More than any other Subaru, the Forester has succeeded in attracting hordes of mainstream buyers to the brand without losing any of its Subaru-ness. But this all new 4th generation Forester is facing a slew of new compact crossover rivals. And, to meet that challenge, has in our eyes become more like them. So, does the Forester still standout or now just blend in?
The 2014 Subaru Forester does indeed have a lot on its shoulders. It must not only appeal to the Forester faithful, but also draw new buyers to the brand by offering what is expected in a compact CUV without too much Subaru quirkiness. That’s a strategy that has worked well so far as there are a lot of Foresters on the road.
As to brand kinship, let’s go inside this new Forester where we found lots of recognizable Subaru cues. Their parts bin approach to interior design has blurred the lines between Forester, Impreza, and Crosstrek. If you closed your eyes and climb in, opening them still might not tell you what you’re in.
But, adding room always seems a good utility strategy and the Forester does get a substantial boost in space up front and even more so in the rear, where legroom grows to 41.7-inches, besting both RAV4 and CR-V. Maximum cargo room beats them too, with 74.7 cubic-ft. of space; that’s more than many mid-size CUVs; and 34.4 with rear seat backs upright.
The interior is also very comfortable and very functional, but we still feel that some materials could use further updating as they don’t quite depict the more premium feel that Subaru seeks. In addition, base Forester models are sparsely equipped. You have to step up to Limited-trim for the automatic headlights and gauge cluster with LCD display that some rivals have standard.
The last gen Forester lost its boxy shape for a Crossover profile, and that morphing continues, but only now it looks to be moving in a more wagon-like direction. Like a teenager maturing into an adult, the Forester is bigger in every dimension. Except in the engine bay. The base engine remains an adequate 2.5-liter. But, like several rivals, Forester has added a 2.0-liter turbo option. While it’s not exactly a hot rod, it definitely punches things up with 250-horsepower and 258 lb-ft. of torque.
Unfortunately, with the turbo you can only get a CVT transmission. But it seems less noise inducing than in the Impreza, probably due to the turbo’s increased power. And once you do get going, it doesn’t take long to appreciate the Forester’s more substantial ride characteristics, especially at higher speeds. All weather capability is a Subaru hallmark and the standard all-wheel-drive system works well in both wet and winter driving and continues to be one of the best systems on the market.
But on this Forester, Subaru introduces a new X-Mode all-wheel-drive system available in all 2.0XT models that makes the Forester even more capable off road; working in conjunction with VDC and ABS braking for more comprehensive approach to delivering traction.
Whether on or off pavement, Subaru’s Intelligent Drive System lets you chose to drive sportily or more efficiently and adjusts throttle response and CVT operation to help you accomplish it. It certainly does make a difference in acceleration, where you’ll want to be in Sport Sharp mode for getting off the line with any sense of urgency. We did, and reached 60 in a solid 7.6-seconds. Shifting manually didn’t really improve on the ¼-mile time of 16.0-seconds and 87 miles-per-hour, but the CVT does have well placed simulated gear shifts.
True to its heritage the Forester displays an overall fun to drive nature that is itself a class benchmark. The one flaw is steering that now feels anesthetized. On the up side, even in tight switchbacks body roll is held in nicely in check.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings are much improved over last year, with an all-wheel-drive 2.0-turbo averaging 23-City, 28-Highway, and 25-Combined. We were a little disappointed with our results however, achieving just 24.3 miles-per-gallon, and having to use Premium fuel at that. The Energy Impact Score is fine though, at 13.2-barrels of yearly oil expenditure, with CO2 emissions of 5.9-tons.
The new turbo engine is great fun in the Forester, but we wonder how many buyers will want to pay the additional price to get it. Most buyers will probably opt for the base 2.5, which starts at $22,820, while the turbo starts at $28,820.
So, back to our questions. Is the new Forester the same yet better, or has it become even more like the rest of the compact CUV crowd? Well it clearly does blend in a bit more, yet it also remains distinctly a Forester with great practicality, and one of the most entertaining drives of its type. To us, that shows their strategy is still working, placing the 2014 Subaru Forester if not above, a bit off to the side of its class.
Long Term Updates
Date: August 2013
There are no more loyal fans than those that drive Subarus. It seems that every redesigned model brings new record sales. The latest being the fourth generation, compact, 2014 Forester crossover.
And it’s easy to see why it’s so popular. Everything is so purposeful. From the child-friendly interior fabrics, to the oversized cargo bay, to the more frugal than ever powertrains, and of course, bulletproof all-wheel drive standard.
Our 2.0XT Touring model has the higher rated turbo motor. We love the extra power, but fuel economy holds up well too. At 24.2 miles per gallon of regular after nearly 5,000 miles, it’s doing almost as well as many less powerful rivals.
While the Forester still strikes some as a bit plain to look at, fans know that beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder.
Date: October 2013
Subaru sales are rising more than three times as fast as the auto industry as a whole and a big part of that skyrocketing fame is the 2014 Subaru Forester. Among small crossover utilities, it’s hugely successful.
Indeed, part of the reason for that, we have found after two months and 7,300 miles with our example, has to do with just how big, inside, the Forester really is.
Being taller than its main rivals, means superior head room for both people and bulky cargo.
And, you can haul it all around fairly efficiently. We’re averaging 24.4 miles per gallon of regular in mostly stop-and-go driving.
We’ve found one solution to the less than easy to operate premium stereo. Just input your station pre-sets, and stick with the simple steering wheel controls.
