Auto123 puts to the (long-term) test the 2021 Subaru Forester. Today, part 7.
By the end of this three-month test drive of the 2021 Subaru Forester Touring (priced from $36,508), I had covered 3,680 km and maintained an average fuel consumption of 8.4L/100 km.
Those paying attention will no doubt say to themselves: Not even 4,000 km in three months. That’s pretty little, and it wasn’t for lack of a desire to pile on more kilometres. The pandemic has simply made it harder to get around.
In any event, as for the fuel consumption of the Forester and its 182-hp 2.5L boxer engine, I find it quite satisfactory considering the size of the vehicle and its weight, which is pretty hefty partly due to its permanent all-wheel drive.
This powertrain is a grumpy machine when it's asked to do a little and downright sullen when it's asked to do a lot. Its stop/start system lacks subtlety when you stop at a red light, but it works in conjunction with the CVT transmission to save you money at the pump. Its 0-100 km/h acceleration in about nine seconds won’t impress anyone.
This relative slowness is not surprising in the compact SUV segment and is not the number-one selection criterion for enthusiasts. Most of those will be more interested in the Forester's towing capacity, which, at 907 kg (1,500 lb), is within the average for the segment.
Discreet but reliable
While the Forester lacks a memorable silhouette, its shape does serve the concept of an SUV well. I developed an eye for recognizing it from a distance on the highway. As soon as I started to make out a rump that reminded me of a box on wheels, I figured it must be a Forester, a kindred spirit.
If the body colour of said vehicle was also sober, as if to better blend into the background, I could be even more certain.
The Forester's colour palette evokes the stones found along a trail (gray, black, bronze), the forest (Jasper Green Metallic), the sky (Horizon Blue Pearl) and winter (Crystal White Pearl). Only the Crimson Red Pearl is conceivably exciting, but even there we’re a long way from a bright fire engine red. More like a sun-faded red smartie.
This styling is perfect for the Forester buyer, who is a practical person who prioritizes common sense and convenience over appearance and fashion. The vehicle reflects this by draping itself in an outfit that flirts with anonymity.
The Forester's commitment to its owner's needs is never more evident than in its performance. As we saw during our IKEA mission (see Part 3 of our long-term review), the Subaru's cargo hold is the most spacious in its class and very easy to load.
The Forester's mechanical tics, which could give it a bit of a rough ride, are fortunately tempered by a comfortable cabin. To that end, you get high, well-padded seats, easy-to-spot switches and giant icons on the 8-inch touchscreen (for the Touring, otherwise 6.5-inch) just begging to be tapped. I should have taken the time to get the infotainment system used to my voice commands, but I chose to smear my fingerprints all over it instead...
The manufacturer did take a small step backwards by removing the reclining seatbacks from the 2021 Touring version. You now have to upgrade to at least the Sport version to take advantage of it.
Peace of mind first and foremost
I liked the handling, which, like the bodywork, emphasizes safety and utility. The flaccid steering in the middle might have but doesn't encourage drifting, and the drive is reassuring. The good-sized steering wheel communicates the desire to get where you need to go without fuss. Braking is solid, as is the vehicle.
The Forester’s straight-up stance and height causes wind noise, but in return you get a good riding position and great visibility. The suspension is built to provide an honest compromise.
The fully standard all-wheel drive (see Part 5 of our long-term review) is a much-appreciated asset. It also comes with the X-Mode system that refines the Forester's off-road capabilities, including providing electronically managed descent control. Along with the generous ground clearance (220mm/8.7-in), another Subaru hallmark, this proven, winter-friendly four-wheel drive perfectly completes the picture of a versatile performer that's as at home zipping between the orange cones of our cities as it is on the trails of our provincial and national parks.
The EyeSight system (see Part 6 of our long-term review), which includes a number of driving aids, does a remarkable job thanks to cameras positioned differently than in other systems in the industry.
I haven't even mentioned Starlink. Introduced last year on the Outback as a free trial for the first three years, this smartphone app allows you to perform certain operations remotely (like starting the engine or climate control), diagnose the vehicle and contact a "concierge" in case of an emergency.
On the last day of my test drive, I drove down the muddy path to my oldest son’s future home, a new house in the final stages of construction. When I disembarked the vehicle, he remarked, "It looks good on you. "
He was right. This Forester was starting to fit like a suit. Or more aptly, like a Barbour jacket: never spectacular, always reliable.