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Subaru Forester 2022 review: Hybrid L

The Forester has been a staple of the SUV market for ages and this version is no different.

The Forester has been a reliable staple of the SUV market for approximately 25 years and this version is no different. Sure, it’s had a facelift but the soul of the car is the same as it was. A safe family vehicle with enough mod cons to satisfy most buyers.

Hybrid vehicles are the new frontier, though, and it’s time to determine whether the Forester is a competitive player in this growing part of the market.

The Forester Hybrid L is the entry-level model for Subaru’s largest available hybrid SUV. Like all Foresters it’s an all-wheel drive, and it competes with other hybrid SUVs like the Toyota RAV4 and Haval H6.

But has it compromised on power to achieve good fuel economy? I had it with my family for a week to find out.

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What does it look like?

It’s a bit of a chonk. Like the previous design, its curves are bulky and rugged but I quite like it. It has a lot of character and the lines of the body make it seem bigger than it is and it looks solid because of it.

The rear is wide and has lovely LED tail-lights that hug the sides. Everything is well-positioned to look as symmetrically pleasing as possible.

  • Like the previous design, its curves are bulky and rugged but I quite like it. (image: Glen Sullivan) Like the previous design, its curves are bulky and rugged but I quite like it. (image: Glen Sullivan)
  • Some new SUVs are going the sleek route but this design feels a little old school. (image: Glen Sullivan) Some new SUVs are going the sleek route but this design feels a little old school. (image: Glen Sullivan)
  • The rear is wide and has lovely LED tail-lights that hug the sides. (image: Glen Sullivan) The rear is wide and has lovely LED tail-lights that hug the sides. (image: Glen Sullivan)

Some new SUVs are going the sleek route but this design feels a little old school. A feeling which is carried into the interior, as well. The dashboard is quite busy with a lot of different shapes and cutaways – it’s not exactly elegant, but it does look capable.

How does it drive?

The Hybrid L has a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine and an electric motor. Subaru boasts that the hybrid combination delivers better power and responsiveness at lower speeds but it feels gutless off the mark.

You'll get there, but not with windswept hair. Up hills it's a case of, ‘Come on, you can do it!’. But, don’t they say slow and steady wins the race? Because it's steady enough on the highway once you’re up to speed and it earns marks for feeling solid on the road during winds and wet weather. It never budges, which is nice.

  • The Hybrid L has a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine and an electric motor. (image: Glen Sullivan) The Hybrid L has a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine and an electric motor. (image: Glen Sullivan)
  • Parking is made easy with three cameras that kick in when reversing. (image: Glen Sullivan) Parking is made easy with three cameras that kick in when reversing. (image: Glen Sullivan)

The cabin does get some road noise but not enough that you have to raise your voice to talk over it. The ride is smooth, too, and it’s been pretty forgiving over the potholes that seem to be everywhere in a very wet NSW East Coast at the moment!

Parking is made easy with three cameras that kick in when reversing. There’s a front and rear camera plus another one on top of the left-hand side wheel – very handy for parallel parking.

You can switch those camera views on even when not reversing with the buttons next to the gear shifter, too. The only drawback is the camera feeds are split between the main multimedia screen and the tiny top screen, which means you’re glancing up and down a lot.

  • Subaru boasts that the hybrid combination delivers better power and responsiveness at lower speeds but it feels gutless off the mark. (image: Glen Sullivan) Subaru boasts that the hybrid combination delivers better power and responsiveness at lower speeds but it feels gutless off the mark. (image: Glen Sullivan)
  • The Forester earns marks for feeling solid on the road during winds and wet weather. (image: Glen Sullivan) The Forester earns marks for feeling solid on the road during winds and wet weather. (image: Glen Sullivan)
  • The ride is smooth, too, and it’s been pretty forgiving over potholes. (image: Glen Sullivan) The ride is smooth, too, and it’s been pretty forgiving over potholes. (image: Glen Sullivan)

How spacious is it?

It’s a well-sized interior that will allow all occupants to enjoy a decent amount of legroom and headroom. I had my in-laws and five-year old in the back for a trip and all three were fairly comfortable. They probably wouldn’t want to go from Sydney to QLD and back, but for short trips adults will be okay.

The storage up front is average for a car of this size. The glove box is large enough to house the Forester’s massive manual. And the centre console is adequate (and even has a removable shelf with coin holders!).

  • The storage up front is average for a car of this size. (image: Glen Sullivan) The storage up front is average for a car of this size. (image: Glen Sullivan)
  • It’s a well-sized interior that will allow all occupants to enjoy a decent amount of legroom and headroom. (image: Glen Sullivan) It’s a well-sized interior that will allow all occupants to enjoy a decent amount of legroom and headroom. (image: Glen Sullivan)
  • I had my in-laws and five-year old in the back for a trip and all three were fairly comfortable. (image: Glen Sullivan) I had my in-laws and five-year old in the back for a trip and all three were fairly comfortable. (image: Glen Sullivan)

The two cupholders in the front are deep and will suit bigger bottles, too, but it does make it trickier to dig out a small coffee cup when they are both occupied. I was worried I was going to pop off the lid, and did on a few occasions.

The rear has map and device pockets plus a bottle holder in each door. The middle armrest also has two shallow cupholders. 