That’s one Subaru quirk that will bother our otherwise impressive Forester no more.
Date: December 2013
The accolades for the redesigned Forester continue from both owners and media alike.
What we like most is its no-nonsense approach to flexibility. Standard, yet fuel conscious all-wheel drive systems connected to small but eager engines, and an interior that handles taller people and beefier cargo than most rivals. In fact the hatch opens extra tall for loading, and when equipped with the powered assist, has a useful memory opening height function.
We are pleased with its 24.4 miles per gallon of regular fuel economy given that most of our Forester’s 8500 miles have been spent driving around town.
After 5 months there have been no mechanical faults, so we too can add to the accolades for the Subaru Forester.
Date: February 2014
Winter seems to bring out the best in our long term 2014 Subaru Forester 2.0XT compact crossover. Through sub-zero temperatures and foot-deep snow our Touring model has proved surefooted, agile, and highly flexible.
Given the extra cold temperatures and more than typical idling, we find its 23.9 miles per gallon of regular fuel economy quite reasonable. And, after 7 months and 14,700 miles, we’ve had no problems worth a trip to the dealer.
However we did go searching for the owners’ manual when our Forester’s power rear hatch refused to open all the way. Turns out the memory opening height function was accidently triggered so it was operator error not Subaru’s.
One suggestion, add more tint to the sunroof to keep interior temps under control when the sun does shine.
Date: April 2014
Even in early spring, the weather didn’t stop testing our long term 2014 Subaru Forester 2.0XT Touring. If it wasn’t snow or slush, it was rain and mud. Still, this compact crossover slugged through undaunted. We were especially impressed how X Mode tempered throttle reaction and modulated wheel slip.
When the roads smooth out, however, the Forester did not. The ride is stiff and so are the front seats.
Given the smallish 2.0-liter engine, we had hoped for better than the 23.4 miles per gallon of regular we’ve seen after nearly 9 months and 16,000 miles. Hopefully, it will bounce up with warmer weather.
We’ve had no mechanical issues, which speaks volumes given the wide variety of drivers that use our Forester.
No wonder Subaru Forester owners are among the industry’s most satisfied.
Date: June 2014
As seasons change so do the duties of the family utility. Our 2014 Subaru Forester has now transitioned from commuting through one of the coldest winters in memory, to summer vacation runs.
Not that the weather has let up. On one recent trip to New York State both heavy rain and gusty winds tested the tall Forester’s stability. After 11 months and 20,000 miles the tires are worn past halfway and some hydroplaning was evident in downpours. Still, complete control was never in doubt.
And, when the roads turned to dirt, X-Mode modulated wheel slip and walked us up and down the muddiest hills with confidence.
Being somewhat lightweight, the Forester is pretty frugal for a crossover. Our average of 23.8 MPG on regular doesn’t tell the whole story. On highway trips 27 and above is the norm.
All in the no nonsense comfort that the Subaru Forester is famous for.
Date: July 2014
Utilities like our 2014 Subaru Forester 2.0XT Touring get a real summer workout with us. Hauling both crews to locations, and OUR households to vacations.
The Mid-Atlantic’s hot and humid weather is a good test for any vehicle’s air conditioning and so far the Forester has kept us cool.
After 13 months and nearly 23,000 miles we have noticed ride quality is suffering due to tire wear.
Our Forester’s optional 2.0-liter turbo provides good passing power, and fuel economy of 23.9 miles per gallon of regular, just short of the government’s Combined rating of 25.
Add in no mechanical issues, and the Forester’s amazing appetite for carrying people and cargo, and it’s no wonder Subaru can’t build them fast enough.
Date: September 2014
Our time with this 2014 Subaru Forster 2.0XT Touring is rapidly drawing to a close. Bad news for our staffers who have been enjoying this solid, well-rounded ute for everything from short hop crew travel to long haul family vacations.
That explains the almost 25,000-miles we’ve accrued over the last 14-months. And more than a few of those miles must have been either fully loaded or fully throttled, as over that time period, we’ve averaged just 23.8 miles-per-gallon, barely over the Government City Fuel Economy Rating of 23.
While the 2.0-liter boxer turbo-4 never feels overly powerful, there’s plenty of pick-up when needed, accompanied by smooth operation from the CVT transmission.
Throughout its stay with us, there have been no unexpected problems. Tires are wearing thin, and we still dislike the premium touchscreen audio interface.
Date: October 2014
It’s a sad day at MotorWeek as our 2014 Subaru Forester makes its final trek down our driveway.
It’s impossible to wrap up 26,873-miles briefly, but rest assured our Forester was a faithful, near bulletproof companion throughout its 14-month stay.
The 2.0-liter turbo-4 felt every bit as strong as its 250-horsepower rating would indicate, and even the CVT transmission drew much less ire from our staff than expected, though some noted an occasional jerky feel under load.
Final test fuel economy average was 23.6 miles-per-gallon. Good for a crossover with this much interior room.
So, it’s easy to see why the Forester is currently the top selling Subaru, offering all that families need in a tidy, well-rounded package.
Engine: 2.0-liter turbo
Torque: 258 lb-ft.
0-60 mph: 7.6 seconds
1/4 mile: 16.0 seconds @ 87 mph
EPA: 23 mpg city/ 28 mpg highway
Energy Impact: 13.2 barrels of oil/yr
CO2 Emissions: 5.9 tons/yr