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Subaru Forester


Holden Captiva

Summary

Subaru Forester

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.

Is it any good? Should you buy a Forester Sport over one of its many rivals, like the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V or Mazda CX-5? Let's try and answer those questions in this review.

Safety rating
Engine Type2.5L turbo
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency7.4L/100km
Seating5 seats

Holden Captiva

Holden wasn't the first manufacturer to find itself bereft of a big SUV when the fuse was lit by BMW and Mercedes as the last millennium came to a close. Ford responded with the Territory while Holden jacked-up a V8 Commodore and slapped the Adventra badge on it. Sadly, it didn't work, and so the Captiva was the next best option, procured from what was then called Daewoo.

As a result of that that little blip on the economic radar, the GFC, and an on-going re-organisation of General Motors, the Korean-built Captiva has lasted rather longer than anyone expected.

It first launched with two bodystyles, but is now down to one, the bigger and more practical seven seat body shell.

Safety rating
Engine Type2.2L turbo
Fuel TypeDiesel
Fuel Efficiency8.2L/100km
Seating5 seats

Verdict

Subaru Forester7.8/10

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.


Holden Captiva6.3/10

The Captiva is very, very long in the tooth and is heading towards retirement some time in the next twelve months. Before then, it's a lot of car for the money, particularly the seven seat LS. It's not fast, flash or futuristic but it will do the job and with all of the early problems sorted, will probably do it for quite some time.

The Captiva's low scores are mostly to do with the car just being old and feeling it, with dodgier plastics, slightly undercooked ride and handling and a lack of engine and safety tech. It doesn't mean it's a terrible car, because it isn't and Holden papers up the cracks with a low starting price and good after-sales.

Design

Subaru Forester8/10

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.


Holden Captiva6/10

Formerly known as the Captiva 7, the seven seat body has remained mostly the same for its 11 years on sale. The only real changes have been around the front end, with Holden several times fiddling with the grille, lights and bumpers. There's nothing flash about the Captiva, but you know exactly what it is coming at you, with the double grille and big Holden badge.

In profile there's a lot of the original BMW X5 if you squint, right down to the copyright lawyer-dodging shape of the rear quarter window. It also has that X5's big gaps between wheelarch and tyres and a good view of the wheelarch itself. If that's your thing.

Little has changed at the back apart from bumpers and the LED effect lights added in the last update in 2014. It's unlikely you're buying the Captiva as auto haute couture, though.

Inside is basic, and you can place the Captiva's genesis in the mid-2000s, there's a certain generic GM feel to it. The switchgear feels old and clacky, the plastics are hard but do fit well enough. An Audi interior it isn't. The update in 2014 to make the 7.0-inch screen fit in the dashboard is fairly obvious and it's a shame the whole dash couldn't have been replaced. The huge steering wheel surrounds a tightly packed instrument cluster with small dials and a very old-looking LCD panel for trip computer duties.

Practicality

Subaru Forester9/10

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.


Holden Captiva7/10

The Captiva's interior dimensions are impressive. In seven seat versions, the boot space starts at 87 litres, expanding to a handy 465 litres with the 50/50 split fold rear row stowed. Flop the middle row forward and you're up at 930 litres, a good size cargo area that could swallow a flat-pack wardrobe. If you snaffle a five-seat version, you can remove the boot floor panels to reveal another couple of hundred litres of hidey holes.

There are cup holders up front (two), in the middle row (two) and in the boot (one, strangely) for a total of five. In the seven seater, two will go thirsty.

Price and features

Subaru Forester8/10

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.


Holden Captiva7/10

The Captiva's value is heavily dependent on the model you choose. Standard features across the range (starting with the LS) include a 7.0-inch touchscreen running MyLink, a six-speaker stereo with AM/FM radio, Bluetooth, cruise control, rear parking sensors, reversing camera, auto headlights, leather steering wheel, dual-zone climate control, three 12 volt power outlets, keyless entry and start and a tyre inflation kit in place of an (optional) spare tyre.

No Captiva comes standard with sat nav as they all feature Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, which both use your phone's GPS apps.

There are four models, three 'standard' specifications - LS, LT, and the top of the range LTZ, with a fourth version in the form of the five seat only Active 'special' edition, that isn't. 

Pricing starts at $26,490 for the 2.4-litre LS (with five seats and five-speed manual gearbox), $28,690 for the auto, and the diesel comes in at $31,690. Seven-seat LS pricing ranges from $30,490 for the petrol and $33,490 for the diesel, both six-speed automatics. 

The Active enters the price list at $31,990 drive away. Based on the five-seat petrol LS (to be discontinued in May 2017), the auto-only Active adds 18-inch alloys, textile leather seats and a cargo cover. There's also a similarly specified seven seat version at $33,490.

On to the LT, and the price rises to $37,490 for the petrol and $38,490 for the diesel, both of them seven seaters. Part of the big jump for the LT is explained by the petrol engine switching to Holden's 190kW 3.0-litre V6 and the addition of all-wheel drive (AWD). The LT picks up a sunroof, bigger alloys, side steps, cloth trim with "Sportec" bolsters on the front seats and powered heated mirrors.

The LTZ's pricing is a mixed bag. Ordinarily, the V6-powered version would attract an rrp (carmakers insist we call it MLP, manufacturer's list price) of $40,490, with the diesel adding a thousand dollars to weigh in at $41,490. However, Holden is running a long promotion offering the LTZ V6 at $35,990 drive away with three years of free servicing.

The LTZ has 19-inch wheels, leather-look trim, electric driver's seat and front parking sensors.

