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Subaru Forester Car Review
With the unveiling of the third generation Forester, Subaru is poised to capitalise on the outstanding reputation of its two previous models. This trilogy started in 1997 with the second generation arriving in 2002. Now the third generation Forester has arrived and it's loaded with all the class-leading features Australian buyers have come to expect from Subaru.
The big news for prospective Forester buyers is the extra value offered, with price reductions and extra equipment across the range, making the new model very attractive to the hip pocket. All Forester models have also scored a 5 star ANCAP crash rating.
Value for money
The Subaru Forester X manual starts at $30,490 and $32,490 for the Sportshift auto.
Standard features include
- AM/FM radio with in-dash single CD player
- MP3/WMA compatible with four speakers and steering wheel control
- Manual airconditioning with anti-dust filters
- Bottle holders in the front doors
- Cup holders in the centre console (one in manual, two in auto)
- Remote central locking
- Cruise control with steering wheel controls
- Height and reach adjustable steering column
- Immobiliser security system
- Multi-function dashboard display
- Power steering, windows and mirrors
- Rear seat back adjustment with centre fold down armrest
- 60/40 split fold rear seat
- Three 12V/120W power sockets.
Design & function
Space & practicality
The designers have managed to maintain the Forester's versatility and ease of use and increase interior space. The new Forester's body is 75mm longer, increasing interior cabin space for head, shoulder and leg room. Rear leg room has increased by an impressive 109mm to 965mm. Front leg room has also increased by 29mm to 1095mm. This vehicle will suit a taller person without compromising comfort and visibility.
Driver and all passengers are well supported in the newly developed seats that maximise comfort and leg room. A comfortable driving position can be achieved within seconds of sitting in the Forester thanks to the telescopic and tilt functions of the steering column and height adjustable driver's seat. Another bonus is the 60/40 split rear seats which can be reclined giving rear passengers a more comfortable journey.
The Forester's simple yet effective interior design takes the guesswork out of operating major controls and switches. Everything is easy to understand and is laid out so all the frequently used controls are grouped together, close to the driver. The information display is also conveniently located in the centre dash, visible to all passengers and shows average fuel consumption, time, external temperature gauge and front seat belt warning lights.
All new Foresters have been awarded the maximum five-star crashworthiness rating for occupant protection and maximum four-star for pedestrian safety. The standard collision avoidance features on the Forester include
- Anti-lock Braking System (ABS)
- Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD)
- Brake assist
- Hill-start control (manual)
- Constant all-wheel drive system
- Traction Control System (TCS)
- Vehicle Dynamics Control (VDC) - also know as ESC, ESP, ASC or VSA depending on the vehicle manufacturer.
The Forester also has an impressive array of collision protection systems including
- Dual front airbags
- Dual front side airbags
- Front and rear curtain airbags
- Driver and front passenger active head restraints
- Front seat belts with pretensioners and load limiters
- Seat belt warnings for driver and front passenger
- Three point seat belts for all occupants
- Safety brake and clutch pedals.
Build quality and finish
As expected the build quality and finish throughout the vehicle was first rate. Interior plastics and trim materials were up to the usual Subaru high standard even on the base model Forester X. The test vehicle was finished in Newport Blue Pearl; other impressive colours in the range include Steel silver metallic, Obsidian black peal and Camellia red peal.
All Foresters are equipped with the latest advanced engine immobilisers and Data Dot theft security. They have central locking remotes, including remote tailgate unlocking and are pre-wired for alarm system installation.
On the road
The 2.5 litre, 126kW, five-speed manual achieved an average fuel consumption during testing of 8.9 litres per 100km. Subaru's own figures are 9.3L/100km. The best achieved during testing was 7.8L/100km on the highway with the worst being 10L/100km in the city. Subaru claims its new Forester has a 3.1 per cent fuel consumption improvement over the previous model.
The four cylinder 2.5 litre horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine develops 126kW of power at 6000rpm and 229Nm of torque at 4400rpm. The new engine features Subaru's Active Valve Lift System (AVLS) that has improved low- to mid-range torque. The engine is a willing performer that combines well with the smooth effortless shift of the five-speed manual gearbox. The engine has a 4.1 per cent increase in power and a 1.3 per cent increase in torque over the superseded Forester and had no trouble on the track or road during our testing.
