Subaru Forester 2017 review

RACV RoyalAuto magazine

Subaru Forester

With a constant flow of new faces coming onto the market, it is important not to overlook the well-established models. Subaru Forester takes on the test of time and, apart from a few minor shortcomings, it passes with distinction.

The Japanese-built Forester has always been one of the better compact SUVs, with an emphasis on function over style, plus strong safety credentials. Now in its fourth generation, it had a mild facelift last year with more equipment and some tweaking to its well-proven mechanical configuration to keep it fresh, but it retains its practical, boxy shape. An all-new model is due in 2018.

The ability levels of compact SUVs vary greatly, and Forester can be classed as a consummate all-rounder for the more adventurous family. It easily handles city, highway and dirt road driving, along with the occasional venture down a bush track.

The nine-model range (five petrol and four diesel) starts with the 2.0i-L manual petrol version at $30,240 (plus on-road costs), and it tops out at $48,240 for the 2.0 XT Premium turbo-petrol automatic. While the 2.5i-L petrol automatic ($33,240) is the top seller, the 2.5i-S ($39,740) we drove is outstanding value.

Subaru Forester interior

Extra kit

Part of the appeal of a mature model is the extra standard kit gathered with upgrades along the way. The 2.5i-S has steering-responsive LED headlights, a powered tailgate, eight-way powered front seats and rain-sensing wipers.

There is a good spread of infotainment and connectivity features, but without Apple CarPlay and Android Auto it’s probably regarded as being half a generation behind the competition. Siri compatibility is standard across the range and the 2.5i-S has factory-fitted satellite navigation as well as a reversing camera with guidelines.

Subaru’s excellent EyeSight driver assistance system enhances the 2.5i-S’s 5-star ANCAP safety credentials with adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and lane sway warning (indicating fatigue), as well as pre-collision braking, brake assist and throttle management. However blind-spot warning, a valuable feature that is becoming more common on newer models, is not part of the system. EyeSight’s lane-departure warning can be over-sensitive at times.   

Getting in and out of Forester is easy, and visibility is excellent.

Subaru Forester rear

Premium finish

At the wheel, there’s an immediate sense of solid construction and a premium finish; you also start to notice that the 2.5i-S has a level of standard equipment usually reserved for top-of-line models, not a mid-grade version. The layout of the controls is busy but all are logically placed and straightforward to use. Well-shaped, heated and powered leather-clad front seats provide good comfort and support but they don’t have lumbar adjustment. Tall occupants may also find that the sunroof robs a little head room.

As you move towards the back there are a few minor shortcomings which might be a legacy of Forester’s older design. There are no face-level air-vents in the rear, while the rear seat is relatively flat, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing if you need to squeeze three passengers into the back. It is a 60/40-split seat which reclines, but when folded forward it doesn’t provide a completely flat floor. Unlike similar SUVs, you can’t slide the seat base forward or back, and the top tether point for the centre child seat is awkwardly positioned in the roof.

Forester’s luggage compartment is adequate at best, and the raised boot floor doesn’t help. But at least that’s because the space below is taken up by a full-size spare wheel, not an inadequate space-saver.

Subaru’s 2.5-litre flat-four boxer engine, which produces a useful 126kW of power and peak torque of 235Nm, is mated to one of the best CVTs we have driven. It feels more like a conventional auto and always seems to have the right ratio to make good use of the performance available. Even the characteristic CVT whine is less intrusive than in most other vehicles with this kind of transmission. Forester’s official fuel consumption, 8.1 litres per 100 kilometres, is average for a petrol model in this class. Our car averaged 9.5 litres per 100 kilometres, a touch higher than expected, but not excessive.

Subaru Forester badge

Surefooted on the road

There is a reassuring surefootedness about Forester’s on-road ability. Thanks to last year’s upgrade of the steering and suspension, it displays a good balance of handling and ride comfort that’s well suited to this type of vehicle. Thicker door glass, improved door seals and the use of more sound-damping materials make the Forester cabin a relatively quiet environment.  

Subaru’s constant all-wheel-drive system has always been a step above the on-demand systems employed by most of its peers. It features active torque-split control for better distribution of the drive. Forester’s off-road ability is extended by good ground clearance and Subaru’s X-mode which, when slippery and difficult terrain is encountered at speeds under 40km/h, centralises control of the engine, AWD, brakes and other critical components. This includes hill descent control.

The verdict

Without the glamour and hype that comes with the release of a new model, the mature-aged Subaru Forester 2.5i-S still mounts a very strong case as one of the best choices in the compact SUV category.

SUBARU FORESTER 2.5i-S

Price

$39,740 + $4202 (est) ORC. Premium paint: no cost. Range $30,240–$48,240.

Safety

5-star ANCAP. ESC. ABS. 7 airbags. Adaptive cruise control. Driver alert/fatigue warning. Lane-departure warning. Reversing camera. Auto lights/wipers. ISOFIX fittings. Daytime running lights.  Front fog lights.

Connectivity

Satellite navigation. 7” touch-screen. Bluetooth. 2 USB/1 CD input.

Vehicle features

Dual-zone climate control. Leather trim. Powered, heated front seats with memory. Sunroof. Roof rails. Powered tailgate with memory. Powered folding rear seats.

Driver features

Selectable driving modes. LED headlights. Fully adjustable steering column. Paddle shifters. Keyless entry/start. Stop/start fuel saving.

Specifications

Drivetrain: 2498cc, 4cyl petrol engine. All-wheel-drive. CVT. 126kW@5800rpm, 235Nm@4100rpm.
Fuel: 9.5L/100km (RACV test); 8.1L/100km (govt test). 60L tank. 91-RON petrol.
Wheels: 18” alloy, 225/55 R18 tyres. Full-size spare.
Tow limits: 1500kg braked trailer, 150kg towball load.
Environment: 187g/km CO2.

Service/Repairs

6-month/12,500km services.
3yr/unlimited km warranty.

RACV rating

****

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Written by Greg Hill
May 16, 2017