2014 Subaru Forester CUV Review

2014 Subaru Forester photo red
By Harry Pegg, Toronto Sun
New body, new platform, new technology – the 2014 Forester brings more space and uptown luxo-touches to the fourth generation of the Subaru CUV.
I find my eye drawn to the new lines, which use rounded corners to give the still-boxy body a more sophisticated look.
Subaru Canada sent a top-of-the-line XT Limited (there are eight other models to choose from) with the company’s new EyeSight technology for evaluation and after a week behind the wheel, I find it’s better than the previous model in every way – except for the bullet-proof symmetrical all-wheel drive system which has always been terrific.
Time to climb in.
The leather-lined cabin is comfortable, well laid-out and has plenty of space for four full-size adults to ride in comfort. A fifth rider will fit in the middle of the rear seat, but if the riders are of average width, quarters will be tight. There’s enough cargo area behind the rear seat for all the gear four people would need to tote. Fold the rear seat and load space becomes downright cavernous.
The new dashboard is well laid-out and gauges are easy to read although I find the information in the screen on the centre stack somewhat distracting and redundant. It takes me awhile to get used to reading it – or ignoring it as the case may be.
Visibility is, for the most part, excellent, aided by small extra windows in the doors. There are only two problems. First, the large side mirrors give me a good look at what’s going on in adjacent lanes by day, but I take a dim view of their automatic dimming feature, which provides a dim view of rear traffic at night.
The second issue is the result of a necessary trade-off to accommodate the stereo camera for Subaru’s EyeSight system. Its position top centre of the windshield results in shorter sun visors which allow sunlight into my eyes under certain conditions, but that’s a small price to pay for the system’s advantages.
Under the hood is a 2.0L Boxer four-cylinder engine with intercooled twin-scroll turbocharger that boosts horsepower to 250 and torque to 258 lb.-ft.
Ah ha! There’s a key ingredient for a performance recipe. The second ingredient? Oh, no. It’s a CVT. That adds some mush to the mix, I figure. What the heck, let’s give it a go.
A twist of the key (no push-button start here) and the Boxer raises its fists, ready for action.
“Here goes nothing,” I think, fully expecting the CVT to dampen the engine’s enthusiasm.
Surprise! The transmission can act like it has gears, eight of them if Sport Sharp is selected in the SI-Drive system. It quickens throttle response and provides a sharper drive experience complete with pseudo-downshifts. Paddle shifters on the steering wheel heighten the illusion of gearing.
Off the line, the powertrain gets the Forester moving in a hurry but once at highway velocity the transmission begins to act like a CVT. That is to say it’s mushy although it gets me past slower traffic without being scary.
The new electric power steering is somewhat numb on centre but comes to life quickly enough when called upon to make course corrections.
Cornering is precise and it takes a bit of effort to induce some understeer, more effort than would normally be applied.
I soon forget about the CVT and enjoy the ride, which is firm without being harsh. Wind and road noise do make themselves known, but the excellent audio system makes up for that.
Eyesight, it turns out, can be a rather nagging nanny, interfering at the slightest provocation to activate adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, pre-collision braking. I like the process, though, and soon learn to work my way around it although it can be turned off.
The price of $37,995 carries a lot of equipment, including the turbo, CVT and EyeSight. I’ve got navigation, satellite radio, big power sunroom, power liftgate, fog lights, leather upholstery, heated seats with 10-way power adjustment for the driver, rearview camera, automatic dual-zone climate control and Xenon HID headlights with automatic levelling.
Not bad for the price.
Fact file:  2014 Subaru Forester
Trim level: 2.0 XT Limited
Price as tested (before taxes): $37,995
Options on test vehicle: none
Freight/PDI: $1,650
Configuration: front engine/ all-wheel drive
Engine/transmission: 2.0L turbo 4-cyl.boxer/ CVT
Power/torque: 250 hp/ 258 lb.-ft.
Fuel (capacity): Premium (60L)
Fuel economy ratings: 8.9 L/100km city; 7.2 L/100km hwy
Observed fuel economy: 9.4 L/100km over 763 km
Warranties: 3years/ 60,000 km (basic); 5 years/ 100,000 km (powertrain)
Competitors: Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Escape, Honda CR-V; Mazda CX-5, Toyota RAV4, Kia Sportage, VW Tiguan
Strengths: economy; technology; powertrain
Weaknesses: Eyesight intrudes on sun visor space, CVT is still a CVT