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2014 Subaru Forester: Today's Compact Crossover Was Mid-Size In 2000 Page 2

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2014 Subaru Forester 2.0XT with 2000 Subaru Outback, Catskill Mountains, NY, May 2015

2014 Subaru Forester 2.0XT with 2000 Subaru Outback, Catskill Mountains, NY, May 2015

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The increase in dimensions stems from two basic forces: First is the array of far more stringent crash-safety tests that modern vehicles must pass.

The 2000 Outback has just two airbags, and startlingly slim roof pillars, whereas the 2014 Forester has seven airbags and pillars--that while good for its class--are still considerably thicker.

The second force is greater consumer demand for more: greater interior space, more accessories, more features, more options. A little here, a little there, it all adds up.

READ: 2015 Subaru WRX Manual Vs. CVT: Tips To Help You Choose

Higher seats

Where the new car feels most different on the road--aside from greater refinement and quite a lot more power, since we're comparing a 260-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged four to a 15-year-old 165-hp 2.5-liter four--is in the driver's position.

2014 Subaru Forester XT Six-Month Road Test, Catskill Mountains, New York

2014 Subaru Forester XT Six-Month Road Test, Catskill Mountains, New York

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The 2000 Outback has an essentially car-like driving position, and we'd wager that much of the 6 inches it gives away in height goes to lower the driver's seat.

The new 2014 Forester, on the other hand, has a higher driving position.

That improves forward visibility--at least behind anything that's not a full-size SUV or pickup truck--but the driver senses a higher seat position during cornering. The Forester can be tossed around with ease, but you do have the sense that you're sitting higher up in a tall vehicle--which isn't the case with the car-like Outback.

DON'T MISS: 2015 Subaru Outback Video: New York Auto Show

The other major difference is the seats. Despite its slightly narrower cabin, the older Outback has larger seats with more generous bolsters that hold you in place superbly.

2014 Subaru Forester

2014 Subaru Forester

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Riders sit on the Forester seats rather than in them, by comparison, and the lower cushions in particular feel shorter, narrower, and less bolstered.

As for the brand-new 2015 Subaru Outback, introduced at the New York Auto Show in April, it's almost an entire car size larger than our old 2000 Outback now--about the same length, but on a longer wheelbase, wider, and most of a foot taller than its 15-year-old predecessor.

But that's another story.

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