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Subaru Forester 2.5i-S 2016 review

Paul Gover road tests and reviews the Subaru Forester 2.5i-S with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.

Built for the sand or snow, the updated Forester is slick in the cabin and safe as houses.

The sleeping giants of the Japanese car business are finally awake and rumbling onward as they put the global financial crisis behind them.

Major brands wound back on quality and development through the GFC and that compromised the cars they have delivered to showrooms in recent years — as well as giving a free kick to Hyundai and Kia from South Korea.

Lately, however, I have driven and enjoyed improved vehicles from Mazda, Suzuki and Toyota. The new Honda Civic also promises big things.

But it's Subaru time and, after an Outback diesel that's much more like the classy cars that first carried the badge, it's the Forester that's lining up to chase The Tick.

The difference is discernible straight away. This seems more like a new model than a midlife update.

It sits more firmly on the road, is quieter and more comfortable inside and there's a conspicuous lift in quality.

This Forester 2.5i-S sits right in the sweet spot for compact SUV buyers.

I'm still not fussed about the US-centric styling, which makes the Forester more chunky than I like, but the big box delivers good space for a family. There is, as always, fulltime all-wheel drive for people who want to play on the sand or in the snow.

This Forester 2.5i-S sits right in the sweet spot for compact SUV buyers and goes head-on against a wide range or rivals led by the Kia Sportage and Mazda CX-5. In recent years it would have been an easybeat but much has improved.

The price is $39,490 but that includes an electric tailgate, electric seats, LED headlamps, sunroof, leather trim and satnav. There is also Subaru's impressive EyeSight safety tech, including adaptive cruise control.

The base price for the Forester is sharp at $29,990 but that's for the manual 2.0-L — it's not a big seller.

Changes to the Forester go deeper than the extra equipment, new nose and revamped tail-lights.

Cabin plastics are slicker, there's a little more cushioning in the driver's seat (although the shaping and support are disappointments) and the "surprise-and-delight" tweaks include chrome and high-gloss finishing.

On the road, the car is noticeably quieter and smoother. That's a reflection of major work on the noise-vibration-harshness side of the ledger by Subaru's engineers — there's more stiffening in the basic body, with extra insulation, and the side glass is thicker — as families expect a lot more now from their SUVs.

Based on this suspension hit, it's right up with the CX-5 and Sportage.

There's also a significant improvement to the ride and handling. The previous Forester felt a little tipsy to me but this one is more connected to the road and the damping is better in all conditions.

It easily soaks up the challenge of my favourite speed hump on test, where the previous Forester bounced and rebounded down the road. Based on this suspension hit, it's right up with the CX-5 and Sportage.

The 2.5-litre engine is nothing special but does its work well enough — Subaru's S-drive changes modes for a little more perkiness.

It's the same for the constantly variable transmission, which despite the upgrade is still wanting. I have to resort to the paddle-shifters to extract the urge for overtaking and the revs for negotiating tight corners.

The colour multimedia display impresses and Subaru even says the response time for the rear-view camera is quicker, reflecting the bigger development budget and greater commitment.

The test for The Tick is definitely going well thanks to the EyeSight package and LED lights on the S that provide better cornering vision. It also gets a full-size alloy spare and can tow 1.5 tonnes.

But it's not all plain sailing, as the Forester requires six-monthly service intervals, which make the capped servicing plan one of the most expensive in the business.


"No rear air vents. No light in the boot. No tick," says my partner, slamming important omissions for a family car.

She is right and I can easily feel the need for extra air when I take a ride in the rear. Are those things enough to sway the overall voting?

No. The latest Forester is back to what I expect from Subaru and it's a classy car. I like the refinement, comfort and the overall package. The 2.5i-S is not the leader of the pack but it's worthy of The Tick.

Does the Forester 2.5i-S earn your tick of approval? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Click here to see more 2016 Subaru Forester pricing and spec info.

Pricing guides

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Range and Specs

2.0D-L 2.0L, Diesel, 6 SP MAN $16,000 – 26,999 2016 Subaru Forester 2016 2.0D-L Pricing and Specs
2.0D-S 2.0L, Diesel, CVT AUTO $22,500 – 29,888 2016 Subaru Forester 2016 2.0D-S Pricing and Specs
2.0i-L 2.0L, ULP, 6 SP MAN $15,500 – 21,890 2016 Subaru Forester 2016 2.0i-L Pricing and Specs
2.0XT 2.0L, PULP, CVT AUTO $26,880 – 31,990 2016 Subaru Forester 2016 2.0XT Pricing and Specs