Car reviews - Subaru - Forester
High standard safety gear, roomy interior, great visibility, increased service intervals, attention to detail
Room for improvement
Lacklustre powertrain, samey looks, elastic CVT, fiddly infotainment system
Subaru serves up comfortable and capable new-generation Forester medium SUV
7 Sep 2018
SUBARU Australia’s Forester has long been considered the safe and dependable choice in the mid-size SUV segment, never excelling in any one particular area but broadening its appeal by ticking a lot of boxes.
The fifth-generation model looks to continue this trend, adding high levels of standard safety equipment and more refined interior, as well as stretched dimensions to make it a little roomier inside.
However, in switching to new-generation form – and Subaru’s Global Platform that already underpins the Impreza and XV – the Forester loses its entry-level manual grade and turbocharged petrol and diesel engines, for an uprated 2.5-litre naturally aspirated Boxer four and continuously variable transmission set-up.
Hoping to better appeal to growing families, does the new Subaru Forester besmirch its predecessors’ reliable reputation or does it add to it?
Subaru Australia's new-generation Forester mid-size SUV kicks off at $33,490 before on-roads for the base 2.5i base grade, rising to $35,490 for the 2.5i-L, $38,490 for the 2.5i-Premium and $41,490 for the flagship 2.5i-S.
While Subaru has ditched the outgoing Forester’s price-leading 2.0-litre manual version, pricing has been increased by only $2250and $1750 for 2.5-litre-powered 2.5i-L and 2.5i-S variants respectively.
Subaru’s cheapest Forester is $3250 more expensive than before.
Developing 136kW of power at 5800rpm and 239Nm of torque at 4400rpm – a slight 10kW/4Nm rise over the outgoing version – the free-breathing engine is pared to a continuously variable automatic transmission.
Performance is adequate, if not blistering, moving the 1563-1617kg mass at a decent pace evidenced by its 9.5 second zero to 100km/h acceleration time.
At slower speeds around town, the drivetrain is perfectly fine, but when the speedo starts to climb near the triple digits, the atmo engine can run out of puff.
We'd love to see a turbocharged engine with a bit more pep under the bonnet of the Forester, as well as the platform-sharing Impreza and XV, but with hybrid powertrains on the horizon, the lack of immediate punch should be addressed in future iterations.
Diesel engines have also been ditched, but luckily for those looking to drive the Forester long distance, fuel economy is commendable at 7.4 litres per 100km.
With the new consolidated range, Subaru has also upped the safety equipment in a substantial way.
As standard, features such as autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, reversing camera, rear cross-traffic alert, tyre pressure monitoring, automatic and adaptive headlights, and lane-keep assist are standard.
In comparison to some of its mid-size SUV rivals, the entry-level Forester makes a compelling argument for families prioritising safety, as Subaru doesn’t lock away crucial equipment behind an optional paywall or higher model grades.
More expensive variants add front- and side-view cameras, reverse automatic braking and a new Driver Monitoring System (DMS), but we love that all the essential safety equipment is available at no extra cost across the line-up.
At launch, we sampled only the two higher grades, the 2.5i-Premium and 2.5i-S, which nab a bigger 8.0-inch infotainment system and aforementioned safety gear upgrades.
We're happy to report the new DMS works a treat too, thanks to a facial recognition camera that can identify and store driver profiles.
This means that if there are multiple drivers in the household, the system can automatically adjust settings such as seat and mirror positioning automatically.
For the paranoid, the data is only stored locally on the vehicle and not sent to a remote server, while the system can also be deactivated at the push of a button.
The DMS also serves double duty, monitoring driver fatigue levels and whether they are facing the road and will alert drivers.
As for the interior appointments, the large infotainment touchscreen works well enough and even has integrated smartphone mirroring, digital radio and, on higher grades, satellite navigation.
Subaru’s trademark three screens are also in play in the new forester, with a 4.2-inch driver display for information such as speed, and a centre console top-positioned 6.3-inch screen for details such as safety equipment and vehicle status.
Touchpoints are all suitably soft, even premium in some areas, but most surfaces have a utilitarian feel that is scratch and stain resistant.
Being larger than its predecessor, the new Forester features increased interior dimensions that will be a huge boon for occupants regularly finding themselves in the second row.
Leg- and shoulder room is up by 8mm and 30mm respectively and our adult frame has no problem in the outbound rear seats, but found the middle pew a little cramped.
Our favourite part of the new Forester is the attention to detail that lifts Subaru’s new mid-size SUV into something greater than the sum of its parts.
Small touches such as high-voltage charging ports in the rear, second-row air vents and seat pockets to accommodate smartphones and tablets reveal that Subaru really anticipated how customers would use the new Forester.
The boot space is also up 78 litres, to 498L, with a wider aperture to make loading and unloading strollers, groceries or golf bags that much easier.
Higher grades also gain a powered tailgate that opens and closes more quickly than before.
Again, Subaruattention to detail shines out of the rear as well, with four bag hooks, quick-fold seat releases and a full sized spare tyre – the latter handy for families taking long trips or off the beaten path. All-wheel drive is standard across the range with Subaru’s X Mode terrain-select system.
All grades have access to a snow and mud settings. While traction control needs to be switched off manually in lower-grade variants, this happens automatically in the top-shelf 2.5i-S.
For those who like to get away fishing, camping or hiking on the weekends, the Forester will be able to get you places the vast majority of soft-roading mid-size SUVs simply cannot.
Subaru’s off-roading heritage is proudly on display in the Forester as the new model is able to take on the path much less travelled with ease.
Though we doubt the Forester could handle the terrain of the off-road-leading Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk, the Subaru’s latest won’t shy away from a rugged path or unpaved road.
There is a small trade-off, however, as the Forester can be noticeably unsettled with large dips and bumps on the blacktop.
Subaru is targeting its Forester at small and burgeoning families and it has absolutely hit its mark in this regard.
Although the Forester may not lead from the front in any aspect, its attention to detail, high levels of safety, improved interior dimensions and standard all-wheel drive will be highly attractive qualities for those seeking a well-built all-rounder.
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