Mazda CX-5 Akera 2017 review
What do you mean you’re thinking about a Mazda CX-5? Don’t think about it, get it. There you go, world’s shortest car review. But, there are stacks of variants, and you don’t want the wrong one.
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Subarus and I have an interesting relationship. I was the proud owner of a MY00 Impreza WRX, back when I didn't care about the cost of insurance and what other people thought I did for a living. Later cars lost their mojo and the brand reached its nadir during the GFC with offerings that just didn't cut it, in my head at least.
The last few years have seen the brand climb out of the funk, with the first and second generation XVs and the new Impreza. The Forester straddles the 'new' Subaru and those that went before, but has been an absolute mainstay for the Japanese brand here in Australia. I drove the Forester tS last year and wasn't entirely convinced so it was with mild trepidation I was assigned the Forester 2.5i S.
I needn't have been. My biggest criticism of the turbocharged tS (and XT before it) was that the CVT auto wasn't suited to the engine, flaring and lassoing about while making a racket. In this lower-powered, more relaxed 2.5-litre boxer four, it's much more at home, with 'just' 235Nm to manage along with a modest 126kW. Between the engine and transmission it's quieter and far more agreeable, if not particularly snappy, with a 9.9 second (claimed) run from 0-100km/h.
The 2.5i-S is the second step up in the range, which starts with a 2.0i at $30,240 for the manual and rising to $39,740 for the CVT-only S, via a couple of diesels and the 2.5i-L. The S adds a few niceties we'll cover over the next six months to Christmas, but we are absolutely in love with the fast-acting heated seats that will be further tested on an upcoming trip to Thredbo.
We've settled in to the Forester quickly - three (and counting) airport runs with luggage (two for me, one for the in-laws), a mission to buy a few months worth of chook feed for our five hens and lots of school runs along with a couple of motorway trips. There's plenty more where that lot came from.
Acquired: July 2017
Distance travelled this month: 424km
Average fuel consumption for July: 10.4L/100 (measured at the pump)
Month two with the Forester, and on top of its daily school runs, errands, coffee expeditions and airport excursions, there was a brief interlude where we pointed it south with a load of likely lads aboard to effect a rendezvous with another group's skiing trip.
I am a) dreadfully uncoordinated, b) extremely unfit, and, c) not a ski person, so did not partake, merely leaving my load of weekenders on the side of a cold road. Which, on reflection, may have been a good thing, given one of them was luxuriating in a heavy cold, which I wasn't keen to acquire.
All of us are well over 170cm and the Forester swallowed each without drama. Well, I say no drama - the rear middle seatbelt warning dinged as we loaded a bag between the rear seat occupants. Despite the seat belt being stowed in its out-of-the-way fixing point in the headlining over the boot, it still (rightly) thought there was an unrestrained passenger on-board, so we clicked it all into place to cease the nagging. On reflection, we agreed that was better than the car assuming the weight was luggage.
My co-driver, who is used to a seven-seat diesel with fewer safety bells and whistles, was immediately won over by the Forester's extensive list of gear. He's a dreadful nerd, who unironically wears superhero t-shirts in public, and set about finding ways to fool the system.
He had trouble foxing the cruise control (part of Subaru's 'EyeSight' package, which he dubbed "Adapto"), complaining only when it released the brake after coming to a stop, something that has always vexed me about Subaru's active cruise.
Next up he went after the rest of the EyeSight tech, which also looks after forward collision warning, AEB and lane departure warning. On the motorway, the system is pretty much foolproof, correctly sounding the alarm when you stray to the edge of your lane. He also discovered you could put your right indicator on and drift left and it will still beep.
Once things got less motorway-ey and more backroad-ey, the EyeSight became less convincing. Cars coming the other way on their side of the road triggered a frantic warning, something I've noted in the past.
The final verdict from all aboard - comfortable, quiet, just powerful enough for the load, but Adapto needs work. Being in my privileged position I was able to tell them that in the Liberty, Levorg and Impreza, EyeSight is much less vocal. But it's a better car for having it, so nobody was fussed, apart from the 28-year-old sook who was awoken by one beeping frenzy.
We also agreed we'd prefer the reversing camera to come with reversing sensors as well, another Subaru quirk that has made its way into other brands (Honda, to name one). The filth of a trip through light snow (dispatched with ease by Subaru's excellent all-wheel drive system) can cover the camera lens, so the beepers would have been most welcome.
The rear seat passengers slept most of the way, so were pleased with its motorway refinement and plush ride. There were no material complaints apart from my music choices, but hey, 'my' car, my rules.