The boot is a good size and with the back seat up you get 509L of space, but pop that seat down and it jumps up considerably to 1779L! Which is generous for this size of SUV

  • The boot is a good size and with the back seat up you get 509L of space. (image: Glen Sullivan) The boot is a good size and with the back seat up you get 509L of space. (image: Glen Sullivan)
  • Pop that seat down and it jumps up considerably to 1779L! (image: Glen Sullivan) Pop that seat down and it jumps up considerably to 1779L! (image: Glen Sullivan)
  • The boot space is generous for this size of SUV. (image: Glen Sullivan) The boot space is generous for this size of SUV. (image: Glen Sullivan)

How easy is it to use every day?

It’s a nice car to potter around in and more than practical for groceries and school runs. The comfort for all passengers has been considered and I like the mixed use of cloth and synthetic leather on the seats, even though that cloth isn’t super practical when you have pets or kids.

I do like the colour and texture of the fabric, though. The front seats adjust manually and, while there’s no lumbar support, they are heated! Love my heated seats. The sun visors have extenders, which is helpful in a car with such wide windows.

The front seats adjust manually and, while there’s no lumbar support, they are heated!  (image: Glen Sullivan) The front seats adjust manually and, while there’s no lumbar support, they are heated! (image: Glen Sullivan)

The height of the car is good and my five-year old had no issues climbing in and out. The lip height of the boot is good as well – not too high or low and the rubber-like cargo mat is great, especially with all the wet weather we’re having. It doesn’t have a powered tailgate in this spec but the boot lid isn’t too heavy to open.

And lastly, you don’t get a spare tyre in this model, rather a puncture repair kit. Not sure how handy that would be in the real world but it might suit the MacGyver’s out there.

How safe is it?

The Forester Hybrid has the safety and tech features you expect on a newer model with this price tag, including adaptive cruise control, with driving assist, meaning it will steer itself but you still have to have your hands on the wheel.

It also has blind-spot monitoring, lane keeping assist and lane keeping aids. There are only six airbags, including curtain airbags covering the second row.

There's plenty of space for front occupants when a 0-4 rearward facing child seat is installed. (image: Glen Sullivan) There's plenty of space for front occupants when a 0-4 rearward facing child seat is installed. (image: Glen Sullivan)

The Forester has a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating from testing conducted in 2019. The car feels solid on the road and I felt pretty confident in terms of safety while driving it.

There are two ISOFIX mounts and three top tethers, and with the right car seats, there’s a chance you’ll get three side by side. There's plenty of space for front occupants when a 0-4 rearward facing child seat is installed.

What’s the tech like?

The tech can feel a little retro, I mean, there’s a CD player inside! Which, I miss having on cars. The 8.0-inch touchscreen has been very simple to use, I also quite like the ‘Starlink’ graphic that pops up on the multimedia screen when you first turn on the car. It looks like an '80s sci-fi TV logo, which just adds to that retro vibe.

There’s a smaller 6.3-inch screen that sits above the multimedia screen and shows your vehicle info and some of the camera views. It’s a bit small and can feel disjointed to use, though.

Pairing my iPhone through the Bluetooth was easy, as was using the wired Apple CarPlay. It also has Android Auto and you do need them because this model doesn’t come with a built-in sat nav.

There’s a smaller 6.3-inch screen that sits above the multimedia screen and shows your vehicle info and some of the camera views. (image: Glen Sullivan) There’s a smaller 6.3-inch screen that sits above the multimedia screen and shows your vehicle info and some of the camera views. (image: Glen Sullivan)

There are multiple USB-A ports and 12-volt ports throughout the car, plus an auxiliary port in the front.

I don't love the fact that there’s no ambient lighting besides the illuminated buttons. Given that it’s a relatively cheap way of adding some personality to a cabin, I think it’s an element that carmakers should be considering now.

Driving is not just about getting from A to B anymore, it’s become an experience for many. Adding lighting would have enhanced the driving experience in this car (and helped with finding the door handle at night time).

There’s enough tech that it should appeal to a wide audience but it does seem like it’s been designed with an older generation in mind. 

Pairing my iPhone through the Bluetooth was easy, as was using the wired Apple CarPlay. (image: Glen Sullivan) Pairing my iPhone through the Bluetooth was easy, as was using the wired Apple CarPlay. (image: Glen Sullivan)

How much does it cost to own?

The Hybrid L will cost you $41,390, before on-road costs. Which makes it one of the more affordable hybrid SUVs on the market, but not being the top-spec model means you miss out on some features, like leather seats, an electric sunroof and a powered tailgate, to name a few.

The official combined cycle fuel consumption figure is 6.7/L100km and I achieved 7.6L/100km on a mixture of city and longer highway driving. I thought the fuel economy might be a bit better considering it’s a hybrid, but that’s still a good result for such a big car.

The Hybrid L will cost you $41,390, before on-road costs. (image: Glen Sullivan) The Hybrid L will cost you $41,390, before on-road costs. (image: Glen Sullivan)

It feels like the fuel level goes down quickly but that’s because the tank is only 48L on the hybrid. But you should still be able to get more than 600km on a tank

The Forester comes with five-year/unlimited km warranty, which is standard for the class. It only comes with three-years' capped priced servicing, which can be pre-purchased for $1288 and averages $430 per service, but that’s not super competitive for the SUV market.


The Wrap

Overall, this car is more than sufficient for my family’s needs. I'd want more power and responsiveness from the engine but that price tag is pretty attractive for all the other mod cons you get, and I give this an 8.0/10. My son didn’t spend a lot of time in this one but he liked the high seating position and space in the back seat, and gave it an 8.0/10, too.

Likes

Good price tag
Interior space
Easy-to-use tech

Dislikes

Underperforming engine
Higher fuel econ than expected
Small fuel tank

Scores

Emily:

4

The Kids:

4

$41,390

Based on new car retail price

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