The Forester earned a TCC Rating (our composite that factors in Styling, Performance, Comfort, Safety, and Features) of 8.4 out of 10—making it one of our top-rated all-new or redesigned vehicles that didn't either miss the $50,000 entry-price cutoff or our November 1 deadline for enough of a test drive for a full review.
Each of our High Gear Media editors have driven the top-performing models of the year. And we collectively agree that the Forester is one of the year's best for value-oriented vehicle shoppers—especially when you consider the pricing, feature, and safety details that we keep watch over here at The Car Connection.
The latest Forester marks an inflection point. It's no longer an oddball niche wagon; instead it's a fully sorted, thoughtfully designed vehicle in nearly every respect, looking beyond the crowd that dons Tevas and fleeces and incorporates a carabiner in their daily commute gear. Yes, it still does everything that crowd needs, but it's now a refined family vehicle, too.
Across the board, the 2014 Subaru Forester essentially offers all-wheel drive for about the price of most front-wheel-drive rivals. That's one value plus that we like.
We also like how in the base $21,995 Subaru Forester, you have a nice-driving, very versatile, comfortable vehicle (even one with a manual gearbox, if you want) that the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) called the best-performing yet (at the time it was tested) in the new small overlap frontal test. Option up with EyeSight, and you get the system that, in the Outback and Legacy, the IIHS found to be tops in forward collision prevention.
For busy parents and growing families, we tend to think the best choice of the lineup is the turbocharged Forester XT (we like the more chiseled look, too), which is a perky (and still quite economical) 250-hp performer that costs only $28,820 in the 2.0XT Premium form that we recently revisited. Get it, and you're in effect getting several different vehicles in one.
With the Forester's new X Mode, you're getting the durability and tractability of Subaru's ace all-wheel-drive system, mated to a system that now also expertly manages power left-to-right. Having 8.7 inches of ground clearance helps, too.
Click the Sport Sharp (S#) button on the steering wheel, and the attitude of the powertrain changes—with the CVT suddenly doing its best (and very effective) imitation of an eight-speed automatic. Grab the steering-wheel paddle-shifters, and in this mode you can get a pretty satisfying blast down your favorite back road—more satisfying than you'll get from any current RAV4 or CR-V.
What you'll end up with, no matter what, is a great driving position, responsive, carlike handling, and a very refined ride. The 2014 Forester isn't without its flaws; its infotainment systems deserve to be ripped out of the dash in favor of an aftermarket solution, and interior trim is basic and unremarkable. That said, everything feels sturdy and tough, and there's a feeling that the little pieces aren't going to be wobbling out of place anytime soon.
The Subaru Forester is far from ostentatious; but that's its modus operandi. It's an under-the-radar vehicle that overdelivers on expectations—and is likely to do so for many years.
For more information see our full review of the 2014 Subaru Forester