Jaco van der Merwe
Local car buyers stay loyal to the station wagon on stilts.
Let’s be honest, the Subaru Forester isn’t exactly renowned for being the most visually appealing car.
Technically classified as a crossover SUV, you’d be forgiven for thinking of the Forester as a station wagon on stilts. That is exactly what it debuted as in 1997 and stayed up until its third generation a dozen years later when a more sloped roofline at the rear gave it a less boxy appearance.
Now in its fifth generation, the Forester is as curved as it’s ever been with striking “Hawkeye” LED headlights and 18-inch alloy wheels, but nonetheless rather still very much conservatively styled. Especially compared to the modern influx of crossovers it competes with. Designers in this segment are often given free reins to express themselves in carmakers’ bold attempts to try and outdo the competition.
But very ironically, in a country where station wagons have traditionally struggled to survive, the Forester has enjoyed remarkable success. Much more than much bigger manufacturers have over the years in fact.
And it is a vitally important model for Subaru Southern Africa. In the previous six months, of the 448 new Subarus that were sold, 280 were Foresters, a staggering 62.5% of the Japanese manufacturers total local sales.
Subaru Forester rear view
Subaru has recently rolled out two new derivatives, the 2.5i Sport ES CVT and 2.5i-S ES CVT, in addition to the 2.0-litre models in the Forester line-up. We had the 2.5i-S ES CVT on test, which at R629 000, is the model range’s flagship.
The 2.5-litre Boxer engine produces 136 kW of power and 239 Nm of torque, which is 21kW/43Nm more than the 2.0-mitre variant. Power is sent to all four wheels using the Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system via Lineartronic CVT, which sadly has not gotten any better than before. In fact, as in the case of the 2.0-litre a few years ago, remains our biggest gripe with the Forester.
Make no mistake, the 2.5-litre engine is a welcome addition to a solid overall package, but the CVT does it no favours. In a world where CVTs have made significant progress, this one feels rather outdated with its constant gear-hunting under acceleration.
Subaru claims that the Forester will get to 100 km/h from a standstill in 9.3 sec which means you probably shouldn’t take on the hot hatch at the traffic light, but you should be okay overtaking on the open road. The carmaker also claims that it can achieve consumption figures of 7.6 L/100 km, but we only managed to return a number of around 10L/100km.
Sporting a ground clearance of 220 mm and featuring X-Mode and Hill Decent Control, the Forester is ready to wander off the tarmac to live up to its adventure-seeking billing. X-Mode features two selectable programmes, Snow/Dirt for slippery or loose surfaces or D.Snow/Mud for heavier terrain.
Subaru Forester interior
It’s on the safety front where the Forester makes one of its biggest statements as backed up with five-star ratings from various global agencies. With the EyeSight driver assist system included as standard, safety is taken care of through camera-based technology and includes features like Adaptive Cruise Control, Automatic Pre-Collision Braking, Lane Departure and Sway Warning and Lane Keep Assist.
In its quest for primary safety, Subaru prides itself on reducing blind spots by maximising visibility from inside the cabin by way of using more window glass. This is a feature you can only really appreciate once you experience it from behind the steering wheel and although nothing new on this Forester, always deserves a mention.
Needless to say, the Forester’s cabin is very spacious. One of the standout features is the 520-litre boot, which is rubberised, a very handy feature. The Forester might not be the most exciting car in terms of looks and performance, but that should make little difference to its loyal fan base or potential target market.
It is renowned as an adventurous, practical, safe and reliable car and on face value, it does offer good value for money. And what Forester owners probably enjoy the most about their cars is that it gets the job done with any fuss. The few additional horses shouldn’t do its reputation any harm.
The Forester comes standard with a three-year/75 000 km maintenance plan as well as a five-year/150 000 km warranty.
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