Acquired: July 2017
Distance travelled this month: 1217km
Average fuel consumption for August: 9.4L/100 (measured at the pump)
Another month, another road trip. Seeing it suggests the bush is where it belongs by bearing the name Forester on its rump, we headed for gravel, mud and shallow river crossings. The motorway trip over the Blue Mountains was accompanied by the standard complaints of wind rush around the huge (and always useful) wing mirrors and a bit of tyre noise from the Bridgestone Dueler rubber. Nothing we hadn't noticed before and nothing dramatic.
Also not unusual was the workmanlike, rather than extraordinary, way the 2.5-litre boxer four and CVT handle big hills. The name 'Adapto' has stuck for the adaptive cruise control and it does struggle to hold speed uphill without the gentle encouragement of my right big toe.
The winding road down towards Newnes, on the western side of the mountains, wasn't a challenge, the road's surface traversed once before by myself and editor Flynn at the wheel of a Ferrari F12. So the Forester was still shrugging off whatever we threw at it.
Once you reach the entrance of the phenomenally expensive Emirates Wolgan Valley resort, the sealed road ends abruptly at an old wooden trestle bridge. From then on its gravel, ruts, kangaroos, wallaroos and a water crossing at the old Newnes township.
The Forester was excellent here. The road noise fades away and those tyres come into their own, with quiet, stable progress. The CVT and all-wheel drive system work together quite happily, with little evidence of power shuffling ably handling the loose, dusty surface without the 'oops, a bit of understeer' you get in less accomplished SUVs.
And that, really, is what sums up the Forester - it's an all-rounder, with real mild off-road ability, ideal for dipping one's toes in the rugged outdoor life. It's more Leyland Brothers than Russell Coight. I'm no mud-plugger, but it gives you the confidence you need to tackle shallow water crossings while also feeling rock steady on the dirty stuff.
Acquired: July 2017
Distance travelled this month: 983km
Average fuel consumption for September: 9.2L/100 (measured at the pump)
The Forester settled back into a more ordinary life this month, ferrying things and people here, there and everywhere. The lady of the house went on a restocking binge, with trips to Freedom, Ikea, Flower Power and the farm supply shop for our quarterly supply of chook feed.
The big box is right at home doing this sort of thing - the lowish loading lip and powered tailgate are handy when your back is sore and the load is heavy. Dropping the rear seats forward is easy, as is returning them to upright - some cars in the class, incredibly, leave the centre lap-sash belt in place meaning your load has to work around a seatbelt strung from from the ceiling like a traitorous peasant. Subaru thoughtfully built a cubby hole with slots to plug the two bits of the belt so they don't flap about.
The boot isn't particularly deep, but it's a good size, taking suitcases, shopping or sacks of aforementioned chook food or fertiliser. One trip to the nursery saw the Sube loaded up with bags of soil and whatever else is (apparently) required, despite an endless supply of fertiliser from the aforementioned chickens (although that supply is reducing after one chook was snatched by a fox and the other shuffled off this mortal coil).
It also managed the demands of the school musical, ferrying lanky number one son, his fellow back-stage black-wearers and their gear to and from homes.
The Forester is an undemanding car, there's never any sense of dread getting in to do what you want to do. The keyless entry means the key never has to leave your pocket (courtesy of the S spec), the leather is comfortable and never hot (unless you turn on the seat heating) and the cabin temperature is quickly sorted by the strong air-con.
All-in-all, the Forester remains popular in the house, with just the odd glitch in the stop-start system to cause any ructions and the mystifying lack of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Start date: July 2017
Distance travelled: 570km
Odometer reading: 2841km
Average fuel: 10.4L/100km
Month five with the Forester and we're beginning to look back on our time with it rather than forward with what we might do with it. It's at about this point in a long-termer's life we start to think about the things we've learnt.
We've learnt that the Forester is flexible. It's a very capable transporter of people. Five decent-sized people can squeeze in but have plenty of space over their heads, even with the panoramic sunroof that nicks a few centimetres of available room. We had four 180cm-plus people of varying stoutness in the car for a long ride to Jindabyne and three of them slept for a good chunk of the trip. So it's clearly very comfortable, quiet and easy-riding.
The lady of the house likes to keep things moving - we have a kind of show house that is in a constant state of tweaking. A new picture frame here, a chair there, a broomstick with dyed wool hanging off it. It requires trips to suppliers and Australia Post establishments at variously long distances from home.
The backyard is also a moving feast, almost literally when you consider the chickens and their untimely demise at the paws and teeth of a fox. The garden and its former fowl inhabitants require plenty of work and supplies. The Forester's boot isn't super deep but for some reason, we never had to drop the rear seats unless it was an especially long... well, broomstick with wool hanging off it.
The Forester delivered every time, it has been the go-to car to move things, partly because the electric tailgate made access a bit easier (although a foot-wavey thing would help) and the boot floor is flat and easy to access.
