Tuesday, March 22, 2016

First Drive: 2016 Subaru Forester 2.0i-Premium


The Subaru Forester is being attacked from the most unlikely source: the mid-sized 7-seater SUV. Though this compact crossover has its segment down pat, the allure of having a larger SUV with seating for seven has affected sales somewhat. This is critical because it’s the biggest volume driver for the purveyor of the boxer engine and symmetrical all-wheel drive. So what’s Subaru to do? Well, they’ve done the right thing: give the Forester a well-timed refresh to help it embrace a much more premium market position (without the premium price, of course).

Launched in 2013, the boxy Forester is a hold out against the increasingly sleek competition; and this is all for the better.  This year, it keeps that basic formula: an angular two-box silhouette but with some detail changes that tie it nicely to the brand’s new design language. The biggest change is found upfront with the new grille, bumpers, and lights. The grille itself still isn’t the hexagonal one found in the Legacy or Outback, but it does have sportier-looking mesh inserts. Next, the headlights have been upgraded with the signature “hawk-eye” daytime running lights along with LED beams that replace the old HID ones. The 2.0i-Premium and 2.0XT get the added benefit of swiveling units that move left and right according to steering direction. The bumpers on the Premium and XT are also shared with the fang-like design while the base model gets one with larger faux brake ducting. Peeping at each corner are new two-tone alloy wheels with the same measurements as before while at the back, the new taillights features C-shaped LED lighting and are vented to avoid moisture build-up (a common complaint on previous Forester models).




Anyone familiar with the current crop of Subaru vehicles will feel instantly at home in the Forester. The 2016 update builds upon the minor update last year and keeps items such as the multi-function LCD instrument panel, touch screen audio system, and the three-spoke steering wheel shared with the Legacy and Outback. This year, those changes are complimented by classier high-gloss piano black accents throughout the cabin and more leather inserts on the instrument panel center tray and door grips. A high-grade information display on the center console and powered front seats with memory further differentiate the Premium and XT models from the base 2.0i-L. In addition, thicker glass and more sound deadening also improve the interior quietness at the expense of a heavier curb weight. The normally-aspirated models gain 11 kilograms while the turbocharged XT adds a portly 28 kilograms.

As always, the Forester’s interior is very ergonomic. Despite being midway through its lifecycle, the cabin is easily one of the most driver-oriented ones in its class with a car-like driving position and easy-to-operate controls. Unlike its rivals which rely on either a slew of buttons or a complicated rotary controller, the Forester is straight-forward. The dual-zone climate control uses three rotary knobs while the infotainment system is on a large touchscreen above it. What’s more, there’s good space front and back for passengers, luggage, and knick-knacks. The stellar exterior visibility, a Subaru brand trademark, continues here thanks to the large glass area and side mirrors.



The only weakness to this crossover is the rather poor seat support. Driving it 560 kilometers on unfamiliar roads and on the “wrong side of the road”, it’s apparent that the seats don’t offer the same supportive bolstering found in other crossovers with a sporty bent. However, since these units are not from Japan, but from Tan Chong’s Malaysian assembly plant, they perhaps use different seating materials. A full test drive is needed before a definitive conclusion can be reached.

For the 2016 model, the Forester continues with carried over engines and transmissions. This means the normally-aspirated models use the 2.0-liter 4-cylinder FB20 engine with 150 horsepower and 198 Nm of torque. Despite its quoted acceleration times that remain at 11.8 seconds for a 100 km/h sprint, it feels taxed on the highways of Thailand. The Lineartronic CVT needs a split-second to adjust its ratios before any decent pace is achieved. It’s the same when attempting to overtake on a highway since the transmission needs to “kick down” before some semblance of power comes in. That said, when not being squeezed, it’s noticeably quieter with the characteristic transmission drone all gone. Plus, it’s actually capable of achieving speeds north of 150 km/h with enough road. In this drive, the 2.0i-Premium managed 9.09 km/L with an average speed of 50 km/h.




Of course, those who want even more performance can always opt for the 2.0XT that comes equipped with the 2.0-liter turbocharged and direct-injected 4-cylinder engine with 241 horsepower and 350 Nm of torque. It dispatches the century mark in a quick 7.5 seconds and should make the Forester much more responsive. This year, the high-torque CVT is tweaked, getting a revised transmission logic that mimics gear changes when the throttle is engaged above 35 percent.

