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First drive: 2014 Subaru Forester improves on a practical package

Consumer Reports News: January 03, 2013 03:38 PM

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Long a favorite among our subscribers, the Subaru Forester has been affordably priced and practically packaged—just what many buyers need in a small SUV. Admittedly, we were concerned about what the 2014 redesign would bring.

Having driven the new Forester, it turns out we didn't have to worry after all. (Updated: In fact, after testing, the Subaru Forester has become our top-rated small SUV.)

It's hard to tell the 2014 redesign apart from the previous-generation SUV, especially from the back. Tweaks increased glass area and made the doors and cargo area larger, improving on already strong points. Since a lot of small SUVs grow sleeker with each redesign—reducing visibility and cargo space—the Forester is a refreshing contrast.

A bigger change is the end of the antiquated four-speed automatic, replaced by a continuously-variable-transmission. In other tested Subarus, Consumer Reports found that this change helped fuel economy and acceleration a lot. But the CVT exacerbates engine noise. Subaru claims the Forester is quieter now, reducing the din. We'll see how it works out when we get time behind the wheel of our own test car.

Most Foresters sold are modestly yet comfortably equipped. Moving up the sticker price ladder brings some unique options, like Subaru's EyeSight electronic safety aids. You can also get a new 2.0-liter direct-injected turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Given traditional slow sales of that model, it's a bit of a surprise that the company stuck with it. But now that the Toyota RAV4 lost its optional V6 in its 2013 redesign, the Forester might gain some sales from buyers who want a fleet-footed small SUV.

Since winter has hit in full force, it's too bad the new Forester isn't on sale now. We look forward to buying a Forester at a local dealer to add to our test fleet. Check out our video below for our first impressions based on a borrowed model. (See how the Forester stacks up against its competition.)

Update: Read our complete Subaru Forester road test.

Tom Mutchler

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