We just finished testing the redesigned 2014 Subaru Forester 2.5i Premium, and the overall test score for the popular small SUV shows it did not disappoint. In fact, it outscored the previous Forester 2.5X Premium by eight points. But, is buying used the smarter move?
Subaru focused on the fundamentals for 2014, with a space-efficient design, large windows, and big square doors. The Forester has the easiest access among its peers, along with the best view out of almost any vehicle, and one of the roomiest rear seats in the class, with copious head and leg room. Plus, the 2014 Subaru Forester is the first small SUV to ace the tough new Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash test.
By adapting various fuel-efficient technologies, like replacing the antiquated four-speed automatic for a continuously-variable-transmission (CVT), the new Forester now delivers 26 mpg overall and 35 mpg on the highway. That's a big jump over the previous generation's 22 mpg overall rating, giving it exceptional efficiency for a non-hybrid SUV. We also like that our mid-trim Forester 2.5i Premium has a power seat and a backup camera--handy features that some similarly priced competitors lack.
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Regardless how the brochure may read, this Subaru remains behind the curve for infotainment, especially in areas of wireless Bluetooth phone pairing and audio streaming. Voice commands with Bluetooth are cumbersome and unintuitive, and the optional navigation system's touch-screen controls are small, fussy, and downright cryptic.
Despite these gripes, when it comes to functionality and fuel-efficiency, the new Forester is hard to beat. Not that the previous-generation (2009-2013) Forester was outmatched; it shined in the competitive segment, proving eminently practical with better-than-average reliability.
So, which one should you buy? Looking at the chart below, you can save some money going used, but strong resale means it may only be worth it if you buy a model earlier than 2010. (Going before 2009 means skipping standard stability control, so stick to the newer cars.) Better safety, savings from better fuel economy, and improved performance and refinement from the new CVT may make the 2014 model worth it.
The wild-card option would be to consider a close-out deal on a 2013 model. With new 2014 models arriving by the truckload, dealerships should be eager to negotiate on remaining inventory, and Subaru is offering zero-percent financing through May 31st, sweetening the deal.
There is much to consider.
Average price paid
2014 Subaru Forester 2.5i Premium
2014 Subaru Forester 2.5i
2014 Subaru Forester 2.5i Limited
2013 Subaru Forester 2.5x Premium
Average retail price
2012 Subaru Forester X Premium AWD
2011 Subaru Forester X Premium AWD
2010 Subaru Forester X Premium AWD
2009 Subaru Forester X Premium AWD
For shoppers looking to hold on to a vehicle for many years, starting new with the most-efficient example is probably the smart, long-term investment. Get the 2014. For those who crave a Forester, but need to watch the budget closer and may not be looking for a decade-long traveling companion, the out-going Forester is still a good all-round small SUV and a solid choice.
Employing complex scientific formulas and methodologies probably best described as "Whatever we felt like choosing," Automobile has named its All-Stars for the 2013 model year. The 11 vehicles earned their trophies for being "the best and most significant" offerings to the mag's staff and contributors, and while we were surprised to see a couple of them on the list, none of them were shocking. In no particular order, they are:
Random notes: The least expensive vehicle on the list was the Ford Focus at $16,995 however, it was the $24,495 Focus ST that was actually driven; the least expensive vehicle as-tested, when such indication was given, was the $28,265 BRZ; the most expensive vehicle as-tested was the $75,615 Porsche Boxster S, hurdling the price of the A7 by nearly $4,000; the greatest disparity between base and as-tested price was the Ram, from the $24,395 skin-and-bones truck to the $54,335 Laramie Longhorn Crew Cab; the GTI was viewed through the history of its birthplace, Wolfsburg.
There you have it. Head on over to Automobile for the full story and the adventures they created to test each winner.
While more and more buyers seem to be opting for the functionality of car-based crossover vehicles every day, it's rare that your read much in the way of passionate praise for one. And, while Consumer Reports doesn't exactly lavish written paeans on the Subaru Forester in its latest review - that's just not its style - it did give the CUV a remarkably high overall score.
Praising its excellent fuel economy, visibility, roomy interior and a whole lot more, the testing publication bestowed an overall score of 88 out of 100 on the Forester. That's a really excellent number for just about any vehicle, but it's also a top-of-the-class mark for the Forester's small CUV division. Just about the only major gripe was that of ride quality.
Most of the direct competitors to the Forester have earned CR marks in the mid-70s. The Honda CR-V is some 11 points behind, for instance, while the Toyota RAV4 and the Mazda CX-5 earn scores of 75 and 74, respectively.
Small SUVs are one of the hottest vehicle categories. Their good fuel economy, easy access, all-weather traction, and plenty of passenger and cargo space make them an appealing choice for many car buyers. In this crowded segment, it can be challenging for consumers to determine which one is best to buy. That's where we come in.
Most automakers offer a small SUV in their lineup, but the list below focuses on popular models priced between $20,000 and $30,000. All score high enough to earn a Consumer Reports Recommendation, although not all have proven their reliability to be worthy of the accolade.
The list is organized in rank order of overall test score. While we cover the highlights here, it is well worth visiting their respective model pages to read the detailed road test and review the complete ratings.
Check out our SUV buying guide for quick access to the latest advice, Ratings, road tests, and videos.
Subaru Forester: The straight-A student
The 2014 redesign brings many changes that helps the Forester go to the top of the class, leaving its competition far behind. Improvements include class-leading fuel economy at 26 mpg overall and 35 mpg highway, a standard backup camera, excellent visibility, a roomy interior, and very easy access. In addition, the Forester is the only small SUV to receive a Good score in all five Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash tests. It isn't perfect, however. The ride is a bit jittery, and the infotainment system feels antiquated.
