If you haven't shopped for a car recently, you may not have noticed the trend: Every car segment is getting larger.
Our long-term test car, a 2014 Subaru Forester 2.0XT, is considered a compact crossover utility vehicle.
So are the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, Ford Escape, Chevy Equinox, Nissan Rogue, and Mazda CX-5 it competes with.
2014 Subaru Forester XT Six-Month Road TestEnlarge Photo
But dimensionally, our "compact" Forester is within spitting distance of the size of a 15-year-old Subaru Outback, which was and is the brand's mid-size wagon/crossover utility vehicle.
It's worth comparing the two to understand the bracket creep that has given virtually every new car model a larger footprint, and usually more weight, than the previous generation of the same model.
Shorter but higher
Our 2014 Forester 2.0XT is 181 inches long, 68 inches tall, and 71 inches wide, and has 8.7 inches of ground clearance. It rides on a wheelbase of 104 inches, and weighs 3,650 pounds. (The base car without the turbocharged engine is 2 inches lower and 280 pounds lighter, at 3370 lbs.)
In comparison, a local 2000 Subaru Outback is 187 inches long (6 inches longer), 62 inches tall (6 inches lower), 69 inches wide (2 inches narrower), and has 7.3 inches of ground clearance. Its wheelbase is also 104 inches, and it weighs 3,480 pounds.
2014 Subaru Forester 2.0XT with 2000 Subaru Outback, Catskill Mountains, NY, May 2015Enlarge Photo
So the new "compact" car is 6 inches shorter, but sits 6 inches higher, and is actually 2 inches wider, than the 15-year-old mid-size car.
Our 2014 Forester has 1.4 inches more ground clearance, but the wheelbases are identical and so are the weights--more or less--adjusting for trim levels.
More rear-seat room
Inside, the 2014 car has front-seat headroom of 41.5 inches, legroom of 43 inches, and shoulder width of 57 inches. In the rear seat, the comparable figures are 40, 38, and 56.5 inches for the same dimensions. (All figures have been rounded to the nearest half-inch.)
The 2000 Outback, on the other hand, has 40 inches of headroom, 43 inches of legroom, and 54 inches of shoulder width. The rear-seat figures are 39, 34, and 53.5 inches, respectively.
The new car is actually 3 inches wider inside--though the other front-seat dimensions are all within 2 inches--and it clearly has a more spacious rear seat.