The Forester is Subaru's compact crossover, and also happens to be Subaru's best-selling model. For 2014 it's been redesigned to be a bit more spacious and more efficient without losing the sporty character that the Forester has always managed to have. We loved it at the TAWA Texas Truck Rodeo in October, so to find out what it's like to live with day-to-day, we drove it to the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas.
What's under the hood?
The 2.0XT model comes with a 2-liter, direct-injected, horizontally-opposed four that's also in the Subaru BRZ and Scion FR-S — only now it's been turbocharged and produces 250 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. It's paired with a continuously variable transmission that has eight "gear" presets, selectable through paddles behind the steering wheel.
The torquey engine and composed, confidence-inspiring ride quality make the 3,650-pound Forester 2.0XT feel surprisingly light on its feet. It simply feels more capable and more energetic than other compact crossovers.
Subarus typically aren't pretty, and the Forester makes no real efforts to buck that trend. It's gotten bulkier and more angry-looking, in an attempt to firmly dispel the "cute-ute" perception that often dogs the compact crossover segment. No one would call this CUV “cute,” so, …success?
The cloth seats in our Forester were not particularly comfortable — they almost felt like they were actively pushing me out of the seat. The rest of the cabin is fine, and the raised seating position itself is very good.
The slightly-enlarged Forester has spacious back seats and a generous rear cargo area. You can lift up the floor and secure small items such as laptops in compartments under the carpet.
We got an average of 23.4 mpg driving around town, between Houston and Austin, and up and down the 85 mph Texas State Highway 130. It’s EPA rated at 23/28 mpg city/highway.
How much does it cost?
The 2014 Forester starts at just under $22,000 for the base, 2.5 liter non-turbocharged engine, and $28,820 for the Forester 2.0XT Premium with the turbo engine.
The turbo and all-wheel drive experience deliver a boosty feel and plenty of character. Outward visibility is fantastic.
The steering wheel material, shape of the seat and iPod interface could all be much, much better. At freeway speeds, a lot of wind noise finds its way into the cabin. And the fuel consumption wasn’t great even in mostly freeway driving.
The new Forester is a milestone vehicle for Subaru, which retains a unique character while still aiming for a wider appeal. There are more luxurious options (Ford Escape) and more efficient vehicles (Mazda CX-5
), but the Forester is a multitalented performer that drives like nothing else in the segment.
How we'd buy it:
If the turbo engine is important to you, go for the 2.0XT and you won’t regret it. But the added amenities are slim, so you don’t lose much and you can save a bunch of money with the less powerful model. All of the colors are a bit bland, so you’re better off with something neutral — Subaru’s Dark Grey Metallic seems the best of the bunch.