2014 Subaru Forester Review

Subaru Forester Review
By Wade Ozeroff, Toronto Sun
NANAIMO, B.C. – There is no input coming from me (other than steering, of course) as the 2014 Subaru Forester chudders its way down a steep and rocky decline not far from the west coast of Vancouver Island. It always half surprises/half delights me when vehicles more-or-less control themselves the way the Forester is doing.
The controlled downhill descent is supplied by Subaru’s X-Mode feature, a low-speed off-roading aid that will be supplied as standard equipment on new Foresters purchased with CVT transmissions, and it seems to work very well in the limited testing I performed with it.
X-Mode is just one of a suite of improvements to the company’s already well-regarded compact utility vehicle, which has been stiffened, toughened and refined enough to call it a proper SUV (as opposed to the “crossover wagon” it began as, back in 1997)
While the Forester has grown externally in all dimensions, it is on the inside where you’ll see the expansion best (especially if you’ve owned one). Better rear-seat passenger space is on hand for the new model year, with legroom improved by scalloping the backs of the front seats and lowering the shaft-tunnel on the floor between them.
It’s the driver’s position that sells the car, with a nice seat providing good visibility and sightlines (which have been incrementally improved, though it has always been the case in Forester). A tilt-and-telescope wheel caps a well-laid out array of simple and intuitive controls, with a new-look dash and console that has moved away from the ‘cascade’ styling of the previous generation.
The company is courting an expanded demographic with the availability of some neo-luxury touches for 2014, with a power liftgate opening onto the cargo bay, and the option of a Harmon Kardon stereo to liven up the ambience inside.
Two engines are available now, the boxer 2.5-litre we’ve all come to know, and a 2.0-litre turbo powerplant that brings a little kick to the package, and now the Forester can be had with the advanced SI and SI-Sharp selectable drive-modes.
The availability of a manual transmission – a six-speed, which is only available at the ‘base’ trim level – makes it only the second vehicle in its segment I can think of with that option (Mazda’s CX-5 being the other) in this country; but here’s my advice: don’t bother.
I know I will have to return my media-weasel card for saying this, and it’s rare that I don’t jump and down and slap my flippers together gleefully over a stick-shift option; but in all honesty I would take the CVT over the long-throw, decidedly non-sporty-feeling shifter with its too-close-together pedals.
The continuously variable automatic does a fine job, and depending on how you configure your choice comes with either six-or-eight ‘shift’ points (and wheel-mounted paddle shifters, if you enjoy that sort of thing), and promises to wring decent mileage from the Forester as well.
Now, the above is the gist and the nutshell of it, but the Forester boasts enough changes to qualify as an “all-new” vehicle for 2014. Indeed, the company went out of its way to stress improvements to the all-wheel drive system (and I totally believe it when it says that the rig now interacts better with feedback from the stability control monitors), but here’s the thing: there has never been a problem with Subaru’s AWD. There’s a reason these vehicles own the roads in pretty much any snow-heavy mountain town I have ever been through. They are the benchmark.
Cap it all off with a just-released announcement that the latest Forester has been awarded an IIHS Top Safety Pick (again, along with most of its mates in the relatively limited vehicle line-up Subaru produces), and it may be the only test-drive you need to take if you are shopping compact and capable SUVs.
Running a fairly reasonable (and competitive) price gamut from the mid-20s to high-30s, the 2014 Forester is arriving at dealers as you read this.
Fact file:  2014 Subaru Forester Pricing Review
Trim levels available: Limited; Touring; Convenience PZEV
Models: 2.5i; 2.0 XT; PZEV
MSRP range: $25,995 – $37,995
Notable options: manual transmission for entry-level, Eyesight & Multimedia package
Configuration: front engine/ all-wheel drive
Available engines: 2.5L 4 cyl. (170 hp/174 lb.-ft.); 2.0L 4 cyl. (250/258)
Available transmissions: 6-spd man; 6-spd CVT; 8-spd CVT
Fuel economy ratings (L/100km): 9.5 city/ 7.0 hwy (2.5L man.); 8.3/6.2 (2.5L CVT); 8.9/7.2 (2.0L CVT)
Warranties: Exp. 3 years/ 60,000 km (basic); 5 years/ 100,000 km (powertrain)
Competitors: Chevrolet Equinox; Honda CR-V; Hyundai Tucson; Nissan Rogue; Toyota RAV4
Strengths: value for dollar; enhanced tech and luxury content; very good AWD; improved roominess; overall styling
Weaknesses: primitive manual transmission option; lower towing capacity than previous generation
Report Card (out of 5):
Value for $: 4 – good array of features at competitive cost
Styling: 3.5 – looks good outside and in, improved driver visibility
Comfort: 4 – decent driver’s position, improved rear seat room
Performance: 3.5 – capable of light-duty off-road scrambling, good acceleration and braking
Overall: 4 – Furthers the benchmarks in the class already set by previous Foresters