Holden Trax VS Subaru Forester
- Good spec in each model
- Reasonable packaging
- 1.4 turbo is better than the 1.8
- LTZ is pricey
- Missing AEB
- Driving position
- Interesting looks
- Excellent safety
- Good space and practicality
- Not interesting to drive
- Doesn't live up to 'Sport' name
- Bit pricey to own
Holden's plucky little Trax was a bit of a trailblazer (ahem). Not only was it Holden's first compact SUV, it beat most of the manufacturers to the segment by almost 12 months.
Those manufacturers includes Mazda, Nissan, Toyota and Hyundai. Volkswagen is still months away. The Trax range had a small refresh for the 2018 model year, following a pretty big facelift in 2017. It isn't exactly an earth-shattering update but it gave the Trax a more Holden look while sorting out some of the issues of the launch car.
|Engine Type||1.4L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
This is not the Subaru Forester Sport model they get in Japan, and it's therefore not the one most Aussies have been desperate to see launched here.
Nope, the giveaway is the 2.5i part of the name for this 2021 Subaru Forester 2.5i Sport model, which has just been added to the brand's range to add a bit more of an eye-catching variant to the line-up.
In Japan, the Sport gets a new turbocharged petrol engine, but this one instead soldiers on with the same powerplant as the rest of the Forester range, but there have been plenty of changes and additions besides.
|Engine Type||2.5L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
It's a close-run thing, but the best of the Trax range is the LS auto. There is little in the way of genuine improvement as you climb the range, with just the LTZ's rear cross traffic alert and blind spot monitoring as genuinely useful. The rest is mostly cosmetic.
As a contender in the segment, the Trax struggles when it comes to pricing - a Mazda CX-3 of comparable price is better-equipped and better to drive, with just a tighter rear seat to contend with. Other cars in the segment are newer and (generally) better-packaged for similar or little more money.
The Trax is an individual and Australians seem to like them - we're still buying them at a reasonable rate. In a segment that is grabbing yet more sales and is filling with yet more manufacturers, the Trax is the little engine that could.
Is it the Holden badge, individual looks or price that aTrax (I'm so sorry) you? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
The Subaru Forester Sport is an interesting new addition to the range, despite not really moving it forward in any other way apart from its eye-catching looks. It is a competitive counterpoint to the likes of the CX-5 and CR-V, but still doesn't quite reach the same levels of refinement and driving enjoyment of the RAV4.
There is no doubt the Forester Sport will add a level of appeal that Subaru has been needing in its family SUV range since launch, but we really think the thing that would get more customers excited would be a new turbocharged top-spec model, which would certainly be more deserving of the Sport name.
The MY17 styling update is carried forward unchanged into the MY18 model year. The Trax is a global car, built in a few locations, but ours come from South Korea. That means we get the Chevy version of the styling (there is also an Opel, which is known as the Mokka).
The newer face is much more contemporary than the old one, with finer detailing and a less chunky look. The deeper front bumper means a fairly bluff front end but with the less blocky headlights, doesn't look as heavy. The overall profile hasn't changed, but the rear has also been cleaned up. A black pack would certainly make the car look even tougher, but it's not on the options list. Some customers have found a nudge bar accessory, but that's not on the official Holden list.
Inside also receieved some attention, with the old bitsy but individual layout turfed out in favour of a more traditional look. The instrument pack used to live in a motorbike-style pad it shared with the Barina. It was kind of cool but looked really cheap, so the pod made way for standard dials-under-a-hood. It's bit more mature but certainly not as cool. Perhaps as consolation, a number of the materials have improved, the awful glove box door is now more substantial-feeling (and it will still fit the owners manual).
If you've ever trawled the Subaru Japan website like me (high five, car nerds!), you might be thinking: "This Subaru Forester Sport model looks a lot like that Forester X-Break in Japan!". And you'd be right.
It is, essentially, the same car. Just with a considerably nicer looking set of wheels than the Japanese model. They aren't my favourite rims, but then again, I think the Forester's rims on the whole are pretty yuck.
Wheels aside, the flashes of orange around the car will no doubt catch your eye. There are plenty of them: the lower body protection has orange trim from the front bumper to the side skirts/sills and the rear bumper, too; plus there are orange bits as part of the roof rails, too.
