forester - Subaru Forester 25i 12 - Can’t see the Forester for the frees

What is it?

I had to check twice to make sure they’d given me the correct model.

I was booked into the entry level Forester — the 2.5i — and the one they’d handed me the keys to was too well equipped.

It’s always better to drive the standard model first and work your way through the range, otherwise it tends to colour your judgement of cheaper models.

With five seats, more room inside and a clear and growing emphasis on safety, the mid-sized SUV has grown into quite a large car these days and is the biggest selling model in the Subaru range.

Ironically, however, the latest Forester is yet to be crash tested.

 forester - Subaru Forester 25i 9 - Can’t see the Forester for the frees

What’s it cost?

Prices for Forester start from $33,490 for the 2.5i with an auto, rising to $35,490 for the 2.5i-L, $38,490 for the 2.5i Premium and $41,490 for the 2.5i-S.

That gets you a 2.5-litre four cylinder petrol engine, CVT-style auto with seven gears or steps as they are called (complete with paddle shifters) plus of course all-wheel drive.

You’ll find cloth trim and two-zone climate air conditioning inside with rear air vents to keep back seat passengers happy.

There’s also push button start, an electric parking brake, height adjust driver’s seat, height and reach adjust steering wheel, active cruise control, auto lights and wipers, daytime LEDs, both LED head and tail lights, and headlights that turn with the wheel — the list goes on.

Six-speaker infotainment with a smallish 6.5 inch touchscreen offers voice command, digital radio, Apple CarPlay and Android auto — and retains a CD player.

The 2.5i rides on 17 inch alloys with 225/60 series Bridgestone Dueler tyres and a full size spare (thank goodness they no longer fit Geolanders).

A good sized boot holds 498 litres, 1768 litres with the seats down and it can tow a 1500kg trailer.

Safety features include seven airbags, auto emergency braking, blind spot alert, lane keep assist and rear cross traffic alert.

There are some anomalies however.

You can’t get a diesel anymore, there’s no built in satnav, the blinkers are not one-touch, nor does it come with parking sensors front or rear . . .  that goes for all models.

forester - Subaru Forester 25i 5 - Can’t see the Forester for the frees

What’s it go like?

Okay.

It’s quiet, comfortable and goes well enough, although the lane keeping assistance is annoying, forever tugging at the wheel.

The 2.5-litre direct injection four-cylinder horizontally-opposed Boxer engine is we’re told 90 per cent new.

Power is up from 126 to 136kW, an increase of 7.9 per cent and torque from 235 to 239Nm, a tiny increase of 1.7 per cent.

To get there the compression ratio has been upped and valve control added for the exhaust side, to make the flat four more efficient.

Active cooling has also been introduced, with a flap located lower air dam that opens and closes as required, shutting when you’re on the move to reduce wind drag.

The performance is there, it’s no slouch, and certainly the fuel economy, but it is targeted at the majority of undemanding drivers, and misses out on sport or other drive modes.

In contrast torque vectoring which brakes the inner wheels in a corner, helping it get through more quickly, is standard across the range.

The journey from 0-100km/h feels long, slurry, and largely unsatisfying — at least for my money.

The gear change paddles do however offer a degree of control over the proceedings, with seven steps or gears to churn through.

But, in a concession to new technology, i’m starting to think I might feel differently about CVTs if had been born in an era where manuals and traditional automatics had not been invented.

I guess it’s what you know and what your’e used to, and younger drivers may feel completely differently about the CVT?

And before w go on, let’s lay an urban myth to rest.

Although it is “symmetrical” all wheel drive, which suggests drive is shared equally by the front and rear wheels, it does not in fact mean the car operates in all wheel drive all of the time.

That’s a misconception.

Just like most other SUVs, torque is transferred to the rear wheels as required, leaving it front wheel drive most of the time.

That’s a good thing because it helps to reduce fuel consumption, aided by auto engine stop-start.

That said, at a claimed 7.4L/100km, we were getting 8.7 after 300 or so kilometres — not bad but not that good either..

With a 63-litre tank, it runs on ordinary unleaded.

At 4625mm and 1730mm high, the wagon stands tall and that puts the driver’s seat at hip height which makes it easy to get in and out off.

Maybe that is why the Forester is so popular with older drivers?

There’s plenty of head and legroom front and back, with a dash that contains two simple analogue dials that flank an info screen where speed can be displayed digitally.

In fact with three screens fighting for your attention — the dash, touchscreen and a third smaller screen that sits above the touchscreen — there’s almost an oversupply of information.

The dominant touchscreen however does not offer satellite navigation. For that you need to hook up your phone.

To do so there’s a USB port buried at the rear of the centre console that can be difficult to access for those with large hands and chunky fingers.

Ground clearance, now at an impressive 220mm, means you can actually venture off road with a degree of confidence, although it’s still limited by a lack of low range gearing.

forester - Subaru Forester 25i 11 - Can’t see the Forester for the frees

What we like?

  • Fit and finish
  • Climate air
  • Rear air vents
  • Active cruise
  • Lots of safety features

forester - Subaru Forester 25i 4 - Can’t see the Forester for the frees

What we don’t like?

  • CVT
  • No satnav
  • No one-touch blinkers
  • No parking sensors
  • Too many beeps and messages

forester - Subaru Forester 25i 3 - Can’t see the Forester for the frees

The bottom line?

It’s been a long journey for Forester over the years and the car we have today is light years ahead of the small, handy all-wheel drive wagon introduced way back in the late 90s.

The problem for Subaru is staying one step ahead of the competition while keeping a lid on the price, with plenty of very good challengers ready to steal sales.

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Subaru Forester 2.5i, priced from $33,490
  • 7.5/10
    Looks - 7.5/10
  • 7.5/10
    Performance - 7.5/10
  • 8/10
    Safety - 8/10
  • 7/10
    Thirst - 7/10
  • 8/10
    Practicality - 8/10
  • 7.5/10
    Comfort - 7.5/10
  • 8/10
    Tech - 8/10
  • 7.5/10
    Value - 7.5/10
7.6/10

Riley

Chris Riley has been a journalist for almost 40 years. He has spent half of his career as a writer, editor and production editor in newspapers, the rest of the time driving and writing about cars both in print and online. His love affair with cars began as a teenager with the purchase of an old VW Beetle, followed by another Beetle and a string of other cars on which he has wasted too much time and money. A self-confessed geek, he’s not afraid to ask the hard questions - at the risk of sounding silly.