Quality » 9
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QUALITY | 9 out of 10
While the 2014 Forester is about the same size as before on the outside, the automaker has applied some packaging smarts with the interior, rejiggering the seating position and interior appointments into what feels like (and is) a roomier vehicle. At the same time, it's also one that's designed to provide a ride that's surprisingly refined, considering its toughness, and enough cargo capability for weekend outdoor gear.
This Forester feels completely different from the outgoing model from the driver’s seat; much of that’s because the entire instrument panel has been pushed forward nearly five inches from the seating position, while the seats themselves have been raised slightly, for a ‘hip point’ that’s more than an inch higher than before, and they’re also slightly farther apart. The floor and side sills were also lowered slightly, while the front seats get a wider range of adjustability; meanwhile, repositioning of the rear seats together with that allows an inch greater distance between the front and rear seats—that’s more rear legroom—and rear seatback folding that’s close to fully flat with a one-touch mechanism. There’s 12 percent more cargo space, too.
The seats themselves will be fine for most drivers and passengers, but those on the tall and slim side are going to find the front seats both too short and flat in their lower cushions, as well as lacking in side bolstering. In XT (turbo) models it's especially lacking, as there's no sport-seat option. The repositioned back seats, however, feel not only easier to get into than in the previous version, but more comfortable, with a subtle contouring that should help comfort on longer trips; and all but the base model get three-position recline for the (60/40-split) rear seatbacks.
There’s also a much greater sense of detailing and refinement inside. Materials—everything from upholsteries to door trim—are a solid step up from before, and Subaru has added more insulation both to the door panels and to the area just ahead of the instrument panel—altogether making a big difference in keeping the cabin quiet on rough surfaces. All models now get a fold-down center armrest, and solid-looking cupholders have been moved there instead of at the back of the center console (in turn, the center console now longer extends as far back, to give the center occupant a little more space. With the center driveshaft tunnel lowered by an inch, there's a little more foot space, too.
Reconfigured seating and cabin space makes the 2014 Forester one of the more comfortable vehicles in its class, while more sound insulation and improved materials bring a more upscale look and feel.