The exterior also cops a bit of a blackout treatment, with new dark graphics front and rear, including a black garnish between the tail-lights. And of course, the rims are black, too.
Inside the style a bit more adventurous, with a smattering of orange trim highlights on the vent surrounds, the transmission tunnel, the stitching that runs on the dashboard, doors and seats, and even the eye-catching and intriguing mesh-look water-repellent trim on the seats that goes up to the doors, too. I guess Subaru assumes Forester Sport buyers will be spending a lot of time in the rain?
I really love the orange trim finishes - they really lift the ambience of the cabin and make it feel a bit more exciting than a regular Forester. In fact, it's like the Forester looked a bit further down the Subaru line-up to the XV and said, "Hey, how come you're getting all the attention?".
There are some inherently awesome SUV features that the Forester's interior design brings to the fore - we'll get to that in the next section.
The Trax's small dimensions don't promise much but there's a decent amount of room inside. Front seat passengers are well accommodated and luxuriate with no less than four cupholders, while the rear passengers score two in the rear armrest.
Those rear passengers will feel the pinch if they're approaching 180cm, with marginal knee room but plenty of headroom. The upright seating position does help taller folks and you can get your feet under the front seats.
Boot space is a reasonable if not startling 356 litres. Flip up the seat bases, fold the backs forward and you'll see a useful increase in boot dimenions, the volume almost doubling to 785 litres.
LT and LTZ owners also score an underseat storage tray.
The Forester could be the most practical vehicle in its class. Against the likes of the Toyota RAV4, Mitsubishi Outlander, Mazda CX-5 and VW Tiguan, it stacks up pretty well for cabin practicality, space utilisation and accommodation.
It's a nice, bright and airy place to be, with a big glasshouse that makes it feel a bit more outdoorsy than its rivals. The benefits of that are two-fold - it's easy to see out of, whether you're the driver or if you're a kid in the back.
Looking up front first, the Forester's cabin presentation is much more eye-catching in this grade. The other models in the range are, well, a bit bland. The Sport, though, is a bit more - dare I say it - sporty. And I personally hate models called Sport, but that's a story for another day.
The orange stitching everywhere and the orange metallic look finishes on the dash and the centre console - it combines for a more special feeling cabin than any of the other Foresters available.
I really appreciate the media screen Subaru offers - it's easy to use and is bright and colourful, and also the flush finish design - not a floating tablet style screen - does make it just a little easier to use. However there is a secondary screen above it, which shows you a bunch of information about the car that you theoretically will never actually need to know.
That top pod also has a driver monitoring camera system which is looking at you all the time and will warn you if you take your eyes off the road for too long. Intriguingly, it flashes a warning onto another screen - the one on the instruments, which also makes you look away from the road...
It really is a button and screen overload. If you like minimalism, you're not going to like the number of things in front of you as the driver of a Forester. But they all have a purpose (sort of), and for me, it's better than everything being run through touch screens!
The front seats are quite comfortable, with electric adjustment for the driver and passenger. Both are electric adjusted and heated as well, which is nice, and the material used is genuinely really comfortable - it's like a good quality couch.
Even though those are nice elements, I couldn't find myself a perfect driving position – I feel like I sat just a little too high and I couldn't get the steering wheel in quite the right position for my preferences.
Storage is mostly okay up front: the cupholders between the seats are a little bit deep so small takeaway coffees might be hard to get out, and there are bottle holders in the doors, a small cubby in front of the gear selector for a wallet and/or phone, and that's also where you'll find 2USB ports. No wireless phone charging, though.
The overall space for a family of four is perfectly usable. There is no seven seater version of the Forester, nor any seven-set SUV in the brand's range at all in Australia, so it's strictly a smaller family affair, or a good option for grandparents on duty.
There's very good second row seat space, with a high seating position and hip point allowing for adults to easily slot in there (I'm 182cm/6'0" and I can fit behind my driving position with heaps of leg, toe and headroom to spare), but it's also a handy height for child loading, with dual ISOFIX and three top-tether points. Weirdly, though, Subaru has kept with the ceiling-mounted centre seatbelt, and the seat is flat and a bit uncomfortable for adults in terms of cushioning and support. Great for child seats, though.
