|Photos by Ulysses Ang|
Subaru has always cemented its reputation building turbocharged, championship-winning rally cars. After a time, this reputation has spread onto its road cars, where the most sought-after models typically have gapping hood scoops, bright-blue paint, and gold-colored rims. However, before getting into the world of motorsports, Subaru has always been synonymous with building solid, reliable, but somewhat quirky cars. Though the quirkiness has faded, Subaru continues the tradition of making bullet-proof cars (backed up by US-based data collector Polk that says 96 percent of Subarus purchased 12 years ago are still on the road). This tradition is pretty much alive in the all-new Subaru Forester 2.0 i-L—the compact crossover that manages to be the perfect everyday performer.
Between siblings, it’s the turbocharged Forester XT that manages to grab the headlines over its normally-aspirated brother. And you can’t blame the XT for it. From tip to stern, the XT looks like the well-toned muscular athlete. On the other hand, the 2.0 i-L is more of a wallflower. The basic shape may be shared, but you’ll be surprised what a unique bumper, an additional exhaust pipe, and the two-tone alloys can do. The overall execution of the 2.0 i-L is much more subtle and though it doesn’t turn as much heads quickly, upon closer inspection, you have to commend it for being a complete package compared to other crossovers available today.
First, you’ve got to congratulate Subaru for retaining the more traditional raised wagon look with the formal two-box shape as opposed to making the Forester look more like a computer mouse. Second, you’ve got to love the headlights that mold the LED park lights into a mesmerizing halo. Third, you’ll notice the power bulge on the hood and the scallop-shaped opening (for improved aerodynamics). And lastly, it comes with a good list of exterior goodies commonly listed as ‘optional’ by its competition: HID headlamps with pop-up washers, front and rear fog lamps, power folding side mirrors with turn signal repeaters, a rear spoiler, and 17-inch alloy wheels.
As the Forester’s entry-level model, the 2.0 i-L does give up a lot of luxury and convenience features (the leather seats, moon roof, dual-zone climate control, power tailgate, to name a few are shown the door), but it still manages to pack it where it counts. The fit and finish of the 2.0 i-L is top-notch with soft-touch materials dotting the dashboard. The tighter panel gaps also eliminate rattles, a common problem with Subarus. The stalks, buttons, and knobs are all clearly marked and operate with a nice, tactile feel. The instrument cluster, though somewhat plain, offer highly-legible digits. In fact, if there’s one thing that betrays the 2.0 i-L’s entry-level status: the multi-information display on the center of the dash. There’s a wealth of information available such as Average Fuel Mileage, Instantaneous Fuel Mileage, Distance to Empty, and Average Speed, but it looks like it was nicked from a 1980’s calculator. A higher-resolution display (not necessarily the colored display on the higher trim Subarus) would be welcome.
While the archaic looking multi-information display disappoints, the 2.0 i-L still rates high compared to other crossovers because of its expansive and well-designed interior. Subaru has carefully engineered the new Forester to be bigger than the outgoing model, and the end result is an abundance of space that simply shames the competition. Upfront, it feels like you’re riding a much larger crossover but with sportier, supportive seats. Those in the back will revel in even more space thanks to clever packaging techniques resulting in an additional 760 mm of rear knee room. This level of comfort is made even better with the adjustable seatbacks and headrests. Though the Forester remains a strict five-seater (there’s actually a three-point seatbelt for every passenger), it can actually squeeze in an additional adult thanks to all that room.
Despite becoming larger and bigger than ever before, Subaru has never lost sight of what made the Forester great in the very first place: class-leading handling. Retaining its trademark Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system, the 2.0 i-L is surprisingly rewarding to drive, most especially through corners. There is a copious amount of mechanical grip and you just feel secure pushing the Forester through twisty roads. And though stability and traction control are standard equipment, the yellow warning light didn’t light up, not even once. Though the Forester carries the same basic suspension as the previous-generation model with independent MacPherson Struts in front and Double Wishbones at the back, the 2.0 i-L feels much more planted and engaging to drive than ever before thanks to careful re-engineering in critical areas like spring damping rates. The Forester now has pillow ball-type bushings at the rear, a technology first introduced in the STI! The excellent road manners is backed up by a pleasantly weighty electric power steering rack and excellent brakes.
