The original Subaru Forester dates back to 1997 and was quite a different beast compared to what they are offering today. The original formula consisted of a jacked-up wagon, loosely based on the Impreza, standard all-wheel-drive, mixed with the “fresh” styling cues that the newly-created Crossover SUV segment spawned. This resulted in additional ground clearance, but not a significant penalty as far as ride quality and fuel consumption goes. Fast forward seventeen years later: I spent a week with the all-new 2014 Subaru Forester 2.5i; complete with the 6-speed manual transmission.
The Forester 2.5i represents the base-model Forester. You get standard styled steel wheels (not aluminum alloy), manual cloth seat adjustments (but they are heated!), no fog lights, and no retractable cargo cover. For those who don’t require some of those creature comforts, the 2.5i model, starting at $25,995, represents a fantastic entry-level value considering the fact that nearly all of its competitors do not offer all-wheel-drive as standard equipment. This includes popular family choices such as the: Honda CR-V, Hyundai Santa Fe Sport, Ford Escape SE, Kia Sportage, and VW Tiguan. Once you check that option box, you are immediately greeted with a price tag several thousand dollars more than what Subaru charges for the Forester 2.5i. It’s quite a compelling argument.
While it appears the original formula has changed, Subaru has kept their Forester right in line with what the market expects. Size-wise, it has grown significantly, but this is reflected most in the interior packaging and layout. For something with its relatively tidy exterior dimensions, available passenger and cargo space are seriously impressive. The average family with the average 2.5 children will easily have space to spare. The interior furnishings suggest a clean and utilitarian design. It is not overly styled like what you would find in the Ford Escape or Hyundai Santa Fe Sport. Simplicity is the name of the game here with the Forester’s logical, easy-to-find controls on both the steering wheel and centre console. Another bonus of the simple interior configuration: a double-DIN stereo makes for an easy upgrade should you not be satisfied with the standard Subaru unit.
My Forester 2.5i tester was powered by a (you guessed it) 2.5L horizontally-opposed “boxer” four-cylinder motor, producing 170 horsepower @ 5800rpm and 174lb-ft of torque at a useful 4100 rpm. It is paired up with the choice of a six-speed manual transmission or a CVT (continuously variable transmission). Both transmission types connect to a standard all-wheel-drive system. This is noteworthy because the available six-speed manual is a rarity in this class. Most of the competitors mentioned earlier either do not offer this choice, or restrict you to a front-wheel-drive trim level – which, to me, largely defeats the purpose of an urban crossover SUV. Power output is adequate, smooth, and linear due to the largely vibration-free balance of the Subaru boxer engine configuration. The uplevel 2.0 XT trim adds more horsepower via a turbocharger, which is always nice, but is limited to the CVT transmission, which is not as nice. Rated at 9.5L/100km in the city, and 7.0L/100km on the highway, I managed a respectable 9.0L/100km under a mix of about 60% city and 40% highway driving.
One recent development that gives Subaru some bragging points is the fact that the IIHS (Institute for Highway Safety) awarded the new Forester a “Good” rating in the tough new small overlap frontal test – the first compact crossover SUV to do so. This test seems to have caught a lot of automakers off-guard, with other makes only managing a “Poor” or “Marginal” rating. Overall, the Forester receives the vaunted “Top Safety Pick+” rating. For those who take vehicle safety seriously, this is an important point to keep in mind.
The Forester felt very good to drive, and felt well put-together, and was easy to live with. Visibility all-around is very good thanks to the low window sills that also do a good job of brightening up the interior. I did notice some notchiness (a distinct bump) in the shifter action between first and second gears. This was not significant enough to impact normal operation. I liked the usual Subaru “Hill Holder” system: the brakes are automatically held for up to two seconds to prevent the Forester from rolling back on hills while the driver manages all three pedals when starting in first gear. This increases driver confidence and makes for a more graceful launch, even on the steepest of hills. I also liked the tight 34.7ft turning circle – better than most of its competitors. This makes for easier U-turns and reduces the need for three-point-turns.
Many people seem to, by default, gravitate to the bigger manufacturers, as they are almost always the “safe” choice. Some of those choices are generally good at everything they set out to do… but sometimes “good” isn’t always good enough. Some even want something a little different. With the segment being so competitive, it is important to do the research with your own priorities in mind. That being said, there are a lot of positive points that are in the 2014 Forester’s favour. It would be my choice in its class.
2014 Subaru Forester 2.5i Gallery