While sheer pace hasn’t really improved much for this year, Subaru has worked to tweak the Forester’s ride via small changes to its chassis and suspension components. This starts with a stiffer front cross member that reduces chassis flex as well as optimized rear trailing bushings. The tweaks continue on to the shock absorbers, coil springs, and dampers too. The overall result is one that manages to be on the slightly sporty side while feeling less unbalanced over the rough stuff. The tweaks eliminate the hopping sensation over undulating surfaces while quelling the choppiness over smooth tarmac. The changes are mostly noticeable from the back seat where passengers feel much more at ease traveling long distances.



The changes done to the suspension system does affect the handling somewhat. Despite the quicker turn-in response (steering ratio is bumped up from 15.5:1 to 14.0:1), the Forester tends to roll and understeer through corners, especially when pushed. That said, it’s still stable and balanced as a quick trip through an on-road gymkhana and off-road autocross course proves. The brakes are also mighty responsive with excellent pedal feel and bite. The 2.0XT adds more handling spice courtesy of Active Torque Vectoring also found in the WRX and Levorg.

Those in the market for a 7-seater pickup-based SUV probably won’t be pursued by the changes done to the 2016 Subaru Forester. However, by embracing a more premium positioning, it can actually make the would-be-buyer question the rationality of that choice; maybe he doesn’t need to drive a lumbering ladder-on-frame SUV after all. Among its compact crossover peers, it stands out by being a stellar performer both on and off the road. And with the slew of changes done inside and out, it also gets that premium look and feel that helps it become the segment’s overachiever.



73 comments:

  1. I hope that seat material quality gets addressed...

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    1. Is the seat material quality issue only for Malaysian-built units? I suppose if our units are CBU Japan, then we don't have to worry about that.

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  2. I hope that seat material quality gets addressed...

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  3. "The Subaru Forester is being attacked from the most unlikely source: the mid-sized 7-seater SUV. Though this compact crossover has its segment down pat, the allure of having a larger SUV with seating for seven has affected sales somewhat."
    I think the 7-seater SUVs are not the ONLY threat but the design of this Forester is somewhat old already and the most they have done externally are merely facelifts. The RAV4s, Tucsons, Escapes have already moved on...

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    1. But all the brands you've mentioned are still selling not as well as the Forester.

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    2. "But all the brands you've mentioned are still selling not as well as the Forester."
      Yes, but those models were not selling well right from the start (i.e. year 2013). The Forester used to turn out good sales figures until it got caught by design obsolescence, hence the fall in sales figure... again I say, the 7-seaters were not the ONLY threat to this Forester, but some internal factors as well.

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    3. The Mazda CX-5 are selling well.

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    4. Subaru market share are higher that Mazda.. http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/chart-day-auto-brand-market-share-america-january-2015/

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    5. Subaru market share are higher than Mazda.. http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/chart-day-auto-brand-market-share-america-january-2015/

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    6. how about in the philippine markets on forester vs cx-5 sales?

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    7. The Forester currently outsells the CX-5. In fact, the Forester is the best-selling AWD compact crossover in the country. For a time, it was the best-selling compact crossover, period. the CR-V barely overtook it when the Honda underwent a refresh.

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    8. appreciate. Thank you sir Uly

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  4. Apply cold water to burned area.

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  5. Now that the 2.0i-Premium variant gets the same bumpers as the 2.0XT, how can you distinguish which model is turbo and which is not by just looking at it from the outside?

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    1. Simple. If it will make you eat dust, that's probably the XT version.

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    2. Twin tail pipes. XT badge at the back. And yes, you'll be eating its dust too.

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    3. No fin antenna?

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    4. Philippine market will have fin antenna.

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  6. And it will eat the gas too ,eat your wallet too ,

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    1. Not so much. The XT is quite fuel efficient.

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  7. Yes, the xt is fuel efficient - when comparing against a ford expedition.
    C'mon guys, turbos arent the most efficient out there. Even the measly 1.0 liter ecoboost eats fuel like crazy 80% of the time. Turbos and efficiency dont mix.

