12 October 2018

Subaru Forester 2018 Car Review

Our tester has long approved of Subaru’s Forester – it did everything its Outback sibling did, plus some, and at a better price.

IMG 9372 subaru forester jm 18
Subaru Forester
IMG 9369 subaru forester jm 18
Subaru Forester
IMG 9368 subaru forester jm 18
Subaru Forester
IMG 9367 subaru forester jm 18
Subaru Forester
IMG 5716 subaru forester jm 18
Subaru Forester
IMG 5737 subaru forester jm 18
Subaru Forester

At the same time it rivalled a number of capable off-roaders, yet maintained reasonable road manners when that was still a rare attribute in an SUV. Yet it never gained sales traction, thanks most likely to its admittedly boring looks.

But Outback sales might now face a challenge, for Subaru’s designers sharpened their pencils for this fifth generation.

Our test car was the top-spec 2.5 Premium, which includes 18-inch alloy wheels.

We’d already had a stint of pretty rough roading at the launch event – Forester was always more than capable in this area, and though there’s now no low-range option for those wanting to seriously head off road, the event suggested that the current Forester hasn’t dropped the ball anywhere low range isn’t a requirement.

However, it remains far more able than most owners are in the rough, and certainly more capable than Outback, not least because of its much better approach and departure angles.

Subaru has underlined its potential affinity for dirt via the screen graphics which appear when you select snow/dirt or deep snow/mud on the X-Mode dial at your left. You’ll see what gradient you’re climbing or descending, and at what side angle you’re traversing it.

That was immaterial for our test – apart from assuaging the curiosity of some testers when it came to driveway gradients – as we concentrated on its real-world livability.

All Foresters get Subaru’s Eyesight system as standard, which among its array of safety systems includes a slightly too zealous lane departure assist, and an alert if the car in front pulls away before you do – both useful at times, but also responsible for a sometimes irritating barrage of beeps when they’re neither required, or appreciated.

Blind spot detection and dual zone air con are also standard, but this Premium spec adds some other clever kit.

Ever feel as if someone’s watching you? If you’re sitting in this Forester you’re right, but it’s the car – with the new Driveer Monitoring System with facial recognition tech. It’s billed as a safety feature as it will alert you if you seem tired or look away from the road too long – which can include a slightly too extended fumble after sunglasses and the like. You can also use it to store your profile, or that of up to five other folk, so when you enter the car your seat, mirror and air con will adjust to your preference the moment the car correctly scans your face. Clever, if unsettling. The Premium also gets cross-traffic alert, a quicker tailgate – in five seconds it will lift or shut entirely, so by the time you’ve walked round to the door and climbed in, it’s ready to go. And there’s Reverse Automated Braking, the first for this brand, which will, as it suggests, slam the brakes on if you back to something solid. Our tester discovered it tends to err to the cautious side, largely a plus, unless you have a narrow, bush-shrouded driveway, in which case you can elect to switch it off.

These vehicles are largely bought by families, and as you might expect from a Forester – which has always focused on the practical – the back-seat passengers aren't forgotten. This is a longer Subaru, and the rear seats benefit. There’s also a step built into the rear seat base, to help give shorter kids a leg up when getting in, or a grown-ups an equally useful boost when loading the roof rack.

The door skins overlap the sills when you close the door to keep them clean – no more dust stripe on the trousers when you get in and out – and the back seat pockets feature compartments to separate mobile devices. Oh, and the boot is generous too, at a useful 520 litres.

As for the rest, one-touch indicators, an electric sunroof, leather electrically adjustable and heated seats and more further gild this top-spec car, while the surround cameras and parking alerts are very effective, as useful when negotiating parking lots and toy-strewn drives as when you’re off seal.

This tester isn’t a great fan of CVT, however good it’s getting, but most folk will be perfectly happy. Keen drivers might prefer a more aggressive transmission, but few can quibble with the 7.4l/100km fuel thirst claim it helps achieve, not far off what we obtained on test.

SUVs take up around 40 per cent of new-car sales these days, and around 40 per cent of those are this size. Forester Premium certainly delivers, with if anything more equipment than you expect, an on-road drive experience it’s hard to quibble with, surer footing off road than most in this bracket and a price that’ll lure folk otherwise considering the same-brand Outback.

At a glance


Subaru Forester 2.5 Premium


2.5 litre direct injection four-cylinder Boxer



ANCAP safety rating


Power and Torque

 136kW at 5800rpm, 239Nm at 4400rpm


Lineartronic seven-speed auto

Fuel economy


Towing capacity




Seating capacity


Luggage capacity/payload

520 litres (1060 with row two folded)

Safety systems

  • Lane sway and lane departure warning
  • Lane Keep Assist
  • Pre-collision braking
  • Blind spot detection
  • Speed limiter
  • Rear view camera
  • Tyre pressure monitoring system
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