Like most modern cars, the Forester looks fairly well put together and doesn’t display any glaring lapses in quality. Look a little closer, however, and some rough edges start to show up. Most of the interior materials are so-so in quality, especially the various knobs and switches. The air vent controls are particularly chintsy to the touch. The Forester also displays a surprising amount of rattles, buzzes, and other noises for a new car, which makes us wonder about the car’s long term durability. On the up side, Subaru has supplied the Forester with a host of safety features, including a full complement of air bags, as well as anti-lock brakes, vehicle dynamic control, and the aforementioned symmetrical all-wheel drive.
For 2009 the Forester has grown in size and is 4.5 inches taller, 1.8 inches wider and 3 inches longer than the previous model. The result is outstanding interior room, especially for the front seats, and a spacious cargo area. The rear seats fold down very easily. And once flat the cargo area is almost cavernous, with plenty of room for camping equipment and other gear. Although we did have to remove the front wheel to easily slide a mountain bike inside, the car also comes with a hitch mount, making for quick installation of a bike rack or other carrier.
Functionally outstanding, the interior is aesthetically quite bland, with a dated design that looks like it hasn’t changed much since the car was introduced in 1998. The cloth seats are moderately comfortable but very ordinary in appearance, and the stereo has a truly mediocre sound that will bring you right back to the era of AM radio. Every surface is light gray in color and the few nobs and switches related to the stereo and climate control are very plain and simple. For Subaru, the modernist aesthetic that form follows function obviously holds true. The only nod to extravagance is a much larger than average panoramic moonroof, which was a nice treat given the unseasonably nice weather we experienced.
The Forester’s redesigned exterior gives the car more of a rugged, SUV-like appearance, but the overall look is still more wagon than SUV. Although not unattractive, the design is quite conservative and easily gets lost amongst the crowd of similar looking crossovers, especially in the plain white color of our test vehicle. Several times we walked up to a car thinking it was the Forester, only to realize (when the door locks wouldn’t open!) that we had stumbled on another white crossover from another brand.
Subaru has created such a winning formula that it is one of very few automotive brands to post a sales increase in 2008, and the Forester in particular is selling strong, with sales for the month of November up 64% over 2007. In these tough economic times the value of a functional, practical car should keep pulling people into the showroom. Although fuel efficiency isn’t great (we averaged a bit over 23 mpg) and the as-tested price of $25,623 is a bit high for such a no-frills car, the Forester has a certain rugged charm nonetheless. Like a good windbreaker or a trusty tent, the Forester would be an excellent companion for those who don’t need to pampered and would rather brave the elements and venture off the beaten path.
|Official website for Subaru of America – www.subaru.com|
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