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    1. That's ford, this is subaru. Everyone knows ford's ecoboost are not fuel efficient. Just read some reviews online and you'll get an idea how the XT is fuel efficient.

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  8. Thats the drawback of your turbo xt , spool your turbo ,forget about fuel economy , and it eats 95 ron , turbodiesel is still more efficent as its cheaper in the ph , you consume the same amount of fuel , but in a lower price

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    Replies
    1. Bawi naman sa mahal ng maintenance ng diesel.

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    2. Mukang mas makakatipid kapa din sa layo ng presio ng diesel at gas ,tapos me 7 seater ka pa sa diesel suv ,mas malaking space

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    3. I'd rather have performance and comfort than extra 2 seats. Nakakatawa isipin na ikinukumpara mo ang 3rd world SUV sa crossover. Kabaduyan ang pinaiiral.

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    4. Brad ang pinag uusapan ay fuel economy ,hindi kabaduyan na pinagsasabi mo ,pa english english kapa ,tapos babanat k ng tagalog na kabaduyan,me pa 3rd world kapa nalalaman , hehehe

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    5. Puro fuel economy pala laman ng utak mo eh mag bisikleta ka na lang. Wag pairalin ang kabaduyan.

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    6. Kaya nga brad , lahat ng review naka emphasized ang fc , sa us site nga , naka indicate pa ang mpg ng bawat sasakyan, ikaw ata ang badoy , naka besekleta lang , hehehe

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    7. Bisaya ka ata no? No wonder.

      Anyway, di lang naman fuel consumption dapat mo tignan. Tignan mo din yung performance. Sa tingin ko sulit naman sa performance ng XT ang fuel consumption.

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    8. Ekaw naman ,hinde mo naman narineg ang salita ,nabasa mo lang , wrong diagnosis ,wrong treatment ,ok n brad , yun nga sulit talaga sa performance ,simpri ,turbocharged 2.0 240 hp , piro sabi nga ni koya uly sa ibaba , the penalty is the added fc ,thats what ive said on the topmost comment ,, u want performance ,pay the price - thats the topic you want to convey - performance , not fuel economy
      But in comparison ,subies' turbocharged is more economical than other brands

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  9. Hi Sir Uly,
    I've been reading a lot of your posts and the comments but I can't quite decide on which of the three should I get: Mazda CX-5 Pro / Subaru Forester / Subaru XV. I'm more of leaning onto Mazda CX-5 (more money-wise long term), except for the fact that it's not AWD and am unable to afford the CX-5 Sports. Do you think CX-5 Pro would be able to handle rough roads (e.g. Baguio, Sagada) with not much trouble? Thanks!

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    1. Most definitely. If you're in the market for the CX-5, I'd recommend the Pro over the AWD actually. For the added price, the CX-5 Sport isn't really as convincing as the Pro.

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    2. Agree with you on that, won't really need the more powerful engine for frequent city driving. Thanks for taking the time to reply! Appreciate it.

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  10. Ride of the pre facelift forester is very bumpy...specially sa passengers...naayos ba Ang ride sa 2016 or same ride pa rin sir uly?

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    1. As I mentioned in the story, it's softer but still on the firm side. It doesn't "hop" as much as the pre-facelift Forester though.

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  11. I chose the Santa Fe over this. Santa Fe has more power and as good handling. The styling of the Forester is too bland for today. It looks like a Tucson from two generations ago. I can't see any use of AWD for me since I don't live in the snow.

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    1. AWD isn't simply for snow. AWD is quite useful on any low grip surface such as wet roads. Of course, the penalty is the added fuel consumption.

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    2. And fluids maintenance

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    3. and you are right. the design of forester is already old. the engine is no longer a new technology and the transmission is now ordinary. maybe 10 years ago this was a groundbreaking model but now it just eat dust from the competition in terms of looks and technology.

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  12. Some may see some use of AWD but the worse we encounter here is rain and not snow where AWD is useful. Slippery conditions need extra caution no matter what you drive since AWD does not help improve cornering or braking.

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    Replies
    1. Nah. Just don't drive like an asshole and everything will be fine even without AWD.

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  13. boss uly, i love the xt and i am just waiting for May (company car plan) to buy the xt, my first subaru ever.

    accdg to subaru pampanga, the price of the newly facelifted xt will be without any discount whereas the 2015 model will have about 150k discount.