Honda CR-V: Easy-going and sensible
Buyers prizing reliability and space will appreciate the CR-V. A flexible and roomy cabin provides plenty of storage and cargo space. The engine is smooth, but fuel economy is falling a bit behind the curve, thanks to Mazda and Subaru. Handling is responsive but emergency handling is less competent. Road noise is excessive. A standard backup camera is welcome, especially as rearward visibility is challenged. Mazda CX-5: Aimed at fuel-frugal fun-seekers
Combining quick acceleration, impressive fuel economy, and agile handling seems like a tall order, but the CX-5 manages this feat. The new 184-hp, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine feels more muscular and provides much quicker acceleration than the previous-generation powerplant, now relegated to the base Sport trim. Plus, the CX-5 got the same impressive fuel economy—25 mpg overall—with the bigger engine. However, cabin noise is loud and the price is relatively high. A blind-spot monitoring system comes on most trim lines. A sleeper in this class, the CX-5 is good enough that consumers should wake up to its virtues.
Toyota RAV4: A good all-around package
The RAV4 is a safe overall choice, even if it doesn't stand out in any one attribute. Its 2013 redesign made notable improvements, such as removing the awkward side-hinged rear gate and moving the spare tire to under the cargo floor. Handling is now more agile, too. Power and fuel economy are good from the capable four-cylinder engine and slick six-speed automatic. Interior trim gained attractive touches in some places but skimped elsewhere. Still, rear-seat room is generous, access is super easy, controls are mostly intuitive, and a backup camera is standard.
Ford Escape: Sophisticated and athletic, at a price
Many small SUVs tend to be loud and stiff riding. But the redesigned Escape is solid, sophisticated, and athletic. Highlights agile handling and an impressively supple and composed ride, plus its cabin is one of the quietest in the class. However, there are a few shortcomings, including controls that are needlessly complicated, such as the optional MyFord Touch infotainment system. You need to pay a lot to get a model with the optional rear camera. Plus, we don't have reliability information yet. Consider the Escape to be the model reaching for the luxury class, both in refinement and price.
Nissan Rogue: Starting to feel old
Compared to the other models on this list, the Rogue is one of the oldest small SUVs available; a redesign is imminent. Handling is responsive and the ride is supple. The 170-hp engine is raspy at high revs, and fuel economy isn't keeping up with newer competitors. The cargo area is small and rear visibility is poor. We expect a redesign to bring similar improvements as seen on other freshened models, such as a standard backup camera and improved fuel economy to make it more competitive. Kia Sportage: Sporty and reliable, but less practical
With appealing styling and nimble handling, the Sportage adds some sport to the small SUV segment. But the styling makes for difficult rear visibility. You also sacrifice refinement for sportiness, with a stiff ride and pronounced road noise. Performance is leisurely, unless you get the optional turbocharged engine, and fuel economy is falling behind newer competition. On the plus side, the Sportage has been very reliable.
Hyundai Tucson: Styling stands out, but little else
Unlike many of its boxy rivals, the Tucson's more coupe-like styling catches the eye. But the sloping roof robs cargo space and inhibits the view to the rear. Overall, facing freshened competition, the Tucson proves forgettable. Buyers seem to agree, as owner satisfaction is below average. Handling is secure but uninspiring, and the ride is stiff. Road noise is pronounced, making the Tucson feel insubstantial.
On paper, many of the small SUVs look the same, with similar size, features, and power. Through the road tests, we're able to discern meaningful differences. Continue your research in our SUV buying guide and model pages, then test drive the standouts yourself and see if their personality is a good fit with yours.
As both Sun Tzu and Rage Against The Machine's Zack de la Rocha once said, "Know your enemy." Subaru is obviously not one to argue with these important philosophers, especially when it comes to their new WRX STI.
A new small SUV champion has been named: the 2014 Subaru Forester. This redesigned model earned an impressive road-test score of 88 points (out of 100 possible), besting last-year's model by eight points and trouncing the previous leader, the Honda CR-V, by 11 points. Yeah, it's that good.
What makes the accomplishment even more impressive is that this popular category has seen most sales leaders introduce new models, such as the Ford Escape and Toyota RAV4, or update existing ones, like the Mazda CX-5. Despite competition that won't rest, Subaru has stood out from the class. (Read our complete Subaru Forester road test.)
The Forester succeeds by focusing on the fundamentals with a space-efficient design, large windows, and big square doors. The result is the easiest access and the best view out of almost any vehicle we've recently tested. It also has one of the roomiest rear seats in the class, with copious amounts of head and leg room.
By adapting various fuel-efficient technologies, including replacing the antiquated four-speed automatic transmission with a new continuously variable transmission (CVT), the Forester now delivers quicker acceleration, as well as a class-leading 26 mpg overall and 35 mpg on the highway in our tests.
We bought a Forester 2.5i Premium for testing, with a $26,814 sticker price. This proved to be a good value that included heated front seats, large sunroof, backup camera, and a power driver's seat. Because above-average reliability is anticipated based on our analysis, it is CR Recommended.
The final jewel in the Forester's crown is that it was the only small SUV out of 13 tested to earn a top score of Good in the new small overlap crash test conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
If you're looking for a safe, practical, fuel-efficient small SUV, read our complete Subaru Forester road test and take one for a test drive.