Car Reviews

2019 Subaru Forester Long-Term Review: The First 2000km

We’ve driven over 2000km since picking up a brand-new Subaru Forester, here’s what we’ve found we like and don’t like so far.

AS WE MENTIONED in the introduction to our long-term Subaru Forester loan car, we picked-up a Crystal White Pearl 2.5i-S model earlier this month with 36km on the odometer. In the 21 days since, we’ve driven 2076km and it’s been largely stress-free. However, we have a list of questions from our readers to get through, so today we’re talking about how the engine felt and what the fuel consumption was during our first run in, and what the equipment and features are like in reality.

How does the fuel economy, power and noise change as the engine wears in?

This was one of the first questions asked after we reported on our Facebook page that the initial fuel economy was somewhere around 10L per 100km, which is high for a four-cylinder engine with a CVT transmission.

While we haven’t clocked up significant kilometres, the fuel consumption has already dropped by some margin, ending up after 2000km at 8.3L/100km. That’s an average calculated by including the initial high fuel consumption period, which means recent fuel use should be lower still. We’ve reset our trippy and will provide new fuel stats in the next update, which we expect should be in the 7s per 100km. But we haven’t taken the Subaru Forester out of its default normal driving mode yet – we’ll experiment with its sportier settings and going off-road in another update.

The engine itself has quickly settled in to become a fairly effortless mill to plot around town. Only one engine is available in the line-up, a naturally-aspirated 2.5-litre petrol motor mated to a CVT – there are no diesel or manual options. Now while the former will certainly deter those that need an oiler, this petrol engine and CVT combination isn’t bad at all. The official spec is 136kW at 5800rpm and 239Nm at 4400rpm. All models are all-wheel drive.

First impressions were that it was a touch thrummy and revvy, but with extended use, it feels calmer and only revs up when overtaking and on hills. It certainly has enough power to overtake efficiently at highway speeds and will labour up steep inclines. The CVT is quiet, becoming loud when you need to kick back a ‘gear’ or use the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters to drop down a step. With reasonable acceleration it keeps the engine near the sweet spot for power, which helps make for the quick overtakes. And you don’t really need to use manual shifting at all.

The petrol motor is comparable to most naturally-aspirated rivals – and better than some – though turbo contenders have the edge. This has us eager to drive the new Forester plug-in hybrid which will boost performance and lower economy further.

What features is it missing or has over some contenders?

UPDATE: Nearly all Subaru Forester models now come with heated seats (and wiper de-icers).

We’ll jump right in and say that it’s disappointing this top-spec Forester has no heated seats. Yes, the 2.5i-S is a few grand cheaper than most top-spec rivals, but we do expect heated seats to be available in mainstream SUVs. Call me a freezing Melbourne wimp, but added warmth early in the morning is always a plus.

That said, it’s not exactly a deal-breaker when looking at what else is available. The leather seats are comfortable (it’s a soft, quality feeling leather) and have great support for long trips, with added eight-way electric adjustment and two memory settings (and there’s another trick on this that’s very cool, and we’ll get to that later).

The 8.0-inch infotainment system is brilliant, with bright, glossy graphics, an easy to use interface, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and connected to a loud-but-clear eight-speaker Harman Kardon sound system. In the back, the seats can be automatically folded with a button from the boot, and a sunroof covers both front and rear-seat passengers where there are two USB charging ports. There are three cameras which are helpful around town – front, side, and rear – but there are no parking sensors; the dealer can fit these at an extra cost (or haggle to have them thrown in).

And as you should expect in a new Subaru (excepting the WRX), the Forester comes with a very comprehensive safety suite called EyeSight Driver Assist. In that are AEB, brake light recognition, lane-keeping assist, lane departure warning, lane sway warning, adaptive cruise control, lead vehicle start alert (it’ll beep at you if traffic moves along and you don’t, and it works) and pre-collision brake and throttle management. It also has automatic reverse braking assist, which will stop when you’re about to hit something in reverse. Maybe that’s why there are no reverse parking sensors.

The safety suite works very well, particularly the adaptive cruise control. But sometimes the safety sensing technology is on its game too much. It’ll beep at you on some narrow country roads that force the car too close to the lane markings, and sometimes if you’re looking out the window for a street sign. That’s because it uses a camera to monitor your face and tell you off for not looking ahead at the road. That’s called driver distraction warning. It’s all good and in the name of safety, but if you’re on a road that triggers it relentlessly, you can turn it off temporarily.

Along with safety, the infrared camera mounted in the centre console is used to register drivers in a user profile system. That is, you can create unique users that the car will automatically recognise when they sit in the driver’s seat. This links in with the eight-way electric seat adjustment because that can be programmed to automatically change position when, say, the wife sits in the car after the husband has been driving. It will also change the mirror position, climate control, infotainment systems and even restore the fuel consumption for that driver, plus more. We haven’t set this up yet so expect a full write up in our next report.

So how is the car going so far? We’re really enjoying it, particularly the easy, compliant ride and practicality of the spacious cabin that’s great for families, people who like camping, and those into sports activities that require lugging gear. There’s a lot for us to talk about so tune in for our next long-term report soon.

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Alex Rae

Alex Rae