This might surprise you, but Subaru have been making ‘boxer’ (or horizontally-opposed) engines for 50 years now.

In that time, they’ve churned out more than 16 million of them, so it’s certainly fair to say they’ve got it down to a fine art.

With each iteration, they’ve tweaked and honed their designs, and they’re the only company in the world (at least as far as we know) that makes a horizontally-opposed diesel engine.

That process of continuous refinement applies equally to the cars that are powered by them, and none represents that ethos better than the Subaru Forester.

Originally launched back in 1997, before much of the world even knew what an SUV was, it’s been offering a compelling blend of practicality and confidence-inspiring all-wheel-drive capability ever since.

…a compelling blend of practicality and confidence-inspiring all-wheel-drive capability…

In typical Subaru style, the company couldn’t leave their best-selling model alone, so for this year the Forester has gained subtle tweaks to its bumpers, front grille and headlights (which are now adaptive), while the interior features some new trim, clearer displays, improved seats, and heating for both rear seats and steering wheel.

Subaru’s engineers also took the opportunity to add a touch more sound-proofing, adopt a thicker door glass, optimise the suspension settings and quicken the steering ratio slightly.

What remains, though, is the Forester’s seemingly endless list of little features that, while not earth-shatteringly amazing by themselves, all add up to create a car that’s just so damn easy to live with.

That starts with touches like the wiper de-icers, the hook on the inside of the tailgate from which you can hang wet clothes while sheltering from the rain, the underfloor compartments in the boot including a dedicated space for the rear cargo cover, and the wide-opening doors that are shaped to avoid getting your trousers dirty if you’re careless enough to brush your favourite tweed against the sills.

The infotainment system now allows iPhone users to activate Siri from the steering wheel, and although all models feature StarLink, it’s rather slow and not particularly useful.  We understand Apple CarPlay is coming soon, and should make it easier to swallow the fact entry-level models don’t include the otherwise excellent navigation function of the higher grades.

The range of boxer engines remains unchanged – 2.0-litre petrols with 150PS or 241PS for the turbo’d XT, plus a 2.0-litre diesel with 147PS.

The diesel is perhaps a little clattery when pulling away from cold, but once warmed up it settles into a gentle off-beat rhythm that we found strangely appealing.  And, during a week spent tootling around the countryside, we notched up an average of just over 48 mpg, not far off the Government’s official figure of 49.6 mpg.

…we notched up an average of just over 48 mpg…

It rides well, and despite a healthy dose of body-roll, all four wheels feel permanently squished into the tarmac.  Ok, so it’s not the deeply engaging driving experience you’ll enjoy behind the wheel of something like a Levorg, but its party trick is that it’s almost totally untroubled by the semi-catastrophic condition of our crumbling road network.

The Forester laughs in the face of cat’s eyes, yawns in the ear of pot-holes, and sticks two derisory fingers up at speed-bumps.

And when the tarmac runs out and the mud begins, the Subaru doesn’t need you to stab at tucked-away buttons or pull at mysterious levers – the Forester was born four-wheel-drive.  It has no other mode.

Or, in other words, the Subaru Forester was ready to head out into the wilderness before you even got up this morning.

Entry-level Price£25,495Price as tested£26,995
Engine1998cc 4-cyl turbodieselTransmission6-speed manual
Power147PS @ 3,600rpmTorque350Nm @ 1,600-2,400rpm
0-629.9 secsTop speed118 mph
Economy49.6 mpgCO2148 g/km
Dimensions4610 x 1795 x 1715 (LxWxH)Kerb Weight1562 kg