The Most Value-Packed Compact SUV
The Subaru Forester is the brand’s most popular model in the Philippines. 1,641 units were sold last year, making it the third best selling in its segment. This time around, Subaru has filled the all-new Forester with features to the brim at an extremely affordable price tag, which probably makes it the value-for-money king in its segment.
But first, let’s talk about design. While the Forester is a completely new vehicle from the ground up, this isn’t entirely reflected on its design. This all-new Forester follows an evolutionary approach. It isn’t striking, but it looks reasonably well proportioned. There’s also enough LEDs up front to bring it in line with the rest of the Subaru line-up. At the back, a pair of striking C-shaped LED tail lights are a new design trait never seen before in any Forester before it. Newly designed 17-inch alloy wheels do make the Forester look decently sharp, even if it’s a tad smaller than the 18-inch alloys found in the 2.0i-S EyeSight variant.
The evolutionary theme continues inside. It looks familiar, with the usual high-grade multi-information display on top, and a large touch screen in the middle. The previous generation (SH) Forester was not really known for having a premium interior, though its mid-cycle refresh sort of rectified that. This time around, the Forester has been through hospitality school, and now carries a more premium and sophisticated interior. There are loads of soft-touch materials on almost any place where your hands will most likely touch. As with every Subaru, everything is well laid out for user-friendliness.
Front and center is an 8-inch touch screen infotainment system, which isn’t the Subaru Starlink interface we’re used to. While the user interface is dead simple to use, the graphics are pixel starved and look decidedly low res compared to the two high-resolution multi-info displays.
The Forester’s boxy design gives it stacks of room inside. With its high roofline, there’s plenty of headroom, even for the rear middle passenger. Five six-footer adults will easily find this car roomy, and this is even if you opt for the 2.0i-S EyeSight variant with a large sunroof. There are stacks of legroom as well, thanks to a longer wheelbase.
There are numerous ingenious storage solutions inside. Apart from the usual cupholders, the seat back pockets have partitions, which means that if you want to charge your phone, you can place it inside one of the three rear pockets at each front seat. Elsewhere, the trunk space is also ingeniously designed, with well-designed hooks for shopping bags, as well as intelligent hidden storage areas. The overall volume is very generous as well. A huge plus is the fast power liftgate, which is standard even on this mid-level 2.0i-L EyeSight variant.
Perhaps the biggest news about the Forester is not how great the Subaru Global Platform is, or how EyeSight continues to be a lifesaver in stop-and-go traffic. No, the biggest news is actually the discontinuation of the turbocharged XT variant. With the turbocharged FA20 boxer engine out of the picture, this new Forester makes do with the revised 2.0-liter FB20D boxer engine also found in the Impreza and XV, producing 154 hp @ 6,000 rpm and 196 Nm of torque @ 4,000 rpm. Though it is more powerful than the 2.0-liter FB20B it replaces, it’s still not enough to offset the loss of the turbo model. Power is, of course, sent through all four wheels via Subaru’s Lineartronic CVT.
In my Subaru XV review, I said that the engine and transmission combo was simply adequate for its size. So imagine then how this powertrain would fare in something bigger and heavier, 100 kg heavier than the XV to be exact. When driven in the city, this is hardly noticed, thanks to how the CVT is tuned to give instantaneous response during these situations, but out in the open road, the Forester needs more prodding of the gas pedal in order to overtake with more progress. There are even a few occasions when the CVT’s rubber band effect is out of rhythm with your right foot when you overtake.
The added mass also has a penalty when it comes to fuel economy. I’m currently averaging 8.9 km/l over a week’s worth of driving. This is in contrast to the 9.5-10 km/l I was achieving with the XV. Though it must be noted this car is still in its break-in period so it could also be a factor. When compared to its crossover rivals with a 2.0-liter engine, the Forester is actually just on par, though it could really use the 2.5-liter engine found in its North American and Australian siblings. Too bad, because the Subaru Global Platform is so good, this platform truly deserves a more powerful engine.
Because of the new platform, the new Forester is about 70% stiffer and a lot more hushed and refined than the model it replaces. It’s quiet even at triple-digit speeds, yet its extremely rigid and solid platform gives it excellent handling characteristics. It’s so good in fact that the suspension doesn’t need to be stiff in order to control the Forester’s movements through the corners.
The steering is pointy and precise. There isn’t a lot of feedback, but it has enough response that you know where to point the car through corners. It doesn’t have the agility of a Mazda CX-5, but rather, this car focuses on being smooth and stable when cornering. This is also evident with the car’s ride quality. With its very stiff platform, as well as a long-travel suspension with soft springs, the Forester has the best ride among its competitors.
The long travel suspension also has another benefit. Apart from its ability to soak up bumps, the suspension enables it to have good wheel articulation compared to its rivals. The Forester remains to be one of the more off-road capable compact SUVs out there. With a generous 220 mm of ground clearance that easily rivals the likes of the pick-up based Toyota Fortuner, the Forester has excellent off-road capabilities, further aided by the AWD system’s X-Mode.
Pricing for the Subaru Forester starts at P1,598,000 for the 2.0 i-L variant, and this includes automatic LED headlights with LED daytime running lights, passive entry with push button start, rear aircon vents, two rear fast charge USB powers, 8-inch touch screen infotainment system, reverse camera, seven airbags, as well as cruise control.
This mid-level 2.0i-L EyeSight we’re reviewing starts at P1,698,000, which is what we highly recommend. As the name implies, it adds the Subaru EyeSight suite of front-based safety features, as well as a power liftgate, leather seats, 8-way power adjustment for both driver and front passenger, as well as two-person memory for the driver. Fun fact, the two-person memory also saves your presets for the mirrors. For some reason though, EyeSight’s tuning here is more sensitive. It had more false alarms compared to the other Subarus I’ve driven.
Spend liberally, and the top-of-the-line 2.0i-S EyeSight adds a large sunroof, LED foglights, silver faux skid plates, 18-inch alloy wheels, as well as blind spot warning and rear cross traffic alert.
The biggest headliner of the new Subaru Forester is the disappearance of the turbocharged XT model. Sure, it’s not that powerful, but in all respects, it’s better than the Forester it replaces. Plus, with such excellent pricing, as well as a generous list of features, this Forester is what I would consider as the deal of the year.
Pricing and Rating
Exterior Design: ★★★★☆
Interior Design: ★★★★☆
Space and Practicality: ★★★★★
Fuel Efficiency: ★★★★☆
Value For Money: ★★★★★
Overall: 4.4 out of 5