The latest generation Subaru Forester builds on a successful formula built around stability and practicality, by adding more space as well as advanced driver assistance technology to help give it an edge over key rivals such as the Mazda CX-5, Nissan’s X-Trail, the Toyota RAV4 and Volkswagen’s Tiguan.
The Forester 2.5i-S sits on top of top of the local range, every variant of which is powered by a 2.5-litre petrol ‘boxer’ engine with all-wheel-drive (AWD) after the demise of the turbocharged Forester XT.
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The 2.5i-S is priced from $41,490, which is less than top-spec variants of some of its key rivals that sit around $50k mark.
That’s not through any obvious cost cutting on Subaru’s part, though, with the range-topping Forester brimming with standard features including leather trim, state-of-the-art active safety and automatic everything.
Despite having the same powertrain and performance as the rest of the range, the 2.5i-S’s equipment list justifies its price premium over the rest of the line-up, which starts with the 2.5i at $33,490 and works its way up through the 2.5i-L ($35,490) and the 2.5i Premium ($38,490).
Apart from accessories like mats and roof racks there are no extra-cost options – not even premium paint.
The 2.5-litre petrol engine drinks 95RON unleaded petrol at a reasonably frugal rate of 7.4L/100km.
Under Subaru’s three-year service plan, the Forester requires a trip to the mechanic every 12 months, or 12.500km. The 12, 24 and 36-month services are priced at $346.39, $584.45 and $346.39 respectively. Subaru also recommends new Foresters go in for a free ‘health check and chat’ after one month.
The Subaru Forester is covered by a three-year, unlimited kilometre warranty, which is starting to look a little frugal in the current market. However, Subaru does often advertise an extended warranty of five years, so make sure you ask your dealer if you’re signing on the dotted line.
The 2.5i-S comes with everything available in a Subaru Forester including ‘EyeSight’ active safety with autonomous emergency braking, active cruise control, lane-keeping assist and brake light recognition.
It also comes with:
- Facial recognition that sets the seats and door mirrors to your setting and can tell if you’re getting drowsy or distracted;
- 8.0-inch touchscreen;
- Reversing camera;
- Satellite radio;
- AM/FM/Digital (DAB+) radio;
- Apple CarPlay/Android Auto;
- 8-speaker Harman/Kardon premium sound system;
- Dual-zone air-conditioning;
- Self-levelling, auto on/off LED headlights;
- LED tail-lights;
- LED daytime running lights;
- Rain-sensing windscreen wipers;
- Blind-spot monitor;
- Rear-cross traffic alert;
- Reverse autonomous emergency braking to stop parking bingles;
- Dipping passenger side mirror to help you see the kern when reverse parallel parking;
- Leather seat upholstery and trim including the gear shift and steering wheel;
- Eight-way powered front seats;
- Power-folding rear seats;
- Powered tailgate;
- Paddle shifters;
- 18-inch alloy wheels;
- Full-size spare wheel
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The fifth-generation Forester measures 4.63m in length by 1.82m wide, and its 2.67m wheelbase is 30mm longer than the previous model, leading to a substantial increase in interior space.
The boot space accommodates 498 litres and expands to 1768 litres with the 40/60-split seats folded. The load opening now measures 1258mm wide between the tail lights and the widest point of the luggage area is up to 1300mm – enough to fit a golf bag in sideways.
The Forester is one of the best-equipped SUVs in its price range in terms of active safety, with all versions equipped with Subaru’s EyeSight package that relies on stereo cameras at the top of the windscreen.
It brings autonomous emergency braking (AEB), adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assistance, brake light recognition that provides an additional sign that the car in front is stopping, and lane-drift assistance – alerting you if you start to drift out of your lane on the highway.
Other active safety features rear-cross traffic alert, a blind spot monitor, and facial recognition technology that detects if the driver is distracted or becoming drowsy. Meanwhile, reverse automatic braking helps prevent collisions while parking.
It also has anti-lock brakes, stability control, seven airbags, a reversing camera, and seatbelt reminders for all seats.
The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) is yet to rate the 2019 Forester but the previous version had a top five-star score.
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The Forester has a comfortable, roomy and well-appointed cabin with excellent fit and finish.
The leather seats are comfortable and feel plush, unlike in previous-model Foresters where they were a little too firm and felt like you were sitting on, rather than in, them.
The driving position feels very natural, with excellent forward vision that’s also afforded to the rear-seat passengers thanks to all the glass that also proves great side vision.
Rear-seat head- and legroom is plentiful, even when the front seats are pushed back, and rear-seat passengers get their own air vents and two USB sockets to charge their electronic devices.
On the road the Forester offers a soft, almost loping, ride that doesn’t compromise handling even through tight bends. It rides over coarse surfaces and unsealed tracks well too, and feels as though it was designed specifically for Australian conditions.
Road noise, which was a key criticism of previous model Foresters, has also been subdued, despite the tallish glasshouse.
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ON THE ROAD
The Forester manages to provide an excellent balance between high-riding practicality, comfort and driveability. It’s an easy car to drive, with light steering and responsive acceleration at low speeds.
Despite its loping ride, it handles bends well with little lateral movement, and the steering and chassis compliance are above average for SUVs in its class.
The Forester’s 2.5-litre engine is adequate to the task around town or on highways, but the absence of a turbocharger is noticed when its fully loaded or when attempting a quick overtaking manoeuvre.
Continuously variable transmission (CVT) autos aren’t usually something to celebrate, but the Forester’s overcomes the incessant revving normally associated with them by acting more like a conventional automatic, with stepped ratios, when you ask it to accelerate hard.
The X-Mode all-wheel-drive traction system helps maintain its confidence-inspiring ride when grip levels drop off or the road becomes rather uncivilised. Aided by a 220mm ground clearance, it handles unsealed surfaces better than most medium SUVs, making it excellent on gravel roads, good on sand, and even some tracks that are rough or steep. Its full-size spare tyre is a major bonus here.
While it doesn’t look too different from the previous model, the fifth generation Subaru Forester is streets ahead in terms of technology, safety and ride comfort. It’s also arguably the best medium SUV in its class, ticking most boxes over comparably priced, but lesser equipped, rivals.