The Subaru Forester has morphed from a lifted, high-clearance wagon to something of a serious off roader in recent years – especially in base specification as tested here. The steel wheels and no frills exterior trim on this 2014 Subaru Forester indicate a level of capability that is more go than show. Pricing for this base model automatic starts at an impressive $32,990.
The boxer engine remains (2.5-litres if you desire an auto, or 2.0-litres with a manual transmission) and Subaru’s legendary all wheel drive formula remains key to the Forester’s appeal. If the manual is more to your taste, you can net the entry-level model for $29,990. Strangely though, you can’t mix and match those two engines and transmissions, which is not the end of the world, but strange regardless.
Fuel efficiency isn’t especially impressive for the class – the ADR claim is 8.1-litres/100km. On test over a 200km largely city loop it returned 10.1-litres/100km – impressively close to the ADR claim in real world terms, it has to be said.
Despite the relatively cheap entry price, the 2014 Subaru Forester 2.5i Auto is actually quite well equipped. Standard equipment includes Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, automatic dual-zone air-conditioning, reverse-view camera, DataDot theft detection and, crucially for anyone travelling longer distances into remote areas, a full size spare, something that should be mandatory for any vehicle claiming to be an SUV in Australia.
As we’ve come to expect from the brand, the 2014 Subaru Forester 2.5i auto gets the full five-star ANCAP safety rating thanks to Subaru’s commitment to safety and the inclusion of seven airbags as standard equipment across the range. Extensive use of aluminium has dropped overall weight down but also assisted in creating a more rigid body structure that adds to the safety equation.
The Bluetooth connection was easy to set up, and reliable. The audio streaming was clear and didn’t lose connection, and the major phone controls were easy to decipher. Likewise the high-mounted reverse-view camera, which was crystal clear and extremely handy negotiating tight, city parking spaces, not to mention safe.
Our test model came equipped with a factory tow bar and electronic brake controller. We only managed to hitch up a lightweight box trailer for a short run, but the camera made lining the trailer up an absolute cinch.
As you’d expect of a base model car, the interior is rather plain and a little austere, but it’s comfortable even over longer distances. The front seats especially are well contoured and comfortable for drivers of all shapes and sizes and the cabin is nicely insulated up to freeway speeds. The curved plastics can feel a little harsh, but the general interior design is attractive. Base specification Forester gets a fairly rudimentary audio system, but retains the steering wheel mounted control functionality.
Visibility is excellent from the driver’s seat. Entry and egress is also just about perfect thanks to the combination of ride and seat height. Looking forward through the windscreen, the A-pillars don’t get in the way around town as you negotiate tight streets, and the view aft is obviously assisted by the rear vision camera. Auto repeat blinkers are something we’ve almost come to expect, but we’ll forgive the Forester this shortcoming given the price.
The new Subaru Forester is slightly larger than the outgoing model, with a 35mm gain in overall length, and a wheelbase that has stretched by 25mm. The Forester’s cabin has always felt capacious, but its even more the case now with plenty of legroom in the second row regardless of how long legged the front seat drivers are. The low load height and flat floor in the luggage space was especially appreciated, plenty of luggage could fit into the space, while the retractable cover keeps your gear hidden from prying eyes. The rear seats fold forward easily too, with levers on each side well within reach.
Under the bonnet, the 2.5-litre engine powering our test car is nowhere near as high tech as the higher specification, turbocharged XT model with direct injection. Conventional multi-point injection might hurt the fuel consumption a little, but 126kW at 5800rpm and 235Nm at 4100rpm is more than enough to get the Forester up to speed and keep it there without the automatic continuously-variable transmission (CVT) slurring or making too many nasty noises. Speaking of which, the CVT backing the Forester’s petrol engine is one of the smoothest and least intrusive we’ve experienced over the past few years.
Stop-start technology is standard on all automatic models. Often an annoying and laggy addition to an otherwise smooth driving experience, Subaru’s stop/start works well in the Forester and it certainly helps keep the fuel usage lower than it otherwise would be.
Buyers considering this entry-level end of the medium SUV segment won’t be looking for a sports-car feel. With that in mind, the 2014 Subaru Forester 2.5i Auto handles daily driving duties around town with ease.
The combination of 17-inch steel wheels and high profile rubber work together absorb ugly road surfaces with comfort and composure. Hit the freeway and get up to speed and there’s no intrusive road noise, tyre roar or tramlining to worry about either. You will notice some noise over really rough roads – such as corrugated dirt for example – but that won’t be an issue for most drivers most of the time.
A function dubbed X-Mode can also be engaged via a console-mounted switch and helps the driver stay in control on loose, scrabbly surfaces up to 40km/h. It’s not a ‘proper’ 4WD system by any means, but it does make more difficult off road driving a little easier for the less experienced driver. Take into account the full sized spare on board, and the base specification Forester is perfectly suited to family weekends traversing national parks and heading off road onto fire trails and non-threatening dirt roads.
Australia has had a long running love affair with the Subaru Forester that doesn’t really look to be set to change anytime soon. This fourth generation model doesn’t shift the goalposts as such, certainly not within the class. What it does is improve on a tried and tested formula by offering a spacious and comfortable cabin, a solid driving experience both on road and off, and sharp pricing.
For the family buyer looking for a robust soft roader on a budget, the new Forester definitely hits the mark.