Subaru Forester VS Holden Acadia
- Interesting looks
- Excellent safety
- Good space and practicality
- Not interesting to drive
- Doesn't live up to 'Sport' name
- Bit pricey to own
- Truck-like exterior
- Third row spacious for class
- Good value
- Truck-like interior
- V6 needs to be pushed hard for results
- Handling not as good as CX-9
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|
The Acadia is now here and finally Holden has a proper seven-seat SUV in its range. Yup, the now redundant Captiva can rust in peace because the Acadia is bigger, safer, more practical and high tech.
The thing is, there are some excellent seven-seat SUVs out there already – Mazda’s CX-9 is outstanding in terms of its cabin refinement and on-road dynamics, while Kia’s Sorento is great value and there’s the popular Toyota Kluger.
Made in Tennessee in the US of A, the Acadia has some serious competition. So, can the American with a Holden badge do anything the others can’t?
We attended the launch of the Holden Acadia and learned a lot. Let us tell you…
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
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 Acadia offers a tough-looking American take on the seven-seat SUV which won’t be appealing to everybody but will be loved by others. While the interior quality and design falls short of rivals such as the CX-9 and the handling isn’t as sharp as that SUV either, the ride is comfortable, the features list is extensive, the cabin space is outstanding and the level of advanced safety equipment is impressive.
The sweet spot for the range is really the base grade LT, but the best car is the LTZ-V.
What do you think of the Acadia's tough truck looks? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
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.
Made in Tennessee in the United States, the Acadia couldn’t look more American, with that blocky profile and truck-like face. Only the Toyota Kluger comes close to matching its macho design, while Mazda’s CX-9 and Kia’s Sorento have sleeker and more curvaceous styling.
Some people aren’t going to be fans of those bold, angular looks, but this is a large seven-seat SUV that’s obviously not trying to please everybody, and that will probably be part of the appeal to its fans – the Acadia is unapologetically tough looking.
However, refined isn’t a word you’d use to describe the interior, because while its truck-like looks make the Acadia appealing on the outside, the commercial styling in the cabin is disappointing.
Moulded plastics around the doors and hard plastics on the dash and centre console feel cheap and look tacky. The Acadia’s cabin lags behind the more stylish cockpit of the CX-9 with its excellent fit and finish.
Buying a higher grade in the Acadia range won’t really improve the cabin scenery much either. The LTZ-V is the top-of-the-line Acadia and while it comes with ventilated leather seats, the rest of the cabin looks almost identical in styling and materials as the base-grade LT.
The exterior differences between the grades isn’t that obvious either. While all grades come with rear privacy glass and LED tail-lights, the LTZ-V comes with square exhaust tips, aluminium roof rails and a dual-pane sunroof.
What are the Acadia’s dimensions? The Acadia is just under 5.0m long, while the CX-9 is 5.1m end-to-end. The Acadia is 2.1m wide (to the mirrors) and 1.8m tall.
The colour range is fairly limited with 'Glory Red', 'Mineral Black', 'Blue Steel', 'Summit White', 'Scorpion' (brown), 'Nitrate Silver', 'Dark Shadow' (a dark blue) and 'Abalone White' your only choices.
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.
All Acadias are seven-seaters, but not all seven-seater SUVs in the world really fit seven adults. I can’t sit comfortably in the third row of the CX-9 – the sloping roof line destroys headroom back there and my legs are wedged into the seat back.
Here’s the big news: even at 191cm tall I can sit in the Acadia’s second row (behind my driving position), and then behind that in the third row all without my head touching the roof or knees hitting the back of the seat in front. That is exceptional.
The dual sunroof in the LTZ-V limits headroom, so think about the LTZ if you’re going to be carrying tall freaks like me all the time, but it’ll be plenty spacious for kids.
Climbing into that third row is easier than the CX-9 thanks to the Acadia’s tall roofline, although being American-made the larger folding section of the second row is on our kerb side (not the case with CX-9).
Still, the second row slid far enough forward to make getting into the back easy enough for me.