There are plenty of smart features in the second row, including twin map pockets on the seat backs, one of which is sectioned and divided for smaller items. Plus there are those two USB ports for charging devices (again, perfect for a family of four), and there are rear directional air vents. There is a fold-down armrest with cupholders, plus bottle holders in the doors.
Weirdly there are LED lighting pods for the boot and the tailgate, and up in the front of the cabin there is LED lighting, too - but in the centre, the middle lighting pod is halogen. Weird.
The boot area offers 498 litres of cargo capacity (VDA) with the seats up, but hit the electric release levers (handy!) at the sides of the boot and you liberate a total 1740L of space - enough for a pair of mountain bikes or a few weeks' worth of camping gear for a couple.
Plus there are shopping bag hooks on the outer sides of the boot area and one on the tailgate,, plus four tie down points if you need to attach things and stop it from rolling around. There's a cargo blind, and a 12 V outlet in the boot, too.
Price and features
How much is a Holden Trax? Where is the Holden Trax built? What features and accessories are available? This review will provide you with a price list, all quoted as RRP, or MSRP as the manufacturers prefer to say.
Its main rival, the Mazda CX-3, has a bewildering number of models whereas the number of Holden Trax models is comparatively skinny, with just three on offer - the LS, LT and LTZ.
Standard on every Trax is Holden's 'MyLink' media system with Apple CarPlay an Android Auto. As a result, you won't see a GPS sat nav in the specs. MyLink powers a six speaker stereo with USB or Bluetooth for smartphone integration and a 7.0-inch touchscreen. A CD player is a thing of the past, so it's missing from Trax.
The LS manual starts the bidding at $23,990. It rolls on 16-inch alloy wheels, has air-conditioning, reversing camera, remote central locking, rear parking sensors, cruise control, automatic headlights, powered heated mirrors, electric windows, cloth trim and a tyre repair kit. Twist your dealer's arm and you might get floor mats thrown in.
The $26,490 LS auto not only picks up a six-speed automatic but also the 1.4-litre turbo engine with the same power but improved torque. You also get four-wheel disc brakes as opposed to the manual's rear drum brakes.
The middle child is the $28,890 LT. Added to the LS specification are 17-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry and start, leather steering wheel, colour instrument screen, fake leather seats, DAB+ digital radio, driver's middle armrest and a sunroof.
The price range is capped with the top of the range LTZ, starting at $30,490. Sharing the turbo engine and automatic transmission with the LT and LS auto, the LTZ's additions include 18-inch alloy wheels, auto wipers, blind spot monitoring and reverse cross traffic alert.
The Trax is available in eight colours. 'Mineral Black', 'Boracay Blue', 'Son of a Gun Grey', 'Burning Hot' (a vivid orange), 'Absolute Red', 'Nitrate' (silver) and 'Abalone White' which all come at a cost of $550. Only 'Summit White' is a freebie.
The new Subaru Forester 2.5i Sport model is a $41,990 proposition - that's the MSRP/RRP, or the price before on-road costs (you might find driveaway deals if you search Autotrader, though).
It slots in between the 2.5i Premium ($39,490) and the 2.5i-S ($42,990), but it stands out compared to both of those versions with a revamped design and a number of inclusions over the models below it, but most of them are visual differentiators which we'll detail in the next section.
Let's consider the standard equipment offered here: black 18-inch alloy wheels with a full size spare, an electric sunroof, water repellent cloth interior trim, electric front seat adjustment (driver's side with memory settings), heated front seats, electric tailgate, electric folding rear seats, smart key hands-free entry and push button start, auto headlights and auto wipers.
There's also a 8.0-inch touchscreen media system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring tech, DAB+ digital radio, CD player, six speakers, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, 4xUSB ports (2x front, 2x rear), a 4.2-inch digital driver info display with digital speedo, and a leather-lined steering wheel and shifter.
The safety story is a very strong one - see the section below for all the details.
Things missing from the 2.5i Sport that you might want for include an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, a proper surround-view camera, and leather seat trim.
Colours available for this spec comprise: Crystal Black silica, Crystal White pearl (as seen here), Dark Blue pearl (exclusive to Sport), Ice Silver metallic, Magnetite Grey metallic and Sepia Bronze metallic. The green and red options are not available on Sport, but no matter the colour you opt for, it won't cost you any extra.
