Full 2014 Subaru Forester Review
What's New for 2014
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. The redesigned 2014 Subaru Forester follows the same recipe, but Subaru has made key improvements: It's a bit larger than before so there's more interior room to accommodate families. In addition, fuel economy, never a strength of the previous Forester, now ranks near the top of the small-to-midsize crossover class thanks to updated engines and transmissions.
Much of the Subaru Forester's enduring appeal lies in the fact that it offers most of the traditional SUV attributes people really want and use -- full-time all-wheel drive, a little bit of extra ground clearance and hatchback utility -- without the bulk of a full-blown SUV. The 2014 Subaru Forester is still no Jeep or Range Rover off road, but with more ground clearance than its crossover competitors, the Forester is tough enough to tackle most dirt roads (or your driveway after a snowstorm), yet it still drives like a car in any other situation.
More important for most consumers, though, is the debut of a more efficient continuously variable transmission (CVT) on the 2014 Subaru Forester. It replaces last year's four-speed automatic, and it's the driving force behind the 2014 Forester's higher fuel economy ratings. Meanwhile, a six-speed manual transmission replaces last year's five-speed manual and also provides slighter better fuel economy than before. You still have two engine choices on the Subaru Forester: The base 2.5-liter four-cylinder carries over and continues to provide adequate power, but there's also a new, optional 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that's more potent than the Forester XT's previous 2.5-liter turbo.
Inside, the cabin looks more contemporary than before and is fitted with higher-quality materials. You'll notice an increase in rear-seat legroom along with an even more 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 Mazda CX-5 and Ford Escape handle better on-road and have nicer interiors, while it's tough to beat the all-around appeal of the nicely packaged Honda CR-V. There's no going wrong with the well-equipped Hyundai Santa Fe Sport, either. Given all the competition in the compact-to-midsize crossover SUV class, we certainly recommend shopping around some. But if interior space and light-duty off-road capability are priorities for you, the 2014 Subaru Forester is a solid choice.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
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.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2014 Subaru Forester 2.5i trim levels 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 2.5i Premium models, and a CVT is optional. The CVT is standard on all other trim levels; it takes the place of a conventional automatic transmission and provides similar functionality.
The new CVT delivers a serious fuel economy upgrade on base-engine Subaru Foresters: The EPA rates CVT-equipped 2.5i models at 24 mpg city/32 mpg highway and 27 mpg combined. If you get the manual transmission, the numbers drop to 22 city/29 highway and 24 combined. In Edmunds instrumented testing, a CVT-equipped Forester 2.5i Limited accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 9.0 seconds during Edmunds.com testing, which is quicker than average among small crossovers equipped with a base engine.
More performance is available if you choose the 2.0-liter turbocharged horizontally opposed four-cylinder that's standard on both 2.0XT models. It churns out 250 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque when fueled with the recommended premium octane, and comes only with the CVT.
Even the 2.0XT models provide solid efficiency, though, as they're rated at 23 mpg city/28 highway and 25 combined. In Edmunds testing, a 2014 Subaru Forester 2.0XT Touring accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 6.3 seconds, which is exceptionally quick for a crossover SUV.
Every 2014 Subaru Forester comes standard with all-wheel drive. The 2.5i Touring, 2.5i Limited and all 2.0XT models have an additional X-Mode feature that optimizes engine response, transmission shift points, stability control system intervention and the AWD system to improve traction on slippery surfaces. These models also include hill descent control.
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. Lane departure warning and a collision mitigation system (imminent collision warning and pre-collision braking under 19 mph) are optional for the Touring models.
During Edmunds brake testing, the Forester 2.0XT stopped from 60 mph in 119 feet, a good number for this class. The Forester 2.5i made this same stop in 126 feet, which is a little worse than average among small crossovers.
In crash testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the 2014 Forester received the highest possible rating of "Good" in the moderate overlap frontal-offset, small-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact and roof strength tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
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.