Test all limits in the Nissan Navara
Test all limits in the Nissan Navara

Subaru Forester should be on your shopping list

I have to admit that the Subaru brand has never featured strongly on my shopping list as far as a suitable family vehicle goes. Having spent a weekend to the Lowveld in the new Subaru Forester 2.5i-S ES CVT derivative recently, I realised it should. 

This new Forester is certainly more exciting than ever before, thanks to more power and trim options coupled with impressive safety features and – for the more challenging terrains during our trip to the Moholoholo Nature Reserve and Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre near Hoedspruit – the driver selectable X-Mode system. Add to this its generous 220 mm ground clearance, and it is certainly more capable than most in this segment.

Our test unit was powered by a new 2.5-litre direct injection SUBARU BOXER® engine with Lineartronic® CVT and a Start/Stop system, delivering 136kW of power (21kW more than the 2.0-litre engine). Peak torque is 239Nm, an increase of 43Nm over the 2.0-litre – yet despite the increase in power, it remains as efficient as the 2.0-litre model and we averaged frugal 7.8l – 8.4l/100 km on the open road. In urban traffic, we struggled to keep it under 9.5l/100 km, though!

Practical drivability 

But does it tick all the right boxes from a drivability and practicality perspective? Our team was divided. I loved it. My daughters loved it. My son – admittedly a massive Subaru fan – enjoyed it. Leaving only the hubby, who was rather critical, saying the CVT engine felt underpowered and sluggish. (To be fair, though — he is critical of CVT gearboxes in general.)

Being the soccer-mom target market and having driven it on this long-distance road test (logging a total of 1 000 km over the weekend), I think my opinion probably has the most weight. We gave its pulling power a thorough test through the familiar Lowveld passes while also testing the handling since you have to criss-cross the road to miss the myriad of potholes on some of these sections! I am happy to report that the Forester performed well beyond our expectations – we could confidently overtake, never feeling the rather big body was dragging (although I wouldn’t go as far as calling it “nippy”). On the uphill sections, it soldiered on, impressively so! 

And speaking of the big body – what a practical interior layout, filled with ample storage space! My lanky teenager was in heaven in the back row with ample leg- and headroom, with various creature comforts such as USB charging ports, cup holders and a central armrest to boost comfort. From a luggage perspective, the load bay – with a convenient electronic tailgate – offers 520 litres of packing space (yes, it’s important on a girl’s weekend!). With its 60:40 split-folding rear seatback, which can be flipped using a lever in the load bay, i can conveniently transport larger items as it frees up over 500 litres of additional utility space.

Information at your fingertips

I really enjoyed the media screen Subaru offers – it’s easy to use and is bright and colourful, and I like the fact that it’s not a floating tablet-style screen which I find less user friendly. There is also is a secondary screen above it, which shows you a bunch of information about the car that you theoretically will never actually need to know.

That top pod also has a driver monitoring camera system that monitors you all the time and will warn you if you take your eyes off the road for too long. This class-leading EyeSight Driver Assist Technology is a huge plus… Intriguingly, though, it flashes a warning onto another screen – the one on the instruments, which also makes you look away from the road…

The Forester’s driver aids are a bit of a button and screen overload – I liked it, but if you like minimalism, you’re not going to want the number of things in front of you. The 8-inch touchscreen media system sports Apple CarPlay and Adroid Auto smartphone mirroring tech, as well as an impressive Harman Kardon sound system – again, a super important feature for our girl’s weekend! No wireless charging, which comes standard in many of its competitors, though!

The Subaru’s major strength definitely relates to its impressive safety features. The award-winning EyeSight Driver Assist System and integrated Adaptive Cruise Control, Automatic Pre-Collison Braking, Lane Departure, Sway Warning and Lane Keep Assist really does make you realise how much you’re not looking at the road ahead or sway from lane to lane (potholes, as I said!). I’m a constant glancer, it seems, and tend to drive where I look and not look where I go. The multitude of safety systems constantly blared out a warning – which also helped to keep the driver awake when all passengers were taking a nap in the cocooned comfort the Forester offers.  

The verdict

There is much more to like than to dislike when it comes to the new, more powerful Subaru Forester. Its performance on the open road impressed, and this car will undoubtedly appeal to adventurous families who values practicality over “future-forward, stylish” design. Not that it is not a good looking vehicle – our Horizon Blue Pearl did turn heads… And had people astounded that this is one of the most affordable in its segment. It is undoubtedly a whole lot of car within a decent budget (the 2.0-litre is available from under R500k) and should be on your shopping list. 

In a Nutshell:

  • Model tested: Subaru Forester 2.5i-S ES (R629 000)
  • Engine: 2.5-litre petrol, naturally-aspirated
  • Power/Torque: 136 kW/239 Nm
  • Transmission: CVT
  • Average Fuel Consumption: 8.6 l/100 km 
  • Load capacity: 520 –1 770 litres

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