Parkers overall rating: 4 out of 5 4.0

It was launched with a 2.0-litre flat-four engine, available with or without a turbocharger. The standard engine delivers 155bhp which feels perfectly adequate, while the turbocharged 2.0-litre version has 174bhp. In 2004 the 2.0-litre turbo was replaced with a 2.5-litre turbo producing 208bhp and this was upgraded again in 2005 to 225bhp. With the Forester's four-wheel drive grip, that's enough to out-accelerate a Porsche Boxster.

An automatic gearbox was available on all engines, but a diesel option has never been offered.

It may look tall and boxy, but the flat-four engine gives a surprisingly low centre of gravity, which makes it much more agile. It will lean a fair bit through corners, but only when it's going very quickly, by which point unsuspecting passengers should be mute with terror. The suspension does a good job of soaking up lumps and bumps and sleeping policemen are little cause for concern.

It doesn't have the same level of ground clearance as most proper 4x4s however, which limits it off-road, as does the lack of a low ratio gearbox on turbocharged models.