For only the second time in the Forester’s history (the first being the previous model’s facelift), it carries two distinct powertrains based on whether you’re after performance or economy. And though the 2.0 i-L doesn’t have the same turbocharged thrust provided by its XT brother, it still manages to be a spirited performer in city or highway driving. Using the fuel-efficient designed FB20 (the XT uses the performance FA20DIT engine) the 2.0 i-L makes use of its low and flat torque curve to feel quick off the line. Besides its quick reactions in the city, the 2.0 i-L also behaves much better on the highway, achieving comfortable cruising speeds in a quick and quiet manner. And despite having its drivetrain shared with the Impreza and the XV, the larger and heavier (by 92 kilograms and 30 kilograms respectively), 2.0 i-L doesn’t seem fazed, still managing 11.36 km/L mixed fuel economy (8.62 km/L city, 18.52 km/L highway) figures.
Standard across the range are two systems designed to give the Forester an edge on both tarmac and trail. On one side is the SI-Drive which makes throttle inputs and the transmission’s response snappier with the push of a steering wheel button. On the other is X-Mode which helps beef up the off-road credentials. This system regulates things such as throttle input, brakes, and so forth to help the Forester climb through difficult terrain. That said, for 99 percent of users, leaving the SI Drive in Intelligent or ‘I’ and not activating X-Mode will suffice.
Finally, wanting to attract more buyers of the fairer sex, the Forester is designed with ladies in mind. First up, the sitting position is higher than previous generations, lending a commanding view of the road ahead. Second, this crossover benefits from a larger greenhouse enabling excellent visibility from all angles. Third, the door sill actually opens with the door enabling easier ingress/egress for women, children, and even geriatric drivers. Lastly, safety remains a top priority for the 2.0 i-L and it comes fully-loaded with 6 airbags, anti-lock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution, stability control with traction control, and hill start assist—it’s actually only one of two compact crossovers to be awarded with an IIHS+ top safety pick in the US (and unlike the other winner, the local spec 2.0 i-L is the exact same one that passed this grueling test).
The Forester is a true success story for Subaru, not just abroad but locally as well. It’s the catalyst that helped propel Subaru and its distributor, Motor Image, as a mainstream brand, challenging the well-established competition in the process. And though it’s the XT that manages to grab all the attention, the entry-level 2.0 i-L is worth a look for those who want a more practical, less boisterous everyday ride. The 2.0 i-L may have less power and less equipment than its turbo sibling, but at P 1,398,000, it still manages to be much more compared to any other crossover in this price range.
2013 Subaru Forester 2.0 i-L
|Vehicle Classification||Compact Crossover|
|Body Type||5-door Crossover|
|Engine / Drive||F/AWD|
|Under the Hood|
|Layout / # of Cylinders||Flat 4|
|BHP @ rpm||150 @ 6,200|
|Nm @ rpm||198 @ 4,200|
|Fuel / Min. Octane||Unleaded / 93~|
|Dimensions and Weights|
|Curb Weight (kg)||1,620|
|Suspension and Tires|
|Front Suspension||Independent, MacPherson Strut|
|Rear Suspension||Independent, Double Wishbone|
|Front Brakes||Vented Disc|
|Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS)||Yes|
|Traction / Stability Control||Yes|
|Fog Lamps||Front, Rear|
|Steering Wheel Adjustment||Tilt/Telescopic|
|Steering Wheel Material||Leather|
|Folding Rear Seat||Yes, 60/40|
|Power Door Locks||Yes|
|Power Mirrors||Yes, with Fold|
|No. of Speakers||6|
|Steering Wheel Controls||Yes|