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Subaru Forester 2013 review

EXPERT RATING
8

Several brands like to think they invented the soft-roader, but Subaru probably has the best case. They've been making passenger-car-based 4WDs since the late 1970s, well before the RAV4 entered the fray in the mid-1990s; Suzuki was making little off-roaders in the early 1970s, but not based on a passenger car.

So the Japanese brand that started off making aircraft components five decades ago has had plenty of time to get it right and the new Forester XT is a good example of that.

VALUE

The turbocharged Forester are CVT-auto only and available in XT and XT Premium guise and are covered by a three-year unlimited kilometre warranty.

The XT is priced from $43,490 and has a six-speaker sound system with USB and Bluetooth inputs, cloth trim, trip computer, dual-zone climate control, a slide-only sunroof, manual seat adjustments, cruise control, 18in alloys, split-fold reclining rear seats, a full-size spare, the SI-drive sport mode system and a reach'n'rake adjustable leather-wrapped steering wheel.

Stepping up the Premium means an extra $7000 but adds a powered tailgate, automatic headlights, satellite navigation, the "EyeSight" safety system, leather trim, a harman kardon eight-speaker sound system, heated seats and external mirrors, keyless entry and start, rain-sensing windscreen wipers and power-adjustment for both front seats.

TECHNOLOGY

The drivetrain doesn't change between the pair - capacity for the forced-induction models has dropped to two litres but it has sprouted direct injection for the flat-four, producing 177kW and 350Nm, the latter spread from 2400 to 3600rpm.

Despite the increases in power and torque over the out-going 2.5-turbo powerplant, the fuel use has been cut by almost 20 per cent, now claiming a combined cycle thirst of 8.5L/100km, although our time yielded around 11L/100km. The SI-Drive system is now controlled by two buttons on the steering wheel, although it could probably be done with one scroll-through set-up.

The system changes the power delivery characteristics, as well as putting the clever CVT into a mode that mimics a sports-oriented traditional auto. The grunt goes to ground via a new-generation active torque split all-wheel drive system that defaults to a slight front-drive 60/40 bias - something of a departure from the breed's 50/50 mechanical system split in previous models.

DESIGN

A look less likely to cause offence than some of Subaru's recent efforts, the new Forester has a chunky, purposeful look from the front, minus the scoop that has long signalled forced-induction below. The body is longer thanks mostly to extra wheelbase, of which the rear passengers are the greater beneficiary - it easily accommodates four crew, but the boot depth is compromised by the raised floor covering the full-size spare.

The rear compartment is, however, no longer impacted by roof-mounted child-seat tether anchor points - they've moved to the seatbacks.
mounted

SAFETY

Subaru has long bragged about five stars across its range and the new Forester does plenty to keep that track record intact. The "EyeSight" driver assistance system brings adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and pre-collision warning and auto-braking systems to a features list that already has all-wheel drive, anti-lock brakes, stability control, seven airbags, a reversing cameras (sans sensors) and xenon headlights.

DRIVING

I'm not always a big fan of the continuously-variable transmissions but the Subaru boffins have come up with a well-calibrated unit behind the turbo-four. It doesn't flare revs towards the redline unless the right foot truly demands it, making the most of the meaty midrange on offer - in Sport# mode the transmission takes on a sporting bent to good effect.

Cargo space is adequate but some will prefer the possibility of a temporary spare and a flatter floor - a personal preference for a full-size spare, particularly if you are stretching the skillset of the Suby, means the reduced bootspace is not a deal-breaker.

In commuting and cruising the Subaru is quiet and smooth, riding within the boundaries of backside comfort, although it's bias towards more enthusiastic cornering - where it was composed and would hold its line under duress - is evident.

A bugbear was the infotainment's argument with the iPhone - despite displayed connections it didn't feel the need to play any songs through the USB connection, muting the music as if a call was inbound - switching to the Bluetooth input alleviated the problem.

VERDICT

The Subaru has a strong bloodline in this segment and the new Forester has done it ancestors proud.As soft-roaders go, the little Subaru feels more than up to the task.

Subaru Forester XT & XT Premium

Price: from $43,490-$50,490
Warranty: 3 years/unlimited km
Capped servicing: no
Resale: 55% (Glass's Guide)
Service interval: 6 months/12,500km
Safety: 5 stars
Engine: 2-litre direct-injection flat-4-cyl, 177kW/350Nm
Transmission: CVT, AWD
Thirst: 8.51/100km, 95RON, on test 11 (xt p 10.8); tank 60 litres; 197g/km CO2
Dimensions: 4.6m (L); 1.8m (w); 1.7m (h)
Weight: 1589-1607kg
Spare: full-size

 

Pricing guides

$19,869
Based on 208 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$11,800
Highest Price
$29,800

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
2.0D 2.0L, Diesel, 6 SP MAN $12,990 – 16,888 2014 Subaru Forester 2014 2.0D Pricing and Specs
2.0D-L 2.0L, Diesel, 6 SP MAN $18,990 – 19,999 2014 Subaru Forester 2014 2.0D-L Pricing and Specs
2.0D-S 2.0L, Diesel, 6 SP MAN $13,888 – 22,888 2014 Subaru Forester 2014 2.0D-S Pricing and Specs
2.0i 2.0L, ULP, 6 SP MAN $10,700 – 15,730 2014 Subaru Forester 2014 2.0i Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
8
Stuart Martin
Contributing Journalist

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