Subaru Forester: Better off red

Riley Riley

2021 Subaru Forester 2.5i Sport 9

What is it?

These days Forester is the jewel in the crown of the Subaru household.

Anything with the word ‘Sport” added to its name is sure to add to that tally and the touches of red used to underline the looks are simply inspired.

But let’s not fool ourselves, because this is no turbocharged Forester XT, a car that in its day could rival the famed WRX for performance (whatever happened to those days one wonders).

Back in its home market of Japan, however, it gets an all new 1.8-litre direct injection turbocharged engine with 130kW and 300Nm, with more torque available lower in the rev range at 1600 rpm — anyone feeling ripped off?

2021 Subaru Forester 2.5i Sport 1

What’s it cost?

At $41,990 it slots between the 2.5i Premium at $40,440 and 2.5i-S at $43,490 and is the only variant available in Dark Blue.

All Foresters share a revised headlight design, with a darkened area around the main beam bulb,  auto door lock/unlocking and a Collision Detection Unlock function.

The latter is intended to unlock doors and tailgate in the event of a heavy collision, reducing the possibility of occupants being trapped in the vehicle.

Sport adds 18 inch alloy wheels with a dark metallic finish, LED front fog lights with black coloured surround, black front grille surround and rear garnish, front, side and rear under guards with orange highlight, roof rails with orange inserts, exterior Sport badging an an electric sunroof.

Inside there’s smart-looking and comy-feeling water repellent grey cloth trim, orange highlights (air vents, shift panel, orange interior stitching), piano black surround for rear armrest cup holders, chrome look edge for power window switches and internal LED rear gate and cargo room lights, leather steering wheel and shifter, as well as push-button start, two-zone climate, rear park sensors, auto lights and wipers, power adjust drivers seat, heated front seats, and power fold rear seats.

There’s also an 8.0-inch touchscreen with CarPlay and Android Auto, DAB+ digital radio, single CD player, six speakers, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, 4 x USB ports (2x front and rear), with a 4.2-inch driver info panel that displays a digital speedo.

The safety story is a strong one, with a five-star safety, seven airbags, reverse camera along with front and front kerb-side cameras, plus the latest EyeSight Driver Assist system.

Active assistance is provided by Adaptive Cruise Control and Autonomous Emergency Braking and Steering (city and inter-urban up to 80km/h, with pedestrian and cyclist detection.

Add to this steering responsive LED headlights  (SRH), Adaptive Driving Beam (ADB), Lane Centering Function, Emergency Lane Keep Assist, Speed Sign Recognition with Intelligent Speed Limiter, Lane Departure Warning with steering wheel vibration, Lane Departure Prevention, and Pre-Collision Braking System with expanded support for collision avoidance at intersections.

There’s also Blind Spot Monitor (BSM), EyeSight Assist Monitor, Front View Monitor (FVM),  Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA), Reverse Automatic Braking (RAB), and Side View Monitor (SVM).

The Driver Monitoring System can recognise up to five people and warn if the system detects that either the driver’s gaze has wandered, or the driver is showing signs of fatigue or drowsiness — how good is that?

Dual ISOFIX outboard child-seat anchors are provided along with three top-tether points.

And it can tow a 1800kg braked load.

2021 Subaru Forester 2.5i Sport 4

What’s it go like?

My father father in law had one of the first Foresters.

It was 20 years old when we sold it and had less than 20,000km on the clock.

You could say that he typifies Subaru owners who tend to keep their cars for a long time.

Funny thing is I can still feel that car in this the latest Forester and that’s a good thing, because it means the car will always meet and exceed expectations.

It’s a much larger beast these days, however, 4625mm longm with a 2770mm wheelbase and weighs in at 1551kg.

Interestingly, it now has an alloy bonnet and front guards to save weight.

The cabin is bright, roomy and airy, with generous legroom in the back and the boot is a good size.

Splashes of orange have been added throughout the cabin with orange stitching for the seats.

Not sure why they didn’t stick with the red that they started with outside, because the two clash — ask your mum.

The flat four boxer engine has grown in size too, to 2.5 litres in capacity and develops 136kW at 5800 rpm and 239Nm at 4400 rpm.

It’s the same as the engine in Outback but in a slightly different state of tune, with minor differences in the output figures.

There’s also a hybrid in that delivers 110kW and 196Nm, together with a 12.3kW/66Nm electric motor — but it’s not available with the Sport livery.

The flat four is paired with a CVT-style continuously variable auto, with paddle shifts and 7-speed manual mode, as well as sport and intelligent drive modes.

Auto engine stop-start shuts things down to save fuel when the vehicle comes to a stop, such as at traffic lights — but the engine starts automatically again as soon as you lift off the accelerator.

Dual function X-MODE offers set-and-forget throttle control in mud, snow and steep unsealed surfaces, with 220mm of ground clearance, and active torque vectoring that brakes individual wheels to maintain control during cornering.

Switched to off road, it disables traction control an allows the computer to adjust the engine and transmission to deal with light duties such as mud or gravel.

Drive is to all four wheels, but it’s only a part time system, despite being “symmetrical” all-wheel drive.

It is in fact an active split system with torque distributed between front and rear wheels as required.

The dash from 0-100km/h takes 9.5 seconds.

Suspension is Mac struts at front and double wishbones at the back and it rides on 18-inch wheels with 225/55 series Bridgestone rubber, and a full-size spare.

With three different information screens, instrument panel, touch screen and a third binnacle atop the dash, you might say Forester suffers from information overload, especially when some is available in more than one of the screens.

You can even tell it to remind you about Dates, birthdays and anniversaries — works for me.

The dash itself remains old school, with two round, clock-style dials separated by an info panel.

Forester is one of the better examples of CVT in the Subaru range.

It responds best to light applications of the throttle, with seamless acceleration.

But point it at a hill or plonk the accelerator and you’re apt to discover a very different car, one that is raucous and thrashy as the transmission zooms up and down.

The steering is nicely weighted, with a good on-centre feel that provides plenty of feedback about what’s going in downstairs.

Braking is also excellent.

With a 63-litre tank, Forester runs happily on standard, 91 RON fuel.

It’s rated at 7.4L/100km, but once again failed to live up to expectations, with a figure of 10.1L/100km.

2021 Subaru Forester 2.5i Sport 5

What we like?

  • Satnav
  • Rear air vents
  • Full size spare
  • Power operated tailgate
  • Sliding sunvisor extensions

2021 Subaru Forester 2.5i Sport 6

What we don’t like?

  • CVT
  • Good rear legroom
  • Good-sized boot
  • Sorry, but red and orange don’t mix
  • Satnav lost its way (three times)

2021 Subaru Forester 2.5i Sport 3

The bottom line?

Looks the part but some extra performance to with the Sport badge certainly wouldn’t go astray. Are you listening Subaru?

2021 Subaru Forester 2.5i Sport 2

CHECKOUT: Subaru XV Hybrid: You’ll need to do better than that

CHECKOUT: Subaru Outback: Don’t fix it if it ain’t broke


Subaru Forester Sport, priced from $41,990
  • Looks - 8/10
  • Performance - 7.5/10
  • Safety - 8.5/10
  • Thirst - 7/10
  • Practicality - 8.5/10
  • Comfort - 7.5/10
  • Tech - 7.5/10
  • Value - 8/10