Obviously though, you might want to choose carefully, as there are some orange highlights inside and out that might not match up with your preferred colour choice. Let's get to that next.
Engine & trans
The Trax's engine size depends on the specification you choose. The entry-level LS is the lone contender to persist with the 1.8-litre naturally-aspirated engine that launched the Trax four years ago. Developing 103kW/175Nm at 3800rpm. The 1.8 is paired with a six-speed manual transmission.
The LS auto, LT and LTZ all run the 1.4-litre turbo four cylinder paired with a six-speed automatic. The turbo engine develops an identical-to-the-1.8 103kW but brings another 25Nm to the party for a total of 200Nm developed at a more city-friendly 1850rpm.
The Trax's weight isn't particularly low, hovering around 1400kg tare, a bit of a heavyweight in the segment.
Towing capacity is rated at 500kg unbraked and 1200kg braked and a towbar is optional.
Instead, the 2.5i part of the name indicated a carryover 2.5-litre four-cylinder horizontally-opposed 'boxer' engine producing 136kW of power (at 5800rpm) and 239Nm of torque (at 4400rpm). No turbo here.
The Forester is available solely with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) Lineartronic automatic gearbox, and as it's a Subie, of course it has the brand's "Symmetrical" all-wheel drive (AWD) system standard, too.
The Sport grade isn't available with the brand's hybrid powertrain, though that's no great loss. Read our review where we compared that version against the excellent RAV4 hybrid to see how it fared
The 2.5i models have seen a towing upgrade for 2021, with the unbraked rating set at 750 kilograms, while the braked towing capacity is now 1800kg (up from a meagre 1500kg in earlier models).
According to the official figures, the 1.8 manual will consume 91RON at the rate of 7.1L/100km while emitting 165g/km of CO2.
Step up to the 1.4-litre turbo also means switching to premium unleaded, which it will drink at the rate of 6.7L/100km and emit 155g/km.
Real world fuel economy is somewhat different. We've measure fuel consumption in the 1.4-litre turbo well over 10.0L/100km. The fuel tank size is 53 litres. With that kind of fuel capacity, you'll cover just 500km in normal driving in either the 1.8 or 1.4.
The official combined cycle fuel consumption figure for the Forester 2.5i Sport is identical to the rest of the range: 7.4 litres per 100 kilometres, with emissions claimed at 168g/km CO2.
On test, we saw an at the pump fuel economy of 9.5L/100km across a mix of urban, highway, country and open road driving (plus a very short unsealed off-highway stint).
Fuel tank capacity is 63 litres. It can run on the more affordable 91RON regular unleaded.
The view out of the Trax is impressive for such a small car. It feels high even though it isn't - pop the bonnet and you'll notice it's a long reach down to the engine, even the battery is kept low. The driving position is high and commanding but boy, is it awkward. The pedals are very close to the seat and despite a tilt and reach adjustable steering column, the taller you are, the harder it is to get away from a weird man-spreading arrangemnt for your legs.
The limited ground clearance of 158mm - a leftover from its Barina underpinnings - means the Trax isn't much of an off-roader despite its hill descent control inclusion and very camper-like addition of a 230V power supply in the rear seat. The front bumper is a scraper as it extends much lower than you would expect in an SUV, mostly to protect its low-riding underbits.
The sole 1.8 in the range is best avoided. The engine is a buzzing, vocal unit that needs to be worked hard to keep up with traffic. While the power and torque figures are fairly standard for the market segment, the power band is not easy to reach.
Step up to the LS auto and the change to the 1.4-litre turbo is stark. While there are the same number of kilowatts and torque is up by about 15 percent, it's a far smoother, quieter unit. It will never be a quiet car, it just doesn't have the engineering for that (the Barina platform is cheap and old). The turbo does reduce the din but also exposes the Trax's taste for road and suspension noise.
Overall, the Trax is comfortable and a bit of fun to drive if you don't mind the body roll or you're on a bumpy country road where it all gets a bit lumpy messy. As a city car it's quite a good proposition but long trips will be tiring.
The Subaru Forester is a smooth and decent family SUV, one that doesn't necessarily do anything exceptionally well, but nor is it terrible at anything when it comes to on-road driving.
