bhp, a maximum speed of 115mph and acceleration to 60 in 10 seconds.
And after a road test that took in a variety of roads plus some of the worst weather of the autumn, the claimed economy figure of 44 miles per gallon proved bang on the button.
It is a rewarding car to drive too. Especially noticeable is the lack of vibration, the dynamics are positive, the engine quiet but the six-speed manual gearbox was a bit notchy.
The Forester is obviously no heavy duty mud plugger - it's all-wheel drive system splits power 50/50 front to rear unless slip is detected - but it's well capable of coping with less demanding off-road conditions.
In fact the only disappointing aspects are a cheap feel to some of the interior trim and an uncomfortable perch, due to a lift-up container, in the rear centre seating position.
The mid-range Forester 2.0D XC is proving the best seller at £23,030 and with its raft of features certainly offers plenty for those unwilling to shell out near enough another £3,000 for the flagship XSn model's leather upholstery, powered seating, push-button start and sat-nav.
Those opting for entry grade Forester 2.0D X can benefit from emissions of 167g/km, which means an annual road fund licence of £170, while the insurance rating isn't excessive at Group 9.
Subaru Forester 2.0D XSn
Mechanical: 147bhp, 1,998cc, 4cyl diesel engine driving four wheels via 6-speed manual gearbox
Max speed: 115mph
0-62mph: 10 seconds
Combined mpg: 44.1
Insurance group: 10
CO2 emissions: 170g/km
BiK rating: 25%
Warranty: 3yrs/ 60,000 miles