Subaru Forester XT Review in South Africa

Subaru Forester Replacement Pic

For a while the Subaru Forester was an excellent choice if you enjoyed all the dynamic aspects of the Subaru brand, but needed extra ride height and a more family-friendly body shape. Based on the Impreza chassis, the Forester was a bit of an offroad racer. Then things got wobbly, and I’ll explain why. But I’m happy to report that Forester as we know and love it is back, well, almost.

Subaru Forester XT Review by Ciro De Siena

Engine Capability

I drove the range topping Subaru Forester XT Lineartronic while covering the massive Top Gear Festival down in Durban. The sea air obviously helped because the car felt spritely, quick and responsive. Featuring a turbocharged version of the 2.0L boxer engine, the Subaru Forester XT makes do with 177kW and a healthy 350Nm of torque. The powerband is narrow but the clever gearbox does an excellent job of getting the most out of the engine. This is probably the best CVT ‘box on the market. Interestingly in Sports Sharp mode, the box changes into a “digital manual”, with 8 gear ratios which you can play with via the flappy paddles, or let the ‘box do its thing. It really is very good at pretending to be a manual, making the drive much more involving.

Driving Capability

Here’s where I explain why things went wobbly. Subaru is a big brand in the States, and in the US of A people like things comfy. Think Lay-Z-Boys and waterbeds. The last Forester was almost exclusively designed for this market, and as such it felt like driving a jumping castle. The car rolled and pitched terribly.

Thankfully, they have sorted that out. I do like a fairly firm set up in a car, and I still feel it could be a bit tauter, but for the everyday drive the new car is firm enough and finally the Forester feels like it means business. Of all the “soft-roaders”, if you particularly enjoy driving, this car is the most rewarding.

Exterior and Interior Styling

The latest Subaru Forester XT is new from the ground up and the exterior styling is aggressive while managing to be refined. Although, my test model was in black with big bling wheels; it looked positively gangster. Or governmental, which is kind of the same thing. Last year, we tried desperately to get through security at the Top Gear festival, which is run like a military camp. This year we were waved through. Like I said, this car means business.

The interior is still conservatively Subaru, and remarkably the dash feels dated already. There is a charm in its simplicity, but I still feel Subaru could make more effort here. Perhaps with the optional touch screen infotainment system, the dash might feel a bit more modern. The dials have a crisp contrast to them, which looks great at night.

Seating is very comfortable and all passengers are very spaciously accommodated, with a big boot always at the ready. In fact, it feels very executive in there, you could quite happily ferry either your kids or colleagues around, and I’d imagine everyone would be chuffed with the transport.

Safety Features

Quite simply, the new Forester is the safest SUV on sale today. Awarded EuroNCAP’s safest SUV for 2012, and achieving 5 stars from both ANCAP (Australian safety agency) and EuroNCAP, the Forester is armed to the grille with safety innovations. Standard safety equipment includes a total of seven airbags – dual front, side and curtain airbags are complimented by a driver’s knee airbag. The very structure of the car protects passengers, with Subaru’s Ring Shaped Reinforcement (capitals necessary, apparently) helping the car to achieve the highest possible rating for side-impact protection.

Subaru’s Vehicle Dynamics Control (VDC) ties in all of the car’s active and passive safety systems to ensure safe travel, even if you are driving like a rowdy teenager. But for my money, it’s Subaru’s Symmetrical All Wheel Drive which contributes most to safety. In the wet it is particularly impressive, providing levels of traction that front wheel cars just do not offer. The system inspires confidence and the car feels planted at all times.

Subaru Forester XT - Conclusion

While certainly not a cheap exercise, there is almost nothing I don’t like about the new Subaru Forester XT. But, it remains a thirsty car, and this remains a bit of an Achilles Heel for Subaru. In the car’s defense, I drive enthusiastically, and I expect a lot of performance out of any car, which the Subaru delivers in bucketloads. But, for the average driver, a lesser powered model might help you save at the pumps. After all, the power in the Subaru Forester XT is just too tempting to exploit. It’s got more power than the new Golf GTi, and it feels like a GTi of the offroad world.

However, if you need a practical family car, or even a stylish executive car with a difference, a car that can handle some fairly heavy offroad driving, the Subaru Forester XT ticks many boxes very well indeed.

Subaru Forester XT - Price

Prices for the range start at R329,900, but the model tested starts at R529 000.
  • What I liked :
    • Handling, sportscar engine makes this a very enjoyable family car
    • Practicality, interior space and comfort
    • Looks and design – aggressive but stylish
  • What I didn't like:
    • Fuel consumption
    • Too simple dashboard and instruments
    • Price, but considered as an executive car, it makes some sense
  • View the vehicle : New Subaru Forester / Used Subaru Forester

  • Competitors
    • Suzuki Grand VitaraNaturally aspirated so suffers on the reef, but great value and good looks, as well as offroad capability Prices start at R307,900 – great value
    • Nissan XtrailNot nearly as fun to drive, but very practical option with some great diesel engines. Prices start at R318,600