Still The Best Value-For-Money Compact SUV
I’ve driven the mid-level variant of the Subaru Forester called the 2.0i-L EyeSight a couple of months back. At its P1,698,000 price tag, I thought that it offered the best value in the compact crossover SUV segment due to its generous features that shames even most top trim variants of its rivals. Value for money is the new Forester’s name of the game, and the sales numbers speak for themselves. This top-of-the-line 2.0i-S EyeSight to be specific is in short supply, something that Motor Image Pilipinas has addressed this August by bringing in more units. I wanted to see then how much more value does this car offer and whether you should get this or just stick to the mid-level 2.0i-L EyeSight.
As mentioned in my previous review, the all-new Forester follows an evolutionary design 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 taillights are a new design trait never seen before in any Forester before it. This 2.0i-S EyeSight variant adds 18-inch alloy wheels, satin faux skid plates, as well as LED foglights, which gives the Forester a much more handsome look. I think I can argue that the price premium over the 2.0i-L EyeSight is already worth it based on looks alone.
On the inside, it still largely looks familiar, with the usual high-grade multi-information display on top, and a large touch screen in the middle. There’s a good amount of soft-touch materials and leather surfaces to lend the Forester a premium and sophisticated interior, though it’s still not as premium as the Mazda CX-5’s. Compared to the mid-level 2.0i-L EyeSight, this variant simply adds a large sunroof, which gives the already spacious and airy cabin even more light. Elsewhere, it still carries on with the same electronically adjustable driver and front passenger seats, reverse-linked side mirrors, a power liftgate, automatic folding mirrors when locking the car, and an 8-inch touch screen infotainment system.
Speaking of the infotainment, this isn’t the Subaru Starlink interface we’ve become accustomed 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. There’s also no Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support.
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 seatback 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.
The driving experience largely carries unchanged once you’re out in the open road. Even with bigger 18-inch wheels, there’s no significant difference in terms of ride quality. The new Subaru Global Platform gives the new Forester a very stiff chassis, and this is already evident from the moment you close the solidly built doors. Road and wind noise is well suppressed, with only the tiny amount of wind whistle from the slightly upright A-pillars permeating through the cabin. The Forester’s driving dynamics are geared towards comfort and stability, though its slightly weighty electric power steering and grippy Symmetrical AWD system give the Forester a certain degree of fun. While it’s no Mazda CX-5 in terms of handling, it still can hold its own pretty well in the twisty sections of road. Where the Forester stands out is with its sublime ride quality, thanks to its long-travel suspension and of course, the very stiff and rigid Subaru Global Platform.
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.
Powering the Subaru Forester 2.0i-S EyeSight is the same 2.0-liter FB20D boxer engine also found in the Impreza, XV, and all variants of the Forester. This engine produces 154 hp @ 6,000 rpm and 196 Nm of torque @ 4,000 rpm, sending power through all four wheels via Subaru’s Lineartronic CVT. While the powertrain combo isn’t stellar by any means, it certainly is just enough for what the Forester is supposed to do. In the city, the CVT’s tuning gives the Forester responsive performance when coming from a stoplight or overtaking that pesky jeepney. It’s when you’re out on a highway or provincial road when you start to miss the Forester XT’s turbo boxer engine.
Shove the gas pedal onto the floor, and it overtakes with progress but no sense of urgency. Switching the drive mode to sport (S) does little to improve its experience. Again, it’s no sports car, but for 99% of what the Forester will encounter, this engine will suffice. Perhaps my biggest surprise would be its fuel economy. Over a week’s worth of use, I average 9.23 km/l (10.7 l/100 km) based on the trip computer, which was a lot better than my experience with the mid-level Forester I reviewed. Perhaps this may have to do with the fact that the unit I drove before only had a little over 400 kilometers in its odometer, way below its break-in period, while this unit I drove was already beyond its break-in period at a little over 1,600 kilometers.
As mentioned in its name, the Forester 2.0i-S EyeSight is equipped with, of course, EyeSight, which means it comes with the usual automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, lane sway warning, pre-collision throttle management, and full-speed adaptive cruise control. For some reason though, EyeSight’s tuning across all models of the new Forester that I’ve driven is more sensitive than my experiences with Subaru’s other models. It had more false alarms compared to my past experiences.
Now here comes the P130,000 question: is the Subaru Forester 2.0i-S EyeSight’s P130,000 price premium worth it over the 2.0i-L EyeSight? Well, it’s both a yes and no. At P1,698,000, I couldn’t think of any other features I still needed when the Forester 2.0i-L EyeSight was with me for a week. It has steering-responsive LED headlights with LED daytime running lights, power liftgate, electronically adjustable front seats, leather interior, reverse-linked side mirrors, just to name a few. All the added features in this 2.0i-S EyeSight are either aesthetics or novelty features such as the large sunroof.
However, at P1,828,000, this 2.0i-S EyeSight literally offers everything but the kitchen sink. For the value-conscious buyer, the mid-level 2.0i-L EyeSight offers the most bang for the buck, but for those looking for the absolute best there is in the segment in terms of features and safety, no other compact crossover SUV on sale right now can beat the Subaru Forester 2.0i-S EyeSight’s value proposition.
Pricing and Rating
Exterior Design: ★★★★☆
Interior Design: ★★★★☆
Space and Practicality: ★★★★★
Fuel Efficiency: ★★★★☆
Value For Money: ★★★★★
Overall: 4.4 out of 5
*Pricing is correct and accurate as of this article’s time of writing.