The Forester delivered a comfortable ride on the highway and crossing the mountainous ranges of the N.S.W South Coast. When tackling deteriorated dirt tracks or inner city congestion the Forester remained composed providing a pleasurable journey at all times.
Handling & steering
The Forester benefits from the suspension package that was introduced in the new generation Impreza. Known as Dynamic Chassis Control Concept, it's where the chassis aids the steering response, occupant comfort and rear cargo space by using a rear double wishbone suspension system that limits intrusion into valuable rear cargo space. The front suspension consists of MacPherson strut type independent suspension. It delivered good performance although the suspension felt a little soft coming out of tight high speed bends even though it had been stiffened to suit Australian conditions. Subaru Australia along with Fuji Heavy Industries Japan completed extensive testing to determine that the Australian versions required a 40 per cent stiffer damper rate and a 16 percent stiffer spring rate on the front suspension than the models produced for its local Japanese market. These changes were introduced to reduce body roll and provide sharper corner turn in performance to suit the diverse Australian driving condition.
Subaru have still managed to increase ground clearance of the Forester X by 20mm to 220mm.
Four-wheel disc brakes are standard across the range. With the anti-lock brakes, Brake Assist and Electronic Brakeforce Distribution the Forester X achieved an average braking distance at 80 km/h of 24.7 meters. Braking performance on the test track and in the mountains was excellent and no brake fade was evident.
Smoothness & quietness
The cabin is well insulated with the only concern being some tyre noise. There is little in the way of engine noise - the only time you hear it is under full acceleration but even then it's smooth and doesn't intrude into the cabin too much. Matched to a five-speed manual it makes for a quiet, pleasant journey whatever the driving conditions.
This was a very enjoyable car to drive. All the controls and switches are laid out in a stylish and easy to use format. The seating positions, front and rear, are very comfortable. The luggage room in the rear was also very impressive and the Forester had an abundance of storage pockets throughout. The centre console arm rest is a little small and sits a little too low.
I found the Forester very easy to drive with a seamless gear change helped by the light clutch pedal operation. One feature I found invaluable was the hill start function, which holds the brake on for a second or two when you release your foot off the brake pedal giving you time to release the clutch before the car starts to roll back, taking all the stress and worry out of difficult hill starts. As with most parents, occupant safety is high on my list of concerns, but as the Forester achieved a five star ANCAP rating they have automatically ticked the safety box for me.
The Subaru engineers have worked hard to produce a vehicle that will be as popular as the previous two models. Sales of the Subaru Forester have now reached over 105,000 in Australia since it was introduced in 1997. With an increase in exterior and interior dimesions plus price reductions across the range and an impressive five star occupant safety rating, the Subaru Forester X will ensure the strong Forester tradition continues for a long time to come.
Test vehicle supplied by Subaru Australia.
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Low passenger front seating position
|Country of manufacture||Japan|
|Warranty||3 years/Unlimited kilometres|
Forester X manual
|Number of cylinders||4|
|Engine size||2.457 L|
|Claimed max power (kW)||126 kW @ 6000 rpm|
|Claimed max torque (Nm)||229 Nm @ 4400 rpm|
|Wheel size||16 "|
|Spare tyre type||Full size|
|Type||Rack and pinion hydraulic assist|
|Turning circle (measured)||10.78 m|
|Width (including mirrors)||2000 mm|
|Fuel capacity||60 litres|
|Max towed mass (trailer plus load)||1400 kg|
NRMA Theft Rating
Acceleration - Test results
|50 - 80km/h||5.37 secs|
|60 - 100km/h||7.27 secs|
|0 - 80km/h||6.59 secs|
|0 - 100km/h||9.91 secs|
|Best recorded during testing||7.8 L/100km|
|Worst recorded during testing||10.0 L/100km|
|Average on test||8.9 L/100km|
|Distance to stop (from 80km/h)||24.72 metres|
|Interior noise at constant 80km/h||67.3 dB(A)|
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