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From the logbook: Candid view of the top-rated Subaru Forester

Consumer Reports News: June 05, 2013 04:38 PM

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Not only is the Subaru Forester our recently crowned top-rated small SUV, it's also extremely popular among Consumer Reports' readers. Because of that interest, we thought we'd share some candid outtakes from the logbook for further impressions from our team.

A few of the reasons why this SUV knocked it out of the park: 26 mpg overall is tops in the category; the rear seat is very spacious; and great brakes. And, universally, it was agreed that the Forester has the best visibility and access of just about any vehicle ever. Throw in standard all-wheel-drive, and it's easy to see why the Forester is so popular here in New England. (Read our complete Subaru Forester road test.)

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When we decide on which models to test, we do some research to get an idea which trim line, engine and transmission make up the majority of what people buy. In the Forester's case, it came down to a 2.5i Premium with the CVT and All-Weather Package (heated seats and mirrors). So, this is the model we bought. Ours also happened to come with splash guards, auto-dimming rearview mirror with compass and Homelink, and a rear cargo tray. Grand total: $26,814.

However, as good as this SUV is, there's still room for improvement. Here's an inside logbook glance at some of what's good and not-so-good in the Forester:

"Engine power is just adequate."

"Steering feels soggy at low speeds and too responsive at highway speeds."

"Handling is nimble."

"Crosswinds and truck wakes blow this box around a lot on the highway."

"When you really step on the throttle, the CVT flares to 4,000 rpm and you want to run and hide from the racket."

"The ride is a little choppy at times."

"I think previous Foresters rode better."

"Front seat is a bit stiff, especially the lumbar-lump - but pretty good overall."

"I'd get my Forester with automatic climate control and leather seats."

"Great visibility with small roof pillars and large windows."

"Love the big sunroof."

"Pairing a phone is a cumbersome and unintuitive process."

Clearly, the Forester is not perfect. Like all vehicles, it has its weaknesses, but in our testing, the strengths clearly dominate.

Near the end of every logbook entry, we all try to answer the question, "Would I buy one?" The majority here would be happy to see this SUV parked in their driveway. But the engine/CVT and wind and road noise were consistent complaints and possibly deal-breakers for others. Nonetheless, as an overall package, the Forester reigns as the new small SUV king.

Mike Quincy

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