It also ended up being the go-to car for the seemingly endless runs to the airport for myself and the various comings and goings of relatives. It just made sense, and more to the point, it's a low-stress car. Easy to drive, park, manoeuvre and by golly, when it's raining (or snowing - not in Sydney, obviously), the all-wheel drive meant that extra layer of security while out in the fray.
That's the breadth of the Forester. It does a lot of things without fuss and does them well. I've often wondered in the past what makes Forester fans such ardent defenders. I'm not wondering anymore.
Start date: July 2017
Distance travelled: 455km
Odometer reading: 3296km
Average fuel: 10.2L/100km (at the pump)
The cars of car journalists fall into three categories. Our own cars which are perfect in every way, despite being the equivalent of the builder's home or plumber's plumbing. But they're our first-born. They are generally pretty dreadfully maintained, rarely start first time because the battery ran flat and the paint is peeling from that bump it got seven years ago that we haven't got around to fixing yet. But we love them and are blind to their faults because they mean something to us, although we don't always remember what exactly.
There are the cars that come and go week in week out, subjected to our scowls and whispers and spec-sheet checking. They're the short-term exchange students who demand, require and receive our attention.
The third type, a type we're very privileged to have, is the long-termer. If that car were a child it would spend years in therapy, with the first born always regarded as the best and the glamorous exchange students lavished with the eager attention of the new. The long-termer is always just... there.
Except for the Subaru Forester. We've had a 2.5i-S for six months and our time with it is drawing to a close. Together we've completed a number of road trips, done duty in the shopping centre car parks, school duties, traffic jams, Ikea runs, the lot.
And the reason it has done all these things is because when there is a choice of cars on the driveway, the answer to a great many questions has been 'the Forester'. Need to carry number one son and a couple of mates somewhere? The Forester. Doing Australia Post's job for them? The Forester. In-laws arriving home from a long trip with giant bags? The Forester. It's bucketing down outside/the roads are greasy/we just want something simple, honest and straightforward because we're over it? The Forester.
It's kind of absurd to think how versatile it is. Previously-mentioned number one son lounges comfortably in the rear despite his ever-increasing height (183cm!). It's not a big car but it rides high with a high roof, so it takes awkwardly-shaped people and things. It's not a particularly long car but it crams a lot of space inside its individual, practical body.
The downsides to Forester 'ownership' have been few in number. The EyeSight system - a problem I repeatedly note is exclusive to the Forester - is a bit on the frantic side and remains our biggest gripe.
Second, the lack of Apple CarPlay or Android Auto was frustrating, not just because we have iPhones but also because the 'Starlink' software version is an older one with confusing menus that force you back to using the phone itself. Even the BRZ has the smartphone whizz-bangery now.
Thirdly, its confusing lack of rear parking sensors continued to frustrate us. While we're in a privileged position of hopping in and out of different cars, there is almost nothing left on the road that doesn't have them. The camera is good, sure, no question, but beepers mean you can also look in other directions to make sure you're doing the best you can at parking.
It's not particularly quick but it's certainly better than its less powerful 2.0-litre stablemate. I maintain that the 2.5i-S is the best Forester you can buy and one of the best in its class. It's an all-rounder that is at home on- and off-road. It's largely quiet and composed if lacking in the dynamic capability that few buyers would be interested in.
We had one problem with it, a busted speaker, which was promptly and swiftly replaced at our local Subaru dealer.
We always miss our long-termers after they're gone, but I think the Forester is going to leave an even bigger gap in our lives than it leaves in the air. It has been the subject of quite some street jealousy and people often roll up to us in the street and ask about it.
So this Forester will return to its maker a happy, well-adjusted adult because we spent a lot of quality time with it. It's a lot of car for the money and even though its technology may not be up to date or completely up to scratch, it all does the job. There's a new one coming, but honestly, with a couple of small improvements, this one feels like it could go on for a long while yet.
Acquired: July 2017
Distance travelled this month: 621km
Average fuel consumption for January: 10.2L/100 (measured at the pump)
|2.0D-L||2.0L, Diesel, CVT AUTO||$19,600 – 27,280||2017 Subaru Forester 2017 2.0D-L Pricing and Specs|
|2.0D-S||2.0L, Diesel, 6 SP MAN||$24,900 – 33,000||2017 Subaru Forester 2017 2.0D-S Pricing and Specs|
|2.0i-L||2.0L, ULP, 6 SP MAN||$17,300 – 24,090||2017 Subaru Forester 2017 2.0i-L Pricing and Specs|
|2.0XT||2.0L, PULP, CVT AUTO||$24,200 – 32,890||2017 Subaru Forester 2017 2.0XT Pricing and Specs|