Cabin storage and utilities are excellent. Third-row passengers have two cupholders, a hidey hole for loose items, air vents and a USB port. Second-row dwellers have two USB ports, a large storage drawer, two cupholders in the fold down armrest, climate control dials and air vents, plus decent-sized door pockets.
Up front, the centre console bin is large and deep, the storage compartment in front of the shifter fits my iPhone 8 (in the LTZ and above there’s wireless charging in there), you’ll also find two large cupholders, a large glove box and door pockets. There are two 12-volt power outlets – one in the cockpit and the other in the cargo area.
Boot capacity with the third row in place is 292 litres, but that is measured to the roof (Mazda measures to the cargo cover). With the third row folded flat the luggage space of the Acadia is 1042 litres, and with the second and third rows folded you have 2102 litres of cargo room.
Price and features
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.
The Acadia range has three grades to it – the entry level LT which lists for $43,990, then the mid-spec LTZ for $53,490 and at the top of the range is the LTZ-V for $63,490. These are the prices for the front-wheel drive Acadias and you can have them in all-wheel drive, but it’ll be an extra $4000 on top.
The LT comes with a mountain of standard features, including an 8.0-inch touchscreen with sat nav, reversing camera, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, three-zone climate control, rear parking sensors, proximity key, rear privacy glass and 18-inch alloy wheels. There’s also an impressive array of advanced safety equipment which I’ll take you though further down this review.
The LTZ gets all the LT’s features and adds leather seats, power adjustable and heated front seats, rain sensing wipers, wireless charging for phones, power tailgate, front parking sensors, and this will make some people very happy – automatic parking.
The LTZ-V comes with all the LTZ’s features and more including ventilated seats, 20-inch wheels, dual-pane sun roof, 8.0-inch virtual instrument cluster, eight-speaker Bose stereo with amplifier and subwoofer, and adaptive suspension.
That’s great value and it’s on the same level as the CX-9, although the Mazda comes with a head-up display on all grades. You can’t get one even on the top-of-the-range Acadia.
Engine & trans
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).
Now the engine – it’s a V6 petrol that makes stacks of power at 231kW and plenty of torque at 367Nm. The problem here is the maximum torque comes in at 5000 rpm. Torque is the force that’s sent from the engine and turns the wheels and it’s preferable to have all the torque come in low in the rev range.
See, most of the time I drove the Acadia the revs never got above 3000rpm. If I wanted to overtake I needed to hammer it. The CX-9 makes 420Nm of torque at 2000rpm – it’s under your right foot almost always. It’s preferable to have low-end torque for towing, too.
Talking of that, the braked towing capacity of the Acadia is 2000kg.
The transmission is a nine-speed automatic – a torque converter. It’s an excellent transmission, that shifts intuitively and smoothly. The Acadia offers a choice of front-wheel drive or the optional all-wheel drive.
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.
It’s a V6 so it’s going to be thirsty right? Yes, but this engine can deactivate two cylinders to run on four when not under load. That said even on the country roads that the Acadia launch was held on, the mileage the trip computer was reporting ranged from about 10.0L-11.0/100km for both the all-wheel drive and front-wheel drive Acadias.
You can bet that will head higher in the traffic of the suburbs and city. Holden says that after a combination of urban and open roads the FWD Acadia should use 8.9L/100km and the all-wheel drive will need 9.3L/100km. Those are pretty optimistic numbers and the real-world fuel economy will certainly be higher.
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.
If you’re a fan of SUVs because they can make you feel like you’re a hundred feet tall wearing a Transformers suit, then you’re going to like driving the Acadia. Yup, it looks like a truck and feels like one when you’re looking out over that high, broad bonnet.
The dashboard is also tall, and this combined with the truck-like bonnet meant I had to raise my seat higher than the setting I’d normally use, just to see clearly over. Even then visibility isn’t great thanks to long and wide A-Pillars framing the windscreen.
