The Subaru Forester has been refreshed for 2021. We drive the version with the small(er) 2.0-litre petrol engine.
• Subaru’s new, updated Forester is now available in South Africa.
• Two petrol engines are on offer, displacing 2.5- and 2.0-litres.
• The Forester 2.0i S ES retails for R564 000.
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Subaru is a relatively small brand in South Africa. Globally, and in Japan, they are more reckoned, but local successes are a far cry from what they would have wanted and liked. Their product offering, too, is not too shabby, with SUVs and crossovers making up the bulk of their portfolio. The famed Impreza WRX and WRX STi are the only sedans in its stable, but one gets the idea that even these cars’ days are numbered – at least in South Africa.
For 2021, Subaru opted to refresh one of its most important vehicles, the Forester. Having come to market in 1997, the SUV went on to establish itself in the local car parc. It garnered a reputation of note among off-roaders, gravel lovers, and those looking for a vehicle that can clear the bushveld on a Saturday and look as classy as ever en route to church on a Sunday.
The updated Forester sees a revised engine line-up with a 2.5- and 2.0-litre petrol engine doing duty under the bonnet. We drove the Forester fitted with the latter engine recently and came to realise the tell-tale qualities of the entire product.
The engine is willing…
The Forester 2.0i S ES’s engine is a rather familiar one. It’s been in use by Subaru for several years now, but continuously finds itself at the receiving end of technical updates. Though power outputs see little to no change (115kW/196Nm), the motor’s internals has been reinforced and improved. It results in the Forester relaying its power more smoothly, with the unique engine sound – thanks to the Boxer layout of the cylinders – still coming through.
REVIEW: We drive the new Subaru Forester 2.5i Sport ES CVT
However, we found that the car performs admirably under normal driving conditions, but the gearbox, a continuously variable transmission (CVT), whales under harsh acceleration. It’s a common issue with this type of gearbox, with some automotive experts comparing it to adjusting the volume on your stereo.
While a manual gearbox would have, perhaps, suited this engine better, market conditions and buying patterns forces automakers’ hands at utilising automatic gearboxes more. It’s the same with the Forester, and there is, unfortunately, nothing that will improve it – unless Subaru adopts the type of gearboxes used by its European counterparts.
As with all Subarus, the Forester is fitted with the automaker’s Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system. This system allows the Forester to give the best possible ride quality in any condition, all while keeping occupants safe and comfortable. On a small obstacle course, the SUV made easy work of the slopes and inclines and managed to manoeuvre itself out of a rut or two.
Through Subaru Intelligent Drive (SI-Drive), the vehicle will adjust its drivetrain’s response and set the vehicle up to offer the best ride for the situation you find yourself in. And with x-Mode engaged, the vehicle will make even lighter work of off-road excursions.
On-road comfort is of a good standard on the open road, with the Forester dishing up a ride quality that will impress endlessly.
The Subaru Forester has a tough old battle in South Africa. Not only does it have to contend with the likes of the Nissan X-Trail and Toyota Rav4, but it also has the daunting task of convincing the local buying public to look in its direction. And that task might be a tad harder than initially thought.
Couple that to the less-than-friendly staff (in our experience) at a local Cape Town dealer (when we returned the vehicle), you begin to feel for a respectable product offering that is possibly suffering because client care is seemingly not a high priority. If it’s indeed the case across the board in South Africa, then vehicles like the Forester will have a far more demanding task at hand than initially thought.
CVT gearbox aside, the Forester 2.0i S ES is a solid vehicle, but perhaps its most significant challenge comes from within…
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Price: R564 000
Engine: 2.0-litre petrol
Power: 115kW @ 6000rpm
Torque: 196Nm @ 4000rpm
0-100km/h: 10.3 seconds
Economy: 7.6-litres/100km (manufacturer’s claim)
Maintenance Plan: 3-years or 75 000km
Warranty: 5-years or 150 000km