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Car reviews - Subaru - Forester - diesel CVT

Our Opinion

We like
Airy and roomy cabin, good vision, ride comfort, body control, quiet and smooth drivetrain
Room for improvement
More torque, electric tailgate operation slow and cumbersome


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17 Mar 2015

ALMOST a quarter of all mid-size SUVs are diesel automatics and Subaru has not had any of that sales action, until now.

Expectations of Forester diesel sales rising from 60 to 200 per month could be fulfilled by the new drivetrain option for what was Subaru's top-selling model last year.

The first variant sampled was the top-spec S automatic, which is priced at $42,490, plus on-road costs, and it quickly surprises for its quiet engine and correspondingly quiet cabin – the engine is quieter than convention for four-cylinder diesels but the cabin is also well-insulated.

Material quality, helm and centre stack layout have all improved, with the new touchscreen easy to decipher and use for both sound and sat-nav functions.

More conventional controls for the dual-zone climate control remain and are still displayed on the top screen, which takes some time with which to become accustomed, but overall the new centre stack is easy to negotiate.

Bluetooth and two USB ports cover connectivity comprehensively and the tall glasshouse offers good vision and ample 'airiness' in the cabin, which has more than adequate space for four adults.

A reasonable (if not expansive) cargo bay still features the raised floor for the full-size spare accommodations – described by Subaru Australia boss Nick Senior as something of a novelty in the current marketplace.

Subaru's new continuously variable transmission (CVT) has impressed when teamed to the turbo four-cylinder powerplants in the WRX and it continues that form with the diesel. Flaring is well-controlled and it makes good use of the 108kW and 350Nm on offer, rarely feeling the need to be manually shifted.

Fuel economy from the naturally-aspirated flat-four petrol models remains far from gluttonous – sitting below 9.0 litres per 100 kilometres even in forced-induction form – so the addition of a diesel isn't primarily to appease the misers.

That said, the diesel fuel use claims dwell in the high 5s for the manual and low 6s for the CVT variants our stints in the cars had the fuel economy numbers approaching double-digits but the test cars were being driven more enthusiastically than the norm.

Brisk and refined, the Forester diesel feels as though it could benefit from a torque figure of 400Nm or more – recent time in the top-selling Mazda's CX-5 backs that up – but the Subaru is not without worth under acceleration.

A stint was also completed in the base auto, the new 2.0D-L CVT, a $35,490 proposition, didn't detract from the overall experience – ride comfort remained impressive over some badly-broken Tasmanian backroads and regardless of the sealed and unsealed nature of the surface, it had ample grip.

Steering was up to par for the segment and while it felt a little vague on turn-in to corners, the Forester's nose bit nicely and followed orders, with body control also proving to be without any issues.

Subaru already had a competent all-rounder in its ranks with the Forester – spacious, comfortable, capable and smarter off-road than the segment average.

The turbo petrol variants indulged the World Rally wannabes and the diesel offered something to those drivers capable of controlled three pedals, but the addition of a useful CVT will make it a genuine contender.

In a segment now littered with two- and four-wheel drive options, the brand that arguably started it all has eliminated one key excuse for shopping elsewhere for an SUV.

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