The fifth-generation Subaru Forester differs from any model before it as it does not offer a manual, diesel or turbocharged variant. Built on a new modular also under the Impreza and XV, whoever, it is a safe, spacious and comfortable SUV option for any family.
In terms of pricing, the Forester kicks-off at $33,490+ORC for the entry-level 2.5i, moves to $35,490+ORC for the 2.5i-L and then $38,490+ORC for the 2.5i Premium and $41,490+ORC for the 2.5i-S. Two hybrid models are also available from $39,990 and $45,990 plus on-roads.
The entry-level Forester is well-equipped, offering Subaru’s full active safety suite via Eyesight, and a 6.5-inch infotainment screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto but no sat-nav, across the range there are rear air vents and twin USB outlets for those in the back. There’s only one engine and transmission across the range, and the 2.5i gets 17-inch alloys as well as Subaru’s clever X-Mode system.
Move up to the 2.5i-L and you get Subaru’s new Driver Monitoring System (DMS) which can recognise the driver and adjust things like mirrors and seats to suit. More than this it also warns if it notices the driver is dozing off or distracted behind the wheel. The 2.5i-L also adds a bunch of extra cameras for multiple views around the vehicle and adds reverse automatic braking.
For the 2.5i Premium the DMS adds door mirror and seat adjustment to its functionality. The infotainment screen grows to 8.0-inches and adds native sat nav, there’s electric adjustment for the driver’s seat and a powered tailgate. The wheels grow to 18-inches and there’s a full-size alloy spare.
The top-spec 2.5i-S add a Harmon Kardon sound system, dual-mode X-Mode functionality some cosmetic fripperies, leather seats and a powered panoramic sunroof.
The Hybrid models brings a new e-Boxer 2.0-litre hybrid electric engine.
What’s the interior and practicality like?
The dashboard is an all-new design but it will feel familiar to anyone who’s been in a recently released Subaru. The layout is clean and easy to use with all the controls falling easily to hand. The 8.0-inch infotainment screen is mounted nice and high in your eye-line without obscuring vision across the bonnet. The leather seats are broad in the back and base and comfortable across bitumen and dirt, and there’s enough length in the seat base that taller drivers will be comfortable on longer drives.
The new Forester is 15mm longer (4625mm) than the old car, 20mm wider (1815mm) and has a longer wheelbase at 2770mm. This has allowed the designers to eke out a little more space inside the cabin. Those in the front have been pushed away from each other slightly improving elbow room while there’s a little more legroom in the back now.
The rear doors open nice and wide making it easy to get in and out and a cinch if you’re fitting a child seat or loading a child into the back. Even with the opening panoramic sunroof on the 2.5i-S there’s good headroom in the back and decent knee leg and foot room. There are directional air vents and twin USB outlets at the back of the centre console and the pouches on the back of the front seats are divided to allow for storage of all sorts of different odds and ends.
The boot offers 498 litres of storage (up 78 litres) with the back seats in use and measures a little wider and longer than the old boot; it grows to 1060 litres with the back seats folded down. The space is nice and square, the rear seats (60:40) can be dropped from the boot, there’s a light in the roof and a 12v outlet with a scattering of hooks and bag holders around the edges. Beneath the floor is a full-size alloy spare.
What’s the performance like?
As mentioned, there’s now no manual transmission on offer and Subaru has globally decided to drop the turbocharged XT and diesel variants. The 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, according to Subaru, is 90 percent new. The hybrid is even newer.
In the end, both power and torque are up marginally (from 126kW and 235Nm to 136kW at 5800rpm and 239Nm at 4400rpm) for the 2.5L while fuel consumption has been improved. The only transmission on offer is a CVT; fortunately, Subaru has a good handle on CVT and the one in the Forester, like in its other vehicles, is one of the best on the market.
The hybrid produces 110kW and 196Nm through a CVT transmission – in the end, it doesn’t really feel all that different or special to the 2.5L, and the fuel consumption is not much improved.
There’s good throttle response and the CVT does a good job of getting the most out of both engines, pouring on power without let up. The engine’s pretty quiet too; at a steady throttle, you can barely hear it, only becoming a little raucous when it’s being revved hard.
What’s the ride and handling like?
The new Forester is the third vehicle to be released on Subaru’s new global platform which offers greater rigidity and has seen the Impreza and XV leap ahead of their predecessors in terms of ride and handling. And, so it is with the new Forester.
The composure is excellent, and the balance of a comfortable ride and a stable, safe footprint is well executed. Over lumps and bumps it does well to soak up the harsh edges, while also feeling quick to react to steering in a natural way. It is also pretty quiet in the cabin which is great for long trips, as the droning noise of the road is muffled away.
Subaru has fitted the top-spec Forester with a dual-mode X-Mode dial while some of the other variants only get a single mode dial. What X-Mode mostly does is automatically turn off traction control when selected. In the single-mode Foresters, you can also manually turn-off traction control when driving through deep, sloshy mud or snow.
How safe is it?
The Subaru Forester carries a five-star ANCAP rating. Added active safety assist system include autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist and blind spot monitoring. Depending on the variant there are also several cameras scattered around the vehicle offering several different views to make parking easier and help keep you from ‘kerbing’ a wheel rim.