forester - Subaru Forester 2 - Forester: it’s simple really

What is it?

Why confuse potential buyers with a choice of various engines and gearboxes?

That might have been Subaru’s thinking for its 2019 range of Foresters.

They had a look sales figures, which showed the 2.5-litre automatic was the favoured one, so out went the diesel and the petrol-turbo, and the manual gearbox too.

That leaves lucky you with an easier, simplified choice for this classy small SUV — which really is more mid-size than small.

forester - Subaru Forester 3 - Forester: it’s simple really

What’s it cost?

Sole choice now is what level of equipment you want, or can afford, with prices ranging from $33,490 to $41,490 for the four models: 2.5i, L, Premium and S.

Apart from a pair of Pacman tail lights, styling hasn’t changed much and it would probably take a Forester tragic to instantly identify the latest one. But that’s not a bad thing.

There are no badges to identify which model you’re in.

Another benefit is it gives the model a longer shelf life, so to speak, resulting in last year’s car still looking as fresh as an Aldi carrot, and the more lookalikes there are, the more exposure the brand and that particular model gets. Numbers equate to reassurance among buyers.

However, fact is, a lot of changes have been made under that familiar skin, making the already competent vehicle a very clever one too.

For instance, three of the four models get the new Driver Focus system which not only recognises the driver’s face and adjusts the car to how you originally set it up, but also knows when you’re tired or if you don’t keep your eyes on the road – and lets you know.

You simply get in behind the wheel, switch on, it has a look at you and hey, presto, as the magician says, everything is just the way you want it, steering wheel, seat position, mirrors et al.

If several drivers have access to the vehicle, it will check ‘em out and remember up to five of them. I believe magpies and crows have similar face-recognition qualities.

Incredible. How it works, I don’t know. But I don’t know how an iPad works either.

All models come equipped with integrated Android and Apple Car Play.

The wheelbase of the newie has been increased by 30mm, which translates to a smoother ride and more interior space. Doubtful Toms can get out their tape measures and they’ll find an extra 65mm of rear legroom plus a bit of extra space for hips and shoulders.

The cargo area has also grown (by 76 litres) to 498 litres, which is expandable to 1481 litres with the back seats folded.

And guess what? There’s even a full-sized spare wheel. That’s rare, these days, and a welcome feature, especially for folk who insist on less than lovely roads.

The upmarket models also have one-touch electric folding of the rear seats.

Also, the car is built on a lighter and stronger frame.

You get a lot of standard gear in all models.

Even the base 2.5i sports a 6.5-inch multimedia touch screen, six-speaker Harman Kardon audio system, dual-zone climate-control air, leather steering wheel, active cruise control,  automatic active LED headlights and a swag of other good stuff.

Our L test car had the aforementioned Driver Focus feature, an extra grille-mounted camera for the Vision Assist pack, which, inter alia, has a Front View and Side View collision warnings, Adaptive Driving Beam and Reverse Automatic Braking (RAB).

The 2.5i Premium comes with satnav, a powered tailgate, an 8.0-inch touchscreen, and 18-inch alloy wheels.

And then we swapped to the top-spec 2.5i-S so we could revel in the luxury of leather seats, a panoramic sunroof, and eight-speaker Harman Kardon audio with a subwoofer.

It and the Premium also score the X-Mode off-road drive program, which will handle terrain covered in snow or dirt or deep snow or mud. Not that we’d ever subject our cars to such conditions, but you can never tell with the bushwhackers.

forester - Subaru Forester 4 - Forester: it’s simple really

What’s it go like?

All Foresters now have torque vectoring as part of the AWD system, as well as electronic parking brakes and blind-spot monitoring.

It’s a good thing to drive and its 2.5-litre engine, which runs on standard 91 octane,  has been beefed up by 10kW to 136kW and 239Nm.

It drives all four wheels via a good CVT, which has seven cogs for people who want to outsmart the automatic.

Performance is fine — it can run to 100km/h in less than 10 seconds — and its all-wheel drive gives it great stability and driver confidence in inclement weather and through the roundabouts.

Comfort levels are high, likewise visibility and it naturally comes with a plethora of the electronic connections, plugs and suchlike that the nerds of the day demand.

Gosh, it wasn’t that long ago that a radio was a revered (and often stolen) thing in a car. Nowadays cars need to connect drivers with their stockbrokers or Donald Trump as they head for the office.

So, in short, the latest Foresters are better than the previous very good ones.

They want for nothing, look good, if you don’t mind a slightly chunky snoot, use an average 7.4L/100km and from January this year, their warranty has jumped from three to five years, unlimited distance.

forester - Subaru Forester 5 - Forester: it’s simple really

What we like?

  • Great features on all models
  • Good value
  • Build quality
  • Top safety features
  • Space, comfort

forester - Subaru Forester 6 - Forester: it’s simple really

What we don’t like?

  • Chunky looks
  • Turbo would be a nice option

forester - Subaru Forester 7 - Forester: it’s simple really

The bottom line?

A tried and trusted vehicle made even better.

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Subaru Forester, priced from $33,490
  • 7.5/10
    Looks - 7.5/10
  • 7.5/10
    Performance - 7.5/10
  • 9/10
    Safety - 9/10
  • 8/10
    Thirst - 8/10
  • 8.5/10
    Practicality - 8.5/10
  • 8/10
    Comfort - 8/10
  • 8/10
    Tech - 8/10
  • 8.5/10
    Value - 8.5/10
8.1/10

Buys

Bill Buys, probably Australia’s longest-serving motoring writer, has been at his craft for more than five decades. Athough motoring has always been in his DNA, he was also night crime reporter, foreign page editor and later chief reporter of the famed Rand Daily Mail. He’s twice been shot at, attacked by a rhinoceros and had several chilling experiences in aircraft. His experience includes stints in traffic law enforcement, motor racing and rallying and writing for a variety of local and international publications. He has covered countless events, ranging from world motor shows and Formula 1 Grands Prix to Targa tarmac and round-the-houses meetings. A motoring tragic, he has owned more than 90 cars. Somewhat of a nostalgic, he has a special interest in classic cars. He is the father of Targa star Robert Buys, who often adds his expertise to Bill’s reviews.