The redesigned 2014 Subaru Forester crossover SUV is roomy, comfortable and a solid overall performer.
Compact crossover SUVs are rampant these days, with every mainstream automaker and many luxury brands including at least one example of the genre in their vehicular portfolios. While the Subaru Forester is not the biggest seller in what’s become a highly competitive segment, it’s long been a nicely packaged and energetic model that comes standard with one of the best all-wheel-drive systems in the industry for superior performance on wet or snowy roads.
The Forester was recently redesigned as an early model-year 2014 release and, based on our week-long test, remains an amenable and versatile ride that’s difficult to fault in any substantive manner.
Though a modest exterior refresh embellishes the Forester with a few graceful curves front to rear, this remains an unashamedly boxy crossover SUV in a market segment where swoopy designs are becoming prevalent. One resulting advantage is that the vehicle’s large doors, tall and horizontal roofline and relatively upright windshield pillars make ingress and egress far easier than with most of today’s smaller vehicles (as well as some far larger ones), which is of particular importance to taller drivers and those with mobility issues.
A more spacious interior affords plenty of seat travel and headroom up front to comfortably accommodate six-footers, with sufficient legroom in the back for two adults to ride without quarrel. Cargo room is spacious enough with the rear 60/40-split seatbacks upright, and becomes downright voluminous with them folded flat.
The Forester’s interior is nicely styled, with large and legible gauges in the instrument panel and extensive use of high-quality materials throughout the cabin. Our only complaint in this regard was with the vehicle’s available infotainment/navigation system, which featured tiny touchscreen controls on a too-small display that were hit or miss to operate at best, especially while traversing bumpy urban streets. Stick with the base audio system for its easier-to-operate analog dials and buttons.
While it’s not the smoothest powerplant on the planet, the standard 2.5-liter four-cylinder “boxer” engine (in which two rows of cylinders are configured in horizontal opposition to each other, rather than in alignment as with most other four-cylinder engines) delivers both lively acceleration with 170 horsepower and good fuel economy. Base 2.5i versions are estimated at 22/29-mpg city/highway with the standard six-speed manual transmission and 24/32 mpg with the optional gearless CVT (continuously variable transmission) automatic.
A quicker 2.0-liter turbocharged version is alternately offered in 2.0XT versions with 250 horsepower and comparable fuel economy at 23/28 mpg with a CVT though it adds substantially to the vehicle’s cost.
The Forester delivers a sufficiently smooth ride on all but the worst stretches of broken pavement with surprisingly responsive handling that’s a notch beyond most passively sprung crossovers. The 2.0XT models add a sport suspension for nominally better cornering abilities, though this comes at the expense of a slightly stiffer ride.
The Forester’s standard all-wheel-drive (AWD) system is mechanically sophisticated and makes this an especially good choice for those living in extreme climates.
The vehicle comes well equipped with keyless entry, a tile/telescoping steering wheel and Bluetooth mobile-phone interface; a backup camera is standard on most versions. Subaru’s EyeSight assist system is available – but only in top models – that bundles an array of key safety features. These include adaptive cruise control to maintain both a set speed and distance from the traffic ahead, lane departure warning to alert an inattentive driver when the vehicle inadvertently crosses highway lane markers and a forward collision system that can automatically apply the brakes to help avoid or minimize the effects of a crash.
The 2014 Subaru Forester starts at $21,995 (not including an $825 destination charge) which makes it one of the more affordable entries in its class, and that’s with all-wheel-drive, which is optional on other models in this class. Unfortunately, it can become one of the costlier small crossovers at the other end of the model range, topping out at $32,995 for a 2.0XT Touring version.
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