Before the words ‘compact SUV’ were ever uttered, Subaru was making all-wheel drive passenger cars and station wagons with better ground clearance. Now the Forester sits in the midst of one of the fastest growing market segments with its Symmetrical All Wheel Drive (which works full-time), SI-Drive, X-Mode for hill climbs and descents and 220mm ride height, but car-like handling.
Let’s cut to the chase: the Forester is an extremely competent all-rounder. For light off-roading, towing (up to 1500kg), transporting people, road trips, supermarket runs and the morning commute the Forester isn’t necessarily the best-in-class for each one, but
combine all its skills together and you get a car which is greater than the sum of its parts. Going head-to-head with Mazda’s excellent CX-5, the Subaru puts in a solid showing.
Our test model was the 2.5i Sport with its 2.5-litre, 4-cylinder boxer engine that produces 126kW and 235Nm. The 8.1l/100km combined fuel economy is assisted by the auto stop/start feature that turns the engine off when you are stationary. Hill start mode stops you rolling back or forwards as the engine restarts while stationary.
The interior is appointed with Bluetooth phone compatibility, leather steering wheel with plenty of buttons to adjust the cruise control, iPod/USB connection, dual zone climate control, and a reversing camera (standard across the whole range). A 4.3-inch multi-function display can be cycled through a number of features such as fuel economy and journey information, eco-gauge, auto stop/start (including the fuel saved by that system), VDC operation, audio and Bluetooth phone.
Rear seat passenger leg room is fine, and they get their own air conditioning vents (though no controls).
There’s nothing much to complain about with the Forester. I feel that the interior switchgear, screens and layout are starting to look dated, and I would prefer to have keyless start than electric folding 60/40 split rear seats. The boot floor is above the level of the boot aperture, which is odd, but it does allow for a full sized spare tyre; I can’t remember ever seeing this before.
The boot space with the rear seats up is 422 litres (better than a CX-5’s 403 litres) and with them down it has 1481 litres (not as good as a CX-5’s 1560 litres). There are roof rails as standard to help you fit bikes, kayaks and other adventure accoutrements.
Seven airbags (dual front, dual front side, side curtain and knee), plus ABS, electronic brakeforce distribution, brake assist and VDC (vehicle dynamics control – stability and traction control) help take the Forester to a 5-star ANCAP safety rating.
225/60R17 tyres adorn the 17-inch mags. The 18-inch wheels of the Premium version lift the exterior look significantly. The Forester doesn’t start complaining unless you’re really aggressive with your driving, and in this case, the electronics rein you in.
Undoubtedly the Forester is going to win fans for its go-most-places attitude while retaining excellent on-road manners. In fact, it’s so good on the road it kind of verges on boring to drive. That’s what a lot of purchasers will want, though: no fuss when you don’t want to think about driving, but when you want to get the kayaks to the remote lake spot, it’ll pull you through challenging terrain.
- As an all-rounder, it excels
- LCDs and general switchgear choice need modernising – they look too busy and are in too many different styles
- Boot floor has been higher than the boot aperture making it harder to get heavier loads in.
Words and photos: Darren Cottingham