Crossovers, they’re pretty much a dime a dozen now (given their sheer numbers). From petrol or diesel power, front-wheel, rear-wheel (rarely), and even all-wheel drive, these are only a few of the many different factors that pit one manufacturer’s wares against the others’ for segment dominance. But let’s cut to the chase: the Subaru Forester is out to take a piece of the pie, if not all of it.
Sitting on a new platform, and now with only naturally aspirated (gasp!) engines, the Forester has come out with a total of 3 new variants, and we recently got a hold of their mid-tier model, the 2.0i-L EyeSight. Some may argue that AWD may be best for the beaten path and not really necessary on city roads, but that’s what we want to find out, really: how does this particular crossover, with all its inherent Subaru standards and technologies, fare on the daily drive?
It was in January of this year that we all saw the refreshed Forester lineup. On the outside, there’s not much to differentiate one variant from another, except by their wheels and the addition of a moon roof for the top-of-the-line S. Our L ES unit came in red, which in my opinion, is absolutely classy. I’ve always liked white but this color is gorgeous - not too light, not too dark. Have a look at the Forester up front and its square and more angular design gives it a more masculine touch. Not that the older, more elongated noses of older models were bad; it’s just that now, there’s more toughness about the Forester’s look.
On the side, though, is where I think this crossover looks its best. Ever since, I think the Forester has had bulges and curves in all the right places. Wide fenders, big windows stretching to the rear quarter glass, those lines at the bottom of the doors, and those black side skirts and fender arches. Sure the S variant has a nice silver trim on the skirts, but again, the all-black set does well to frame the Forester’s shape, and highlight its high stance.
Take a look at the rear, and this is where I have a single concern: what is up with tail light trunk garnish? The C-shaped lights seem awkward and slightly out of place, if you’d ask me. It just doesn’t fit in the overall design of things, but like all the little nuances, this is a love-it-or-hate-it piece. I don’t hate it, but I just haven't taken a personal preference towards it, is all. Not that it takes any intended function away; it just looks and feels out of place.
After stepping inside, you’re treated to something that I always found impressive with Subaru: a plush and posh interior. Dominantly clad in black, the Forester’s interior can do no wrong, really. Silver accent pieces that line the dash, the air conditioner vents, the shifter console, steering wheel, and door handles give a nice balance to the abundantly black material.
The seats themselves are very comfortable, and you’ll find it rather easy getting to your most ideal driving position by way of the motorized seat adjusters. The steering wheel controls have everything you need to see and use what you want on both the gauge cluster and the dash-mounted information monitor. At first I thought there was too much going on with Subaru’s screens, generally speaking. It may take some getting used to, and the good news is you can customize what information you want displayed. Hooray technology!
In line with the controls on the wheel, you’ll find that every switch and knob in the Forester is very well placed. Ergonomics seems to have been top-of-mind when making this crossover and I believe they did well in that aspect. It has a very driver-centric layout in that your hands can “instinctively” go to this area and that, and you’ll find what you need to be right there. Oh, and that X Mode dial, it’s right where it needs to be, really, but a little more on that later.
The back seat is just as comfortable as those in front. What passengers will find is that you can fit 3 adults (of Asian proportions) quite easily in the second row. There is head and legroom aplenty, and the seats do well to cushion riders’ behinds for an enjoyable ride; yes, even in traffic. There are also vents at the rear of the center armrest that do well to keep temperatures bearable in the back. Should there only be two in the backseat, a wide armrest with cup holders can be used for convenience. Not that the Forester has a lack of cubbyholes and door pockets, mind you.
In terms of cargo space, you will not be left wanting. Whether the second row seats are up or folded forward (which you can easily do by way of a lever), bags, groceries, boxes and cargo of all sorts will fit with ease. They actually widened the opening of the tailgate, allowing you to fit bigger cargo more easily. By the way, it’s also an electronic tailgate. No foot sensor to open and close it, unfortunately, but maybe that’s something Subaru can add to future Foresters.
Thus far it’s been all peaches and cream for this review. But let’s get down to the nitty-gritty: how does this crossover perform on the city roads? The simple answer is this: it does so very well. On the suspension side, it may be a little too much on the softer side. It does well to soften the bumps on our roads, for sure, but it all gets a little too wavy on some stretches. It’s not uncomfortable by any means, but you really feel the vehicle “undulating”, if you will.
Power, now that is something you just don’t have any shortage of with anything bearing the 6-star badge. Granted we miss the pull of the old turbocharged engines but the delivery on the N/A 2.0 mill is more than enough. Pair that with Subaru’s AWD and what you have is either a machine well-capable to blast you past straights and spirited corners or, just push that X Mode switch to on, and you get a crossover that can pull you out of tight situations should you find yourself on rough and patchy roads (or trails, or unfinished thoroughfares). Confidence in motion, fast or steady, is something that Subaru has always lived up to, if I may say so myself.
For its extra knickknacks, this model comes equipped with,EyeSight, and as mentioned, X Mode. The former is a one of the greater things to have come out from Subaru. The system is very intelligent, keeping lane-keep, collision mitigation, and the usual standard cruise control working together. The result, a smooth ride with just your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel; no pedal work required. For the latter, one more interesting bit that it provides apart from getting you ready for the rough stuff, is that it applies the brakes when you’re caught on an incline, keeping you from sliding downhill. Good additions, even for a city-slicker crossover.
Now, the drawback: gas consumption. Oddly enough, we got better mileage from the boosted engines compared to the naturally aspirated ones. This particular unit managed a best of around 7.3km/L on the daily drive. Note that we didn’t get to do much “blasting past” given the jams of our daily route. All things considered, it’s something you’d normally see and get from a Subaru, actually. It does get more frugal on long open stretches, so if your route involves highways and stretches, expect your consumption to do better.
So is this a crossover that over-delivers on in-car tech but falls short on practicality and everyday drivability? Yes, for the former, and for the latter, no, not at all. Sure you may be put off by what you see on “paper” especially given its thirsty nature, but if you’re looking for a Subaru, then that should something you are prepared to have on your gauges daily. If you are in the market for a sipper with maybe a few less features than this crossover, then by all means shop around. But if you’re set on getting a fun drive, space, features, functions, you will get what you pay for with the Subaru Forester.