There are other ergonomic issues you’ll face in this cabin. I found the centre console armrest way too high and my elbow kept hitting it as I turned the steering wheel it also made changing the drive modes on the rotating dial in front of it awkward using your left hand to scratch your left armpit. Made you do it, didn’t I?
The indicator and wiper stalks are also positioned at a high angle and on the highest wiper setting I had to take my hand off the wheel to turn them off. If my hands aren’t big enough to reach them while holding the steering wheel, there’s no way Donald Trump could.
So how does the Acadia drive? Well there are two very different feeling Acadias in the range. There’s the one Holden brought to Australia to test rigorously around its test track and Australian roads, tuning the adaptive suspension to offer a comfortable ride that suits our conditions – it’s the LTZ-V.
Then there’s the LT and LTZ, which didn’t get the full Holden suspension work-over. Sure, Holden went to the US and helped develop a suspension system for these two grades, but they had to make a compromise and agree on a tune that would make the American drivers happy, too. In the US drivers prefer a softer, more cushioned ride, while in Australia we tend to like a firmer sportier one with better handling.
That means the LT and LTZ just don’t handle as well as the LTZ-V. Not only do those lower grades have a softer ride that feels almost like you’re bouncing on a space hopper at times, they also don’t have the great adaptive suspension of the top grade LTZ-V. The adaptive suspension can not only be set in a sport setting, for better handling but is constantly adjusting itself to the driving style.
On the highway all grades cruise beautifully, like battleships ploughing through the miles of road – this is where they are really in their element. You’ll also find them all comfortable for suburban adventures, too – even on patchy streets with bad surfaces the ride is composed and compliant.
But when I took the LT with AWD along a fantastic bit of familiar road with a great surface and plenty of twists, I could feel that suspension doing everything it could to rein in the body roll, but not winning. This is a 2.0-tonne and tall SUV and I don’t expect it to behave like a sports car, but Mazda’s CX-9 feels more agile with quicker steering and better handling than the Acadia.
The LTZ-V has an exceptional ride – almost limo like with adaptive suspension ironing out the road ahead.
Even as a passenger in the second row the journey was comfy and serene, the cabin well insulated, although those rear seats are unsupportive and in the corners I felt myself sliding around back there. And that’s the thing, even in the corners the Aussie-developed LTZ-V still struggled to control its heft, and when pushed more the tyres began to chirp in the bends. The LTZ-V wears Continental ContiCrossContact high performance all-terrain tyres (235, 55 R20) if you’re wondering.
Still I didn’t feel the Acadia lacked grunt, the V6 is smooth and there was an instant connection between the accelerator pedal and the acceleration that you don’t get with the turbo-charged CX-9.
The thing is you really need to get the Acadia up to 5000rpm to really get good oomph – and that’s going to harm your fuel economy.
Choosing a front-wheel drive variant will save you a bit of money at the pump, and while the all-wheel drive adds some reassuring traction on wet roads and gravel, it’s not essential. Front and all-wheel drive Acadias had identical comfort levels in terms of ride.
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.
The Acadia has yet to be given an ANCAP crash rating, but the level of advanced safety equipment is outstanding. All grades come with AEB (on the LT and LTZ it’s a city speed version, while the LTZ has higher speed AEB), there’s blind spot warning, rear cross traffic alert, lane keeping assistance and lane departure warning, plus lateral impact avoidance which will swerve to avoid a vehicle that drifts into your lane.
Also excellent is that the side curtain airbags extend all the way back the entire third row – the CX-9’s do, too, but not the Kia Sorrento’s.
The chink in the Acadia’s safety armour is a low-tech but essential item – the spare wheel; it’s a space saver, which is not ideal in Australia where distances between towns can be vast. Also, to get the space saver out requires a stack of effort – it’s under the boot floor but you’ll need to remove the storage under the floor to get to it. We tried it on the launch and the process was overly difficult.
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).
The Acadia is covered by Holden’s five-year/unlimited km warranty. Servicing is recommended annually or every 12,000km. Servicing is capped at $259 for the first service, $299 for the second, $259 for the third, $359 for the fourth and $359 again for the fifth.