Here it is, folks; one of the most criminally underrated SUV on sale in South Africa. In March 2019, Subaru South Africa sold just 41 of these new Foresters, while Mazda sold 407 CX-5s, VW sold 447 Tiguans, and Toyota sold 715 new RAV4s.
Sure, each of these is a brilliant car in its own right – and there are others in the segment that are just as underrated: the Peugeot 3008 and Opel Grandland X spring to mind, but we’ll ignore them in this case, because the Forester employs Subaru’s famed Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive (AWD) system and so we’ll only focus on similarly equipped rivals.
That leaves us with the Nissan X-Trail (294 units), Renault Koleos (32), Mitsubishi Outlander (9) and Jeep Compass (3).
While most of these rivals retail well into R500 000, this Forester 2.0i-S ES High Spec comes in at R499 000 – one of the cheapest. It’s also among the most well equipped with an excellent array of features.
The most notable is the inclusion of Subaru’s Eyesight (that’s the “ES” in the name) safety tech. The Eyesight suite includes pre-collision braking and throttle management, lane departure and lane sway warning, adaptive cruise control and lead-vehicle start alert. The Eyesight system works a treat and combines with the likes of blindspot monitoring with lane-change assist, reverse automatic braking, and a reversing/side-view camera combo.
Taking into account the seven airbags, whiplash-reducing front seats, adaptable LED headlamps and fog lamps and usual electronic braking and stability systems, the Forester is a very safe vehicle.
Speaking of those front seats, they are superbly comfortable – in fact, the Forester’s interior is an extremely nice place to be. Space abounds, it’s comfortable, nicely designed and ergonomic. Subaru has created a truly classy, high-quality ambiance; with satin silver and chrome accents combining with the textured rubberised cladding and swathes of fine leather. It’s truly lovely.
Sure, you get all the high-tech stuff, too. The secondary TFT screen atop the dash displays all manner of auxiliary information. There’s an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system with navigation, voice control, Apple Carplay, Android Auto and Harmon Kardon 9.1 sound – while dual-zone climate control and a double-volume sunroof combine to create a perfect interior ambiance.
It’s practical, too; with a handy assortment of storage spaces dotted around the interior and 520-l of boot capacity accessed via the powered tailgate. Drop the rear seatbacks by the touch of a button and you have an expansive flat floor with 1 060-l of capacity.
To drive, the Forester is just as comfortable and practical as it’s equipped. The only engine option is a 2,0-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder that produces 115 kW and 196 Nm. It’s mated to Subaru’s Lineartronic continuously variable transmission (CVT), which operates smoothly and seems to work well in this application.
While the engine could do with a little more power, it manages well enough so long as you don’t expect outright performance from it. It would be best to not push it, though, as there’s no diesel option in the Forester range (a possible reason for its poorer sales performance) and, while Subaru claims this model will consume an average of 7,6 l/100 km, I managed 10,1 in a week of varied driving.
While the Forester feels large and weighty on the road, it doesn’t mind being hustled along. The AWD system combines with Subaru’s Vehicle Dynamics Control, active torque vectoring and X-Mode off-road programme to create a responsive feel and tons of grip.
However, occupants will definitely more appreciate the Forester’s smooth ride, good refinement and overall comfort.
Given its subtle styling update but overall more macho look as well as its comfortable, well-designed, high-quality interior, smooth driving manners and outright practicality, the Subaru Forester 2.0i-S ES is by all accounts a superb family SUV. With favourable pricing and a five-year/150 000 km warranty and three-year/75 000 km maintenance plan, it’s great value for money, too.
You’d have to agree, it’s criminally underrated… If you don’t, go take one for a test drive.
CyberStoep rating: 8/10