By Steve & Tami Laser
Subaru is on the fast track to success. One of the reasons is the Forester, Subaru’s top-selling compact crossover. Redesigned for 2014, Forester is affordable, fitted with standard all-wheel drive, offers plenty of room for passengers and cargo, and has a reputation for durability.
The new Forester is a little larger than the previous model, and sports bold styling with “hawkeye” headlights and hexagonal grille. The A-pillars have been moved farther forward for a more aerodynamic windshield angle and the overall look is a bit more truckish.
Subaru has retained Forester’s car-like ride and handling. Four-wheel independent suspension with MacPherson struts in front and double-wishbones in back do a great job absorbing bumps. With 8.7 inches of ground clearance, Forester tackles dirt and gravel roads with ease.
Our Forester 2.5i Limited test car was equipped with Subaru’s 2.5-liter horizontally opposed “Boxer” 4-cylinder engine. This puts out 170 horsepower and 174 ft-lbs of torque via a Continuously Variable Transmission. We found this to be a satisfying combo while carrying EPA fuel economy estimates of 24 mpg city and 32 highway.
Those seeking more gusto can opt for the Forester 2.0XT that gains a turbocharged 2.0-liter Boxer good for 250 horses and 258 ft-lbs. The increased output comes with fuel economy estimates of 23 city/28 highway.
Forester is one of the few vehicles in its class that offers a manual gearbox. The 6-speed is available on the base 2.5i. We wish Subaru offered it on Premium, Limited or Touring, or in combo with the turbo engine in keeping with its more sporting character.
Subaru’s Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive is standard on every Forester. Models with the CVT have an electronically controlled variable transfer clutch that actively manages power distribution based on acceleration, cornering and available traction, and transfers power to the wheels with the best grip.
There are benefits, of course, on wet or slippery surfaces. Yet it also enhances traction when the road is dry, providing us with confidence-inspiring cornering on big, sweeping turns in our neighborhood. We also drove on some off-road trails where it handled dirt, gravel and a patch of mud with ease.
Forester Limited, Touring and 2.0XT gain a new X-Mode that provides optimized control of the engine, transmission, brakes, Vehicle Dynamic Control and other systems for better wheel control on slippery surfaces. Hill Descent is another feature that helps maintain a constant speed when traveling downhill on steep trails.
Forester’s interior gains more comfortable seats and a redesigned instrument panel. Our tester’s standard features included a panoramic moonroof, auto climate control, leather-trimmed seats, an all-weather package with heated front seats, plus Bluetooth and audio controls on the steering wheel.
Lower the split-folding rear seats and there’s 74.7 cubic feet of cargo space, rivaling some larger crossovers. With the seatbacks up, there’s still 34.4 cubic feet for stowing sports gear for weekend warriors. To make access easier when arms are full, the Limited includes a convenient power tailgate.
Building on its reputation for safety, the 2014 Forester received a Top Safety Pick+ award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Forester is the first vehicle to ace every aspect of the IIHS small overlap front crash test. And Forester is the only one of 13 small SUVs to earn an overall rating of good in the test.
With a base price of $27,995, our tester added a navigation system with 6.1-inch LCD touchscreen, Aha smart phone app, HD Radio, SiriusXM satellite radio and NavTraffic. This brought the bottom line to $29,920.
So if you’re thinking Honda CR-V or Toyota RAV4, be sure to check out the Subaru Forester. Prices begin at just $21,995 for the base 2.5i AWD.
[2014 Subaru Forester press fleet vehicle provided by Subaru of America, Inc.]
Story, photos and video ©2014 CarNichiWa