Once more, with feeling

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STEPHEN CORBY

Corby gets that new-car rush with his fresh Forester

NEW car joy is a particularly thrilling and heady experience, isnít it? No wonder car companies make so much money.

In theory, I would never buy a brand new car, partly because the instantaneous depreciation is so sharp it gives me vertigo, but mainly because Iím tight. Sadly, buying a near-new model with low kays is never going to provide the kind of this-is-mine ecstasy Ė very much the same pleasure you used to feel when getting a really cool toy as a child Ė that comes with a factory-fresh car.

My new Forester 2.0 XT Premium was delivered with next to nothing on the clock and still smelling so freshly minted that just breathing in its many chemical scents gave me a contact high.

I think you can only fully appreciate new car joy if youíve stepped into one from a vehicle that was really grinding you down, or actually falling apart. My not-so-beloved Hyundai i30 SR had a few miles on the clock when I got it, and put no smiles on my face at all, so the rapture I felt at getting a new car was entirely giddy.

Perhaps my opinions are tainted by too much dopamine, but I like this Subaru a hell of a lot more than I expected to, and not just for the smell. I even like the look of it from some angles, particularly in the Quartz Blue Pearl I selected. But if you look directly at its side profile, it does bring to mind a kind of Harry High Pants figure, the equivalent of a man with a belt wrapped around his ribs and ankle-freezers exposing argyle socks.

The seating position is less offensive than Iíd feared. Itís not as high as an SUV, but it does give you that command position beloved of many people. It feels like Iím sitting in a high-backed chair from my school days, but at least itís quite comfortable, and Iím comfortable with it. The undeniable advantage is how easy it is to load small children into the back, with the bench at hip height; no more back-breaking bending.

What surprises me most of all, though, is how good it is to drive, which has been like finding out that Katy Perry can actually sing (donít worry, Iím sure she canít). I always like Subarus because they seem to make an effort to engineer driving enjoyment, and steering feel, into everything they do, and because theyíre all somehow related to the WRX.

The all-wheel-drive system guarantees good handling, but the 2.0-litre direct injection turbocharged boxer engine really brings the zing, with an enthusiastic 177kW at a peaky 5600rpm and 350Nm of torque from 2400 to 3600rpm.

The transmission is a CVT, which rang some alarm bells for me as they can be as sleepy as Clive Palmer on parliamentary sitting days, but so far itís been all smiles,

The gift of EyeSight

SUBARUíS EyeSight technology features the usual clever tricks of beeping at you when youíre approaching the car in front too fast (I still prefer to use the windscreen for this). Its one cool feature is that it also warns if youíre sitting at the lights and traffic starts moving in front of you. Youíll only hear this if youíre foolishly and negligently staring at your mobile phone at the time, but if you are it sure is handy. The beeping hasnít annoyed me enough yet to research whether I can turn it off.

and Iím yet to even try the paddle shifters.

Surprisingly, for what looks like a slightly staid family hauler, my Forester even comes with an SI-Drive switch, which can dial up its sportiness or enable more economical city driving. I look forward to seeing whether it actually works.

My $50,490 Premium version gets me a bounteous amount of kit as well, with sexy 18-inch alloys, a giant sunroof, heated door mirrors, tinted glass, rain-sensing wipers, eight-way power adjustable and heated front seats, one-touch electric folding rear seats, a powered tailgate, sat-nav, eight-speaker Harmon Kardon stereo, cruise control and the very Euro-tech EyeSight technology (see breakout opposite).

Iíd have to say, so far at least, I feel like I got a hell of a deal for my $50,490, and a massive serving of new-car joy to boot.

Overdue FIX is childís play

A NEW car seemed like a good excuse to get a new car seat as well, especially with ISOFIX finally approved for use in Australia.

Britax came to the party by lending me one of its Trufix seats and I have to say itís a huge leap forward. Not only are ISOFIX seats far easier to install, they feel about 800 percent more rigid, with virtually no lateral movement. Itís just absurd that we still require these seats to have top tethers attached, which seems to defy worldís best practice. At least weíre catching up.

SUBARU FORESTER XT PREMIUM

Date acquired: November 2014 Price as tested: $50,490 This month: 410km @ 17.8L/100km Overall: 410km @ 17.8L/100km

BOOT SCOOTINí

Wedging a full-size spare under Foresterís lumpy boot floor still allows you to fill it with all sorts of crap