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Test Drive: Subaru Forester 2.0i-L – True, blue SUV

POSTED BY Dinesh Appavu ON 06 February 2015

What does taking a mid-sized SUV off-road and consuming watered-down beer have in common? You’re not going to get where you intended to go.

The modern mid-sized SUV is now coveted for its high seating position, ground clearance, pails of space and not much else. Actual off-road capability; as mild as it may be, is just not a coveted asset as the harshest terrains these SUVs have to conquer will be the pothole-laden car park of the supermarket or climbing a curb for an illegal, albeit instant, parking spot.

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Front-wheel drive SUVs have experienced a boom in sales here, whetting the appetites of buyers that just cannot get enough of them. Hence, we are unsure if Subaru should be applauded or admonished for not going with the flow and watering down their Forester by castrating its famed Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive for a front-wheel drive grocery-getter.

The new base Forester 2.0i-L is arguably the last of the true-blue mid-sized SUVs with all the qualities the market demands as well as a proven all-wheel drive system and more ground clearance that does not compromise its off-road capabilities. A best-in-class ground clearance of 220mm helps with that as well.

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Subaru has always placed an emphasis on function over form and the Forester’s interior follows suit. It might not be a sharp interior, but what it lacks in design is more than compensated for with acres of headroom and legroom as well as a premium feel to all the trims and upholstery.

Nonetheless, considering its slightly steep asking price, the bare-bones centre console could have been equipped with a touch-screen double-DIN head unit to complement the multi-information display above the dash that dishes out the usual fuel consumption figures, audio information, torque-split for the AWD system and the reverse camera display.

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Occupying the Forester was still a pleasant experience, be it at the front or rear, and left us with little room for complaints. Furthermore, the low door openings eased ingress and egress too.

The side effect of the more than generous interior space is evident from the outside as the Forester appears to occupy a marginally larger spot than its peers. Nonetheless, it is a refreshing change to the mid-sized SUV segment with its chiselled sides and manlier size.

Some of the aggressive and sporty styling from its turbocharged XT brother is lost though, replaced by more subdued lines that still show it can walk the talk it speaks.

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Under the hood sits the same engine found in the marque’s most popular model here, the XV. The two-litre four-cylinder horizontally-opposed engine boxes out 148hp and 198Nm of torque that goes through a CVT transmission. The entire combo is supposedly more fuel efficient than its predecessor.

CVTs tend to generate more noise when running harder over traditional torque converter automatics but fortunately, the Forester 2.0i-L has the refinement and just enough torque to dismiss the issue.

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While the engine does not feel underpowered by any means, low speed performance could be improved although once it gets a move on the Forester feels quite athletic given its output.

However, the additional height does translate into more movement on corners although the stability of the Symmetrical AWD system meant it never felt close to losing its grip on things. Furthermore, the ride was comfortable and easily absorbed all the irregularities of KL roads with to keep the occupants cosseted in comfort.

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Seeing that it could take on some mild off-road terrain without breaking a sweat, we decided to take it on something a little more challenging and put the X-Mode system to the test. The system utilises individual wheel braking, throttle actuation and modulation of the centre differential to navigate tricky and slippery gradients.

The Forester just might be the only true SUV in the mid-sized segment now as the rest have all sold out on their rugged and robust roots to become high-riding grocery getters. While that is perfectly fine with the majority of buyers, for those that still ask of tackling some mild off-road terrains from the SUVs, the Forester is the best bet.

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Its practicality and refinement in catering for urban needs is unquestionable whilst the ability to still take on dirt roads and feel surefooted is bonus.

In a sea of CR-Vs and CX-5s, there are plenty of other options if you want to be different but the Forester is the only choice if you actually plan on taking the path less traversed for some camping or trail biking over the weekend after doing school and grocery runs during the week.

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Specifications of the Subaru Forester 2.0i-L
Engine: 1,995cc, DOHC 16V, horizontally-opposed, four-cylinder, variable valve timing
Max power: 148hp @ 6,200rpm
Max torque: 198Nm @ 4,200rpm
Transmission: CVT
Safety features: Seven airbags, ABS, EBD, BA, stability control, breakaway engine, ISOFIX anchorage points
Price: RM 175,689.80

 

ALSO IN CLASS:

– Chevrolet Captiva LT 2.4
RM158,888.00

– Honda CR-V 2.0
RM150,214.80

– Kia Sportage
RM138,888.00

– Mazda CX-5 2.0 SkyActiv 4WD
RM154,401.00

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