You can choose one of seven colours - black, white, red, silver, blue, brown and grey and all but white will cost you $550. Orange is no longer on the menu, no matter how much you want it to be 2007 again.

Engine & trans

Subaru Forester7/10

As mentioned in the introduction, we don't see the new 1.8-litre turbo-petrol engine here, with its 132kW/300Nm currently not available for our market.

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).


Holden Captiva6/10

If you like a choice of engine size, you've come to the right place. The Captiva has three engine specs in the range - two petrols and a diesel.

The smaller petrol, a 2.4-litre four-cylinder, produces 123kW at 5600rpm and 230Nm at 4600rpm. Driving the front wheels, this motor is available with choice of gearbox, either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic. This 2.4 is only available on the LS and Active.

The 24-valve 3.0 SIDI V6 is available on LT and LTZ and produces 190kW at 6900rpm and 288Nm at 5800rpm.

The single diesel is a 2.2-litre iron block with common rail direct-injection and makes 135kW at 3800rpm and a stout 400Nm within a very usable range of 1750-2750rpm. You can have the oil burner in all three trim levels, driving the front wheels in the LS and four-wheel drive in the LT and LTZ.

Both the V6 and diesel are available only with the six-speed automatic transmission. 

Unlike earlier Captiva models, none of these engines feature a timing belt. Those early engines suffered from issues related to the fabric belt while problems with the later timing chain driven engines are less common. Reliability of the V6 is well-proven in the Commodore while later four cylinders also perform well.

Zero to 100km/h performance varies between the engines. The 2.4 will reach 100km/h in around 10.5 seconds while the V6 is rather quicker at 8.6. The diesel falls right in the middle at 9.6 seconds.

We've not yet carried out a towing review, but according to Holden, towing capacity is rated at 750kg for unbraked trailers and 2000kg braked.

Fuel consumption

Subaru Forester7/10

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.


Holden Captiva6/10

If you're after good fuel economy, the Captiva probably isn't the car for you. 

The 2.4-litre petrol is quoted at 9.7L/100km on the combined cycle but, as we recently discovered, is more likely to return closer to 12.5L/100km.

Diesel fuel consumption on the official combined cycle is listed at 8.5L/100km but our most recent test yielded a slightly startling figure of 12.9L/100km. The diesel's performance, particularly in the gears, is better than either petrol but it appears you'll pay for it.

The big banger V6's official fuel consumption figure is listed at 10.7L/100km, but past CarsGuide reviews suggest 14.0L/100km is a more likely real world figure. As far as fuel economy goes, diesel vs petrol usually falls to the diesel, but not in this case.

Fuel tank capacity is identical across the range at 65 litres.

Driving

Subaru Forester7/10

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.


Holden Captiva6/10

You sit on the Captiva rather than in it, a feeling encouraged by the flat, shapeless seats. It doesn't matter which Captiva you choose, the front seats are not exactly huggy but they'll certainly take people of all shapes and sizes. 

You twist a funny knob where the key barrel used to be to start the engine. The view out front and out the sides is commanding as there is a fair bit of glass all around, with just the view out the rear window restricted as it's quite small. If you've got passengers, forget it, but the reversing camera will save the day there.

The ride is, for the most part, reasonable, but will deteriorate along with the road surface. The suspension isn't very quiet and the overall firm feeling delivers passable handling, which you'd expect from a big heavy machine like this. It doesn't have anything like the finesse of much younger metal from Hyundai, Kia and Mazda.

The diesel specs suggest strong performance and that's exactly what you get. It's by far the torquiest of the three engines and shifts the Captiva's two tonnes with reasonable verve. It's a noisy, grumbly unit but works well with the six-speed auto.

The engine specs of the two petrols don't really tell the story. While the V6 is quicker in a straight line, its extra weight knocks the shine off the torque increase and the engine itself isn't a shining example of modern engine tech. Actually, neither of them are, missing out on stop-start and other goodies.

This isn't an off-road review, but moderately ambitious mud-plugging is doable in the AWD models, with a ground clearance of 200mm but no low range or off-road mode. We even checked the manual to make doubly sure there wasn't a diff lock button hidden somewhere.

As ever, the idea here is that when you're buying a Captiva you're buying a lot of space and a cheap ownership experience.

Safety

Subaru Forester9/10

The Subaru Forester range scored the maximum five-star ANCAP crash test safety rating in 2019. The criteria has gotten tougher since then, but no mid-size SUV has been put against it to date.

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.


Holden Captiva6/10

The Captiva carries six airbags, ABS, traction and stability controls, hill descent control, brake force distribution, active rollover protection, brake assist and three ISOFIX points, in addition to the reversing camera and rear parking sensors. 

The Captiva's maximum five star ANCAP safety rating was awarded in November 2011.

Ownership

Subaru Forester7/10

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).


Holden Captiva6/10

As with all new Holdens, the Captiva owner benefits from a three year/100,00km warranty and lifetime capped price servicing. All prices are available on Holden's website.

Service costs for the diesel are significantly higher than the either of petrols, but do include oil changes.

The standard package also includes a year of roadside assist.

For common faults and complaints, check out our Holden Captiva problems page, which covers known automatic transmission problems, engine problems and diesel problems. There aren't any widespread diesel engine problems with the later version.

Resale value is often a consideration and we've looked at the last major update, released in 2014. 

A seven seat Series II LS from 2014 - the second major update for the Captiva after the 2011 update addressed lingering problems - cost $30,490 when new and will trade at around $13000-$15000, below fifty per cent of the purchase price, with private sales a little higher. 

An LTZ diesel from the same period sold for $41,490 and trades in the 45 to 50 per cent of purchase price and a little over 50 per cent in private sales.