    150k discount is quite a large sum. if you were to buy an xt by May, would it be wise to get the 2015 model (and the 150k discount) or the new one without any discount?

    thanks

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    1. Hi Anonymous. Are you serious about the P150K discount on xt? Is that the one with minor update? The largest discount I was quoted was P110K inclusive of corporate discount. This is the one with minor update and they made a mistake of adding DRL (Day Time Running Lights) in the features. I am actually torn between a Mazda CX-5 2.5L sport AWD. I previously owned an XT with hood scoop. Thank you.

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    2. yes... i still have the message from them... but they said that the discount of 150k will be for the 2015 model... for the 2016 model (before the upcoming facelift) is 100k discount

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    3. Okay, I'll outline the differences for you and you let me know which one you prefer.

      The 2014 models and earlier(likely the one with the P 150,000 discount) has the older style steeering wheel, non-touch screen audio, older gauges.

      The 2016 pre-facelift model gets you the new steering wheel, new gauges, and a new touchscreen audio system.

      The 2016 mid-cycle face-lift adds the swiveling headlights, LED tail lights, new rims, new interior trim, active torque vectoring, revised suspension, and quicker steering ratio.

      Personally, I'd either get the bigger P 150,000 discount and get the 2015 or head straight for the facelifted 2016 even without discount to get the added features.

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    4. thanks... needed a little more wife-convincing to get the updated 2016 forester...

      btw, kudos to you for answering questions even from anonymous posts... i only know of two people answering queries from car websites/fora/magazines...

      you and niky of topgear..

      thanks again

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    5. Thank you for clarifying about the 150K discount, Anonymous. Thanks as well to Sir Uly for rundown on the new features of the facelifted version.

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  14. Hi Anonymous. Are you serious about the P150K discount on xt? Is that the one with minor update? The largest discount I was quoted was P110K inclusive of corporate discount. This is the one with minor update and they made a mistake of adding DRL (Day Time Running Lights) in the features. I am actually torn between a Mazda CX-5 2.5L sport AWD. I previously owned an XT with hood scoop. Thank you.

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  15. Hi Sir Uly. May I check which one is better, the upgraded Mazda CX-5 2.5L Sport AWD or the Subaru Forester 2.0XT with minor update? I will use the car mostly from house in Mandaluyong to office in Makati. Around 2-3x a year I will use the car for travel to Bicol. I also have to consider my almost 1 yr old daughter, yaya and sister as passengers on weekends. I love the features of CX-5 but I am still wary of its reliability say after 5 years. I am a Subie fan having previously owned a Forester but I find the new one outdated. I test drove the XT but I missed the features of my Mazda 3. Thank you.

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    1. I think you nailed it down right here.

      The CX-5 is a more fun to drive crossover (handling-wise) but reliability is still questionable. I've been reading ownership surveys of the first generation models circa 2012, and owners say it's just mediocre.

      That being said, if you opt for the CX-5 go for the mid-range Pro instead. I think that's a good value model with all the trimmings that make the Mazda good.

      If you want the performance and can swallow the added gas consumption, nothing beats the Forester XT in terms of performance though. Most owners, once they've tried it, won't swap the experience for anything else.

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    2. Thanks for the advice Sir Uly. I love my previous 2.5XT but have to give it up when I was assigned abroad. Having owned one before, it is too difficult for me to look at other brands. It is just that the facelifted one (where you get most of CX-5's feature) is priced at a level that will make you consider other brands such as the Ford Titanium. Another drawback for this pricing is that around Q4 2017, Subaru will launch the new model.

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  16. Replies
    1. Do you think eye sight system works in Philippines?

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  17. There is currently a recall on 2015 made foresters from Japan... http://www.reuters.com/article/fuji-heavy-recall-idUST9N12X00J

    just google and there are more articles about this (chose this article from reuters since they have their credibility established). MotorImage says Philippine Forester (CBU from Japan) are not affected by this recall. We are so special that our Foresters are built like tanks and do not need a recall regarding engine ducts like the ones in Japan and US (CBU from Japan as well)...... hmmmmm.... only in the Philippines can you get away with these!

