Same same, but still solid
Without a doubt, the Forester is the core product of Subaru in the Philippines. When you look at their sales, the 40 to 45% lion's share of sales doesn't belong to the Impreza or the XV. It belongs to the Forester.
Now Subaru has the new Forester in Philippine showrooms after its launch at MIAS. Is the new one significantly better? Or is it fine the way it is?
Just to get it out of the way: this is not an all-new model. The 2022 Forester we're driving (in 2.0i-S Eyesight trim) is technically a facelift of the current generation that has been in the market since 2019. But when they came out with it three years ago, you won't be alone if you thought THAT was the facelift. They didn't change the design too much from the preceding generation.
This new facelift, if anything, actually looks like a new generation model. The big giveaway is really the headlight design and the new grille. It does look good from the front, and that's never a bad thing.
The vehicle looks very upright, and that's because it is. While many other automakers go wider than taller, Subaru doesn't do that with the Forester. Oh and this color too: bronze isn't too common as a body color, but it does look really nice on the Forester. They're a bunch of renegades over at Subaru, and we like them that way.
The wheels look good and the way they used the cladding is very nice. What's really notable here are the windows and windshields. The sheer surface area of all the glass is huge; it really makes a case for getting a high-quality window film because of how intense the sunlight can be here during the summer. Oh, and there's a panoramic glass roof too which was something the Forester pioneered in the Philippines.
The back has a few changes, but nothing major. It still has a power tailgate, which is convenient. The odd bit about the tailgate of the Forester is that it opens so wide and takes most of the taillight with it. But nothing to worry about if you're parked on the side of the road because there are reflectors down there.
What left me disappointed with Subaru's in the past was the interior. While straightforward and logical in layout, that older interior just didn't seem to match the premium pricing that Subarus were being sold for at showrooms. It was like they spend all the R&D and parts budget on the chassis, engine, and suspension, but didn't leave much else for the interior.
Over the years though, Subaru has been gradually improving, and this is a good example of that trend. The plastics feel solid; robust, even. The soft-touch materials feel high grade to the touch. The leather is getting better and better. The switches have a nice feel about them. Actually, there's a lot to talk about with the Forester's interior when it comes to how they've really upped the quality over the years.
The seating is good. If you're in front, you can opt to lower the seat so it feels more like a car, but you can also raise it up nicely if you want to feel like you're really driving an SUV. And don't worry about headroom; there's so much vertical space that taller individuals will feel right at home in the Forester.
The rear seat is likewise nice and has plenty of knee room to spare. The glass area does allow a lot of sunlight in, and you can really enjoy a long drive with the fold-down armrest and charging ports for the rear passengers.
With the rear seat occupied, the cargo area measures 35” deep (long) and 43” wide between the wheel wells. The width actually goes up to 47” if you measure just aft of the wheels if you need to. If the rear seat isn't occupied, you can always fold it so it's flush with the rear cargo area, which stretches out the max length to 70”.
After driving it around for a bit, there are two things I wish they changed. The first would be the engine: this one has a 2.0L with 4 horizontally-opposed cylinders. You can also call it the boxer 4 or flat 4, but whichever the case, I do miss the older XT models because since 2019 Subaru hasn't offered the 2.0L turbo for the Forester. That was basically an FA20 WRX turbo engine but with a different state of tune, but at 240 PS and 350 NM it had way more power than this naturally aspirated FB20 that has been in the market since 2019.
Subaru never really said why they eliminated that Forester here or in the region, but the most likely reason is the fuel economy. This new model can do about 8.5 km/l if you try and be mindful of your throttle pressure in the city, and that goes up to about 13.2 km/l if you cruise gently. Still, I miss the punch of the old one, though the FB20 and the CVT combo do deliver a pretty good response.
The other thing I'd want to be changed (at least for the next generation model) is for Subaru to streamline the dashboard layout and the controls. This almost feels cluttered with all the buttons. If you just hopped into one, be sure to consult your owner's manual because judging by the buttons, you'll need to. Of course, that means Subaru did fit in a lot of standard equipment in this 2.0i-S, and if you've been in a few modern Subarus before, then most will be familiar. But the thing that you really ought to get used to is the EyeSight 4.0 system, and that's when we start to really appreciate the Forester.
EyeSight is Subaru's brand name for their advanced driver assistance technologies in the same way that Honda has Sensing and Toyota has Safety Sense. What Subaru does is a little different because they use two cameras to simulate eyes and give the vehicle several features that are already somewhat autonomous. If you didn't react to an obstacle ahead, the Forester could bring itself to a complete stop. If you turn on the adaptive cruise control, it will maintain a safe distance to the car ahead and even come to a complete stop if need be. If you want the Forester to follow the lane markings with minimal input from you, then it can do so on the highway.
Some would think that it's heresy for Subaru to adopt such technologies in their vehicles; after all, Subaru has been marketed as an enthusiast and performance-centric brand. But really, the company has evolved; that's why we're seeing better interiors and better safety, and less of the turbocharged performance, much to the dismay of performance car enthusiasts like us. Be that as it may, don't think that the Forester has lost its handling touch.
Brake hard for a corner and the Forester will oblige your pedal pressure very positively. Turn a corner at a speed that is reasonably higher than what most crossovers would do, and you'll feel the advantage of the all-wheel drive. Even when you start doing so at not-so-reasonable speeds, you'll feel the difference in the torque vectoring. Even when you suddenly arrive at a deluge on the expressway at highway speeds, you shouldn't feel scared; just slow down a bit and drive.
These things are what make the Subaru Forester special amongst its peers. The way it feels over the bumps is different; it just settles down right away. The composure around the bends is uniquely Subaru. And the control you have even in the most difficult situations will be more than with many of its rivals even with all-wheel drive. Much of that is because Subaru is using the things that made them popular in the performance department (low center of gravity, symmetrical all-wheel drive with vectoring enhance, etc.) to heighten driving control, confidence, and ultimately vehicle safety.
What is surprising is that with the many new features in the Forester 2.0i-S EyeSight, Subaru resisted the urge to bump up the price: as before, this retails for PHP 2.068 million. I think they still have a discount in place, but consult with your nearest dealer for those offers.
So is this Forester better? I think Subaru made enhancements to the model that can be felt, but they were already working on a good model, to begin with. The only thing we really wish for is a bit more power. Yes, we miss the XT. But maybe in the future, Subaru can make that up to us with a hybrid.