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A full redesign brings better fuel efficiency as well as greater interior room and refinement for the 2014 Subaru Forester. It's a top pick for a small to midsize crossover SUV.
Standard all-wheel drive; roomy interior; very good fuel economy; stout turbocharged engine; off-road capability still a priority.
Mediocre performance from base engine.
Available Forester SUV Models
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The 2014 Subaru Forester is completely redesigned.
We've long been impressed by the Subaru Forester's blend of utility, carlike comfort and all-weather capability. Now that recipe has been further improved with the redesigned 2014 Subaru Forester, thereby making one of our favorite crossovers even more appealing.
Much of the Forester's enduring appeal lies in the fact that it offers most of the SUV attributes people really want and use -- full-time all-wheel drive, a little bit of extra ground clearance and hatchback utility -- without the dreadful fuel economy and bulk of a full-blown SUV. The 2014 Subaru Forester is still no Jeep or Range Rover off road, but with a couple more inches of ground clearance than its compact crossover competitors and standard all-wheel drive, the re-engineered Forester is serious enough about its off-road ability without letting it get in the way of mostly being a car.
Even better, two all-new transmissions neatly address one of the previous Forester's more glaring drawbacks: mediocre fuel economy. A six-speed manual replaces last year's five-speed manual, providing slighter better acceleration and fuel economy. More importantly, a more efficient continuously variable transmission (CVT) is now used instead of the previous four-speed automatic. The base engine, a 2.5-liter four-cylinder, carries over, but now there's a new optional 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that's more powerful than the Forester's previous 2.5-liter turbo.
Inside, the new cabin looks drastically more contemporary and is fitted with higher-quality materials, particularly for interiors with the large LCD center-stack display situated below a smaller ancillary screen that's standard for all models. The 2014 Forester's new platform also brings an increase in rear-seat legroom as well as even more space in its already expansive cargo area. Dropping the rear seats creates a vast hold that can handle anything from a full day of warehouse shopping to the bikes, tents and kayaks that the Forester's traditionally outdoor-oriented clientele like to bring along.
Of course, Subaru isn't the only automaker offering a quality small crossover SUV. The Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sorento and Toyota RAV4 are all eminently satisfying. Yet the new 2014 Subaru Forester absolutely improves on the formula that has made it an icon in places where folks need a dependable, durable way to get around, regardless of weather or road condition.
The 2014 Subaru Forester is a compact crossover available in six trim levels: 2.5i, 2.5i Premium, 2.5i Limited and 2.5i Touring, all with the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, and 2.0XT Premium and 2.0XT Touring, both with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder.
Standard equipment on the 2.5i includes 17-inch steel wheels, full power accessories, cruise control, a height-adjustable driver seat, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player, an auxiliary audio jack and an iPod/USB audio interface. Satellite radio is optional.
The 2.5i Premium adds 17-inch alloy wheels, rear privacy glass, roof rails, a panoramic sunroof, a rearview camera, a multifunction display, an eight-way power driver seat (with power lumbar adjustment), a fold-down rear armrest, HD radio capability and six speakers for the sound system. Once you get to the 2.5i Premium trim, available options are an All-Weather package (heated side mirrors and heated front seats) and a touchscreen navigation system with 6.1-inch display that incorporates voice controls.
The 2.5i Limited comes standard with the All-Weather package and all of the above, plus automatic headlights, a power rear liftgate, chrome exterior trim, automatic climate control, an LCD display in the instrument cluster, leather upholstery, reclining rear seatbacks and a cargo area tray. The navigation system is again optional.
The 2.5i Touring makes the navigation system standard and also adds upgraded gauges, dual-zone automatic climate control, an eight-speaker sound system, a one-touch control to fold the rear seatback and auto-close and memory functions for the power liftgate.
Moving to the 2.0XT Premium brings all the equipment of the 2.5i Premium, plus the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine and CVT, 18-inch alloy wheels, a rear roof spoiler and leather-wrapped steering wheel.
The 2.0XT Touring's equipment is pretty much the same as what's on the 2.5i Touring. Optional for the Touring models is the Driver Assist Technology package that includes adaptive cruise control, keyless ignition/entry, xenon headlamps and the Eyesight system that integrates adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and pre-collision braking functions.
Every 2014 Subaru Forester comes standard with all-wheel drive. The 2.5i trims feature a 2.5-liter horizontally opposed (or "boxer") four-cylinder that produces 170 horsepower and 174 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard for the 2.5i and Premium, while a CVT is available. The CVT is optional for the 2.5i and Premium and standard for all other 2014 Forester trims.
Markedly more performance comes from the new-to-Forester 2.0-liter turbocharged horizontally opposed four-cylinder, which churns out 250 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. The Forester's previous and less powerful 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder shot it from zero to 60 mph in 6.8 seconds; the new engine is 26 hp stronger, so we expect no less and probably better.
Although the 2.5-liter engine is unchanged, the new transmissions help it deliver markedly better fuel economy. A manual-transmission 2014 Forester with the 2.5-liter is rated by the EPA at 22 mpg city/29 mpg highway and 24 mpg combined. Likewise, the new CVT delivers a serious fuel economy upgrade, now allowing a 24/32/27 rating.
Meanwhile, the 2.0XT models' turbocharged 2.0-liter also is less thirsty: It is rated at 23 mpg city/28 highway and 25 combined.
Every 2014 Subaru Forester includes antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, front side airbags, side curtain airbags and a driver's knee airbag. A rearview camera is standard for all but the base 2.5i.
In crash testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the 2014 Forester received the highest possible rating of "Good" in the frontal-offset, side and roof strength tests.
The 2014 Subaru Forester's new interior is visually more appealing, with an updated design, layout and materials that bring it closer to rivals that have gone more upscale with interior trims and accessories. But make no mistake: The simplicity that seems to be a Subaru design philosophy pretty much remains intact unless you add the optional navigation system or opt for the Touring trim.
What may be more important for most people is that the 2014 Forester's all-new platform adds a massive 3.7 inches of rear legroom. Also helping is the stadium-type placement of the rear seats, which should allow most passengers a better view out the front, given the sight lines above the front seatbacks.
The 2014 Forester ups its already large cargo area by more than 6 cubic feet, to a whopping total of 74.7 cubic feet with the rear seats folded.
With a little extra weight than before, the all-new 2014 Subaru Forester isn't going to set any speed records with the 170 hp that comes from its standard four-cylinder engine. The new CVT, as with most CVTs, isn't as refined as a conventional automatic. But as it delivers a notable improvement in fuel economy, whatever it lacks in those final degrees of civility and smoothness can be forgiven.
In normal day-to-day use, the Forester provides stable and composed handling. But its trump card remains its extra dollop of off-road capability, which comes via its higher-than-normal ground clearance and new "X Mode" that adjusts the Forester's stability control, gearing and throttle response to maximize traction in the dirt.
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