In fact, my biggest complaint is the noise intrusion - there's quite a bit of tyre roar through even normal road surfaces, and coarse chip roads are louder again. There's also wind noise up around the windscreen and mirrors, and the engine is noisy under acceleration because of the CVT automatic transmission, and it doesn't sound overly delightful, either.
That said, the 2.5-litre engine's response is pretty good, offering decent and linear power delivery. It's not fast, not overly fun, and the CVT auto does rob it some of the excitement you might want. However, it jumps away from a standstill pretty nicely, and if you can hit the sweet spot when you're accelerating you might be surprised by its brisk response.
There are paddle shifters to take matters into your own hands - though even if you use the SI drive mode selector (Sport or Intelligent drive modes), it's less thrusty than turbocharged competitors (Ford Escape) or even hybrid-powered rivals (Toyota RAV4).
The ride comfort is quite good, there's a nice supple attitude to the suspension and the way it controls itself over bumps, but it is quite soft and that means that there is some noticeable body roll in corners.
Thankfully the seats are really quite nice and offer good support, and while the steering is decently weighted and accurate enough it's hardly the last word in excitement for thrills. I'm also not much of a fan of the lane keeping system and how it affects the steering, as it interrupts the smoothness of your steering a little too much. There's a button you can hit to turn it off, but you have to do it every time.
And that driver-monitoring camera system really does make you realise how much you're not looking at the road ahead. I'm a constant glancer, looking at whatever is driving past or whatever I see parked in people's driveways, and the system really made me realise that.
Because it's a Forester with all-wheel drive, I took it for a brief light off road review expedition, where it lived up to the brand's adventure-focused persona.
The most impressive element was a combination of nice high ground clearance (220mm), plus the way that soft suspension rolled over rocks and bumps allows decent travel to the suspension, and good control to the driver's hands, too.
The drive mode selection system allows you to choose "snow/dirt" or "deep snow/mud", meaning soggy camping trips or drives to the snow should be pretty well catered for. Like most soft-roading vehicles and crossovers, though, the tyres will be your biggest letdown but also your easiest upgrade.
The hill descent control system worked really well, and while I wasn't pushing any boundaries of what to expect a SUV like this to do, it was pretty well sorted of the whole.
The Trax has six airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, reversing camera, three top-tether anchorages and brake assist.
The little Holden scored a five star ANCAP safety rating in August 2013.
That said, the Forester has an extensive safety technology specification list, starting with auto emergency braking (AEB) that works both in city and inter-urban settings up to 80km/h, and it features pedestrian and cyclist detection, too.
There's also lane departure warning with an active lane keeping assistance system that works from 60km/h to 145km/h, and there's adaptive cruise control that works through the brand's stereo camera EyeSight system. Blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are standard, as is a rear AEB system to stop you bumping into cars or walls at low speeds, rear parking sensors, a reversing camera that is complemented by a front and front kerbside camera (not quite surround view, but close).
The Forester has seven airbags (driver's knee, dual front, front side, full-length curtain), and there are dual ISOFIX outboard child-seat anchors and three top-tether points.
In the latter half of 2017, the Trax came with a seven-year/175,000km warranty, a big jump from the usual three-year/100,000km. The standard offer returns on January 1, 2018 unless Holden changes its mind.
Roadside assist is offered for an initial twelve months and then extended at every service performed at a Holden dealer.
Servicing intervals for the Trax are nine months/15,000km. Lifetime capped price servicing applies, starting at $249 for the first two, jumping to $429 for the third service and then bouncing around between $249 and $399 until the seventh service.
Subaru Australia backs its cars with a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, which is on par with its main rivals but behind the likes of Mitsubishi (10 years if you service with them) and Kia (seven years).
The brand offers just 12 months of roadside assistance when you buy a new car, where some others offer seven years or more.
The company also has unusual service intervals of 12 months/12,500km, with a capped price servicing plan that spans five years/62,500km. The average cost per service over that period is high, at $476.50 per annum - and it'll be even higher if you do a lot of kilometres.
There are also three-year and five-year service plans available. If you sign up for those, you get three years roadside assist plus a loan car when you get your car serviced. The costs for those are $1281.81 (three years/37,500km), or $2382.52 (five years/62,500km).