The Subaru Forester has long been a favorite among motorists looking for a middle ground between practicality and fun—two qualities the last-gen model amply provided thanks to its rally-inspired underpinnings, excellent ride quality, and great driving dynamics.
The Japanese carmaker is now looking to build upon the formula with an improved platform. Thing is, the new top-spec Forester has done away with the turbo—the most entertaining (and at the same time least practical) bit about the previous iteration.
Was the sacrifice the right move? More important, can the all-new Subaru Forester 2.0i-S still count itself among the segment elite? We’re here with the vehicle today to find out.
A lot of people will say you can barely tell the difference between this and the previous-generation model, and from afar, that’s true to an extent as the Forester retains the same overall shape and proportions; this one measures in just slightly longer and wider than the last). Ground clearance is still good, too, at 220mm.
Step closer, though, and the changes become more apparent. There’s a little more going on up front, with a fair amount of chrome trim surrounding the grille and the foglight housings, and the headlights are improved upon with much more prominent daytime running lights. The boxy taillights have also been ditched for an edgier C-shaped design.
Roof rails and some plastic cladding lend the vehicle a slightly rugged appearance, while the new five-spoke alloy wheels and rear spoiler give off the impression that this is a ride that knows how to get going on a whim. Overall, Subaru has managed not to mess with a formula that’s worked well for it so far despite carrying over none of the previous model’s body panels—wise decision, if you ask us.
The Forester is only slightly larger on the outside, but the cabin feels like the vehicle grew a fair bit. Headroom is excellent, and there’s more than ample space to move around inside. Combine this with the impressive amount of space the cargo area provides and the vehicle’s convenient 60:40 rear seats, and you still have one of the more practical interiors in the business.
As with most Subarus, there’s a fair bit going on when it comes to buttons, controls, and screens. It looks busy, too, when it comes to the build: dimpled surfaces, soft-touch materials, some chrome components, as well as a handful of dark glossy plastics.
Everything feels durable, and if you’re used to Subies, this should be familiar territory. I personally dig it, but if, on the other hand, you’re looking for a more minimalist vibe, this might be a bit much for you.
Underneath the hood is a 2.0-liter gasoline boxer engine that is mated to a CVT and is capable of 154hp at 6,000rpm and 196Nm at 4,000rpm—the same numbers the current-gen XV offers. The output is sufficient and throttle response is great, but the Forester is heavier than its smaller sibling and it shows. On straight open stretches of road, we can’t help but miss the turbocharged version—it just isn’t as fun to drive.
Ditching the turbo has done little in terms of improving efficiency, too. A week with the previous 2.0-liter turbopetrol XT (237hp and 350Nm) netted me just under 6km/L. This one, with noticeably less oomph, got me to just a little over 5km/L. The new setup isn’t a slouch by any means, but considering the changes made, we expected a little more.
Ride and handling
The new platform lives up to the hype. This Subie handles excellently—even better than the last one did—providing great steering feedback, weight, and precision. I’d definitely love a stint on a slalom course with this AWD baby to see just how much gravity it can handle.
Its interior remains composed taking on wide turns at speed, too, showing very little body roll. This, together with still-impressive NVH levels and an improved MacPherson strut/double-wishbone suspension that allows the vehicle to glide over most road imperfections without incident, still places the Forester among the top dogs of the segment in terms of ride quality.
The top-of-the-line Forester comes with all the bells and whistles, and then some. It gets a large-power sliding sunroof, push-to-start ignition, a rearview camera, steering-responsive headlights, an automated tailgate out back, paddle shifters, auto vehicle hold, an automatic A/C system, cruise control, and rain-sensing wipers. That’s just to name a few.
There’s a large eight-inch touchscreen display, though I have to say it isn’t as easy to navigate as I would have liked owing to the mix of touch-based and physical controls. It’s supposedly compatible with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, but I couldn’t get it to work with my Samsung Galaxy S10. The sound system is all right, though those of you who like playing bass-heavy tracks may be left wanting.
Buyers who put a premium on safety features will be very glad to know this Forester gets Subaru’s EyeSight technology: pre-collision braking and throttle management, lane-sway and lane-departure warning, adaptive cruise control, and lead vehicle start alert. That’s all on top of a full set of airbags—plenty of safety at this price point.
The Subaru Forester isn’t as fun to drive as its turbocharged predecessor, but it doubles down on all the qualities that make the nameplate such an attractive offering. Practicality, not counting the poor fuel economy, is improved upon with the added space and more affordable price tag (the top-spec 2.0i-S with EyeSight comes in at P1,798,000 compared to the XT’s P1,948,000), and the vehicle handles better than ever.
If you can do with fewer niceties, the 2.0i-L with EyeSight is P100,000 cheaper, and offers the same driving dynamics and safety bits as the top-spec unit.
SPECS: Subaru Forester 2.0i-S EyeSight
Engine: 2.0-liter gasoline I4
Power: 154hp @ 6,000rpm
Torque: 196Nm @ 4,000rpm
Drive layout: AWD