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    1. Did Motor Image say that we aren't part of the recall?

      They don't announce it in papers, but they do contact owners whenever a recall like this occurs.

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  18. Sir Uly.

    I just came from the MIAS. I Checked out the Forester-iP. Budget ko premium lang.

    I was so excited to see the unit after reading your reviews regarding the upgrades. Medyo na disappoint ako.

    Yung bumpers hindi naman pareho sa XT, hindi rin High grade multifunction display, ganun pa rin instrumentation cluster. I thought full color LCD display sandwiched between the speedo and tach.

    Pero naka memory seats naman and meron SRH. Sana naman next time pag mag review ka ng auto wag ka manghula especially kung wala pa dito yung auto dito sa pilipinas. Medyo disappointed lang po. Keep up the good work.

    Thanks and more power to you Sir.

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    1. First of all, hindi yan hula. The units built in Malaysia do have the the high-grade multi-function display as do the full-colored LCD display between the tach and speedo. When I asked Motor Image Pilipinas about the local specs, they mentioned that we'll be getting the same specs. Coming from their own marketing, it's assumed that they know their cars, right?

      Now, as for the difference in specifications. Note this attachment:

      https://1.bp.blogspot.com/-RN4hCnHWVv8/Vu1-d46BF2I/AAAAAAAAfWQ/GwF8R5Pe0hkAdAtyD9_6GDiZp7dcinYOQ/s1600/2016_subaru_forester_20iP_specs.jpg

      It clearly indicates we'll be getting the high-grade info display. And what does it say on the upper right-hand corner? "Philippines". It's not a guess. It's information straight from them.

      I don't deal with any "hula" or rumor. You know that if you visit this site regularly. I only present the information that's given to me. If that information is inaccurate, the article will be inaccurate as well.

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    2. Sir Uly,

      I would like to apologize. Sorry po, wrong choice of words lang. Nadala lang po ako sa emotions ko kasi nga excited na ako.

      I do enjoy reading your posts pa rin.

      Thanks and sorry again.

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    3. No need to apologize.

      But you can actually see from the post that the specs are different from the units Subaru Philippines brought in.

      Anyway, we strive to give you timely and accurate information. Of course, we're only as good as our source, right?

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  19. Hello! I would like to know the audio system if its a harman kardon on all models. And does the new forester have ac vents on the 2nd row seat?

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    1. I think only XT has HK. For the i-Premium displayed at Subaru BGC, audio system is by Clarion. No AC vent at the back.

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  20. Will i-P continue to be CBU from Japan for Phil market?

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    1. All our Subaru Forester models will still be CBU from Japan.

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  21. Hello Sir, I need some advice because we're planning to get a new Subaru Forester XT 2016 model by end of June. What would/could be the advantages and disadvantages from other variants of Forester and as well as the other car models. Additional question sir if CX-3 will land to PH, because we ask one person from Mazda Alabang he said CX-3 won't come this year 2016. Thanks! God Bless!

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  22. Hi Sir, Subaru Forester has promo discount this June, please text or contact me 09228467141.

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  23. first time car buyer..please help us decide which car to choose..
    .
    Subaru forester 2.0ip.. honda crv 2.4 sx.. r mazda cx 5 pro

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    1. You can check on youtube for these models so you may have an idea which one is best for you. Also include Safety, awd system, symetrical awd, maneuvering in wet conditions, exterior, interior, features, durability, ground clearance, fuel economy, and more. Do not just depend on one review. Go check all reviews on youtube.

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  24. Whew so many choices in the 1.5 to 2M price point.

    Situation: corporate executive, does daily Taguig to BGC office commute with frequent trips to Batangas,Tagaytay, Subic.

    Priorities: comfortable ride (hellish traffic!) Reliability, then safety.

    Which would you get? Forester, Legacy , or Accord? Kia Sportage? Haha

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  25. Hi. I have a Honda CR-V cruiser limited edition 2015 and someone wants to buy it. I'm not really keen on selling it as I like the car's performance, albeit a little Wanting as far as fuel efficiency is concerned (9 km/liter). Just in case, I have my eyes on either a Subaru Forester or a Ford Escape, or anything similar within the same price range. I need expert advice, please, since I'm not really knowledgeable about all that technical stuff. Thanks.

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