Search CarGuide.PH

July 16, 2013

Review: 2013 Subaru Forester 2.0 i-L

Photos by Ulysses Ang
Driving the 2013 Subaru Forester through Sagada in the Northern Philippines and driving the XT on the streets of Manila proved to be just the beginning. Now, it’s the Forester 2.0 i-L’s turn to get driven.

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
Ownership 2.0 i-L
Year Introduced 2013
Vehicle Classification Compact Crossover
The Basics
Body Type 5-door Crossover
Seating 5
Engine / Drive F/AWD
Under the Hood
Displacement (liters) 2.0
Aspiration NA
Layout / # of Cylinders Flat 4
BHP @ rpm 150 @ 6,200
Nm @ rpm 198 @ 4,200
Fuel / Min. Octane Unleaded / 93~
Transmission CVT
Cruise Control Yes
Dimensions and Weights
Length (mm) 4,595
Width (mm) 1,795
Height (mm) 1,735
Wheelbase (mm) 2,640
Curb Weight (kg) 1,620
Suspension and Tires
Front Suspension Independent, MacPherson Strut
Rear Suspension Independent, Double Wishbone
Front Brakes Vented Disc
Rear Brakes Disc
Tires 225/60R17
Wheels Alloy
Safety Features
Airbags 6
Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) Yes
Traction / Stability Control Yes
Parking Sensors No
Exterior Features
Headlights HID
Fog Lamps Front, Rear
Auto Lights No
Auto Wipers No
Interior Features
Steering Wheel Adjustment Tilt/Telescopic
Steering Wheel Material Leather
Seating Adjustment Manual
Seating Surface Fabric
Folding Rear Seat Yes, 60/40
On-Board Computer Yes
Convenience Features
Power Steering Yes
Power Door Locks Yes
Power Windows Yes
Power Mirrors Yes, with Fold
Climate Control Yes
Audio System Stereo
No. of Speakers 6
Steering Wheel Controls Yes


  1. I'm curious to know if the CVT of the base model Forester has manual mode. The Impreza and XV sport the same CVT but are equipped with paddle shifters. How about the entry-level Forester? How can you get the most performance out of the engine? Thanks!

    1. I believe it doesn't. I think the Naturally Aspirated version only has a Low mode. However, the CVT on the Forester is a more mature one from what I know, with some reviewers online claiming that it is one of the best CVTs they have driven.

    2. That is correct. The Forester 2.0 i-L doesn't have paddle shifters or a +/- manual override.

    3. Thank you Ulysses! The S/I drive buttons compensate for the lack of manual override.

      Kudos on your review of the Forester 2.0 i-L! This has helped us in choosing it over a Korean CRDI-crossover.

  2. does the 2.0i-L come with a headlamp pop-up washers? i thought this is only available in the XT model?

    1. Pop-up washers are standard on the 2.0 i-L as well. All Subaru models equipped with HID headlamps come with pop-up washers.

      The base XV though, with its halogen headlamps, do not come with pop-up washers.

  3. Hi. Do you have an idea how well the new forester will be able to handle flood?

    I mean flood is already common in the metro and more so with the coming rainy season. Just wondering much flood water the forester can wade through... knee high? Gutter deep?

    1. This video might help answer some of your questions.

      check 8:14 for your specific concern

    2. Wading depth according to this site is 500mm.

      This will be at least knee deep high. Though I never tried wading my forester that high.

  4. I wish they retained the panoramic moonroof for this one. The US version (2.0 XT Premium) at least has it. It's a feature I enjoy with previous model Forester 2.0x that I currently own.

  5. Though some will argue the use of "pillow ball-type bushings at the rear" is a welcome change, on my case this caused the ride quite bouncy/jittery on rough surface (wife always complains). It is more felt on the back, try EDSA. So I guess this should had been left out for the STI.

  6. Hi Ulysses, can we expect a upcoming forester 2.0i with Triptronic/Paddle shift next yr

    1. So far, I wouldn't know. Right now though, if you want paddle shifters, you either go for the Forester XT or the XV.

  7. I just wish the 2.0 i-L had the face of the XT.... this would have been the perfect xuv for me......... "Mean looks and fuel efficiency"....
    Question: would both bumpers be interchangeable??? i mean both bumpers look pretty much the same in shape and dimension (on photos).....

  8. is the FB20 chain or belt driven? can you also compare the maintenance cost or cost of owning this forester vs other CUV?

    1. All new Subaru Boxer engines such as the FA20 and the FB20 are chain driven. In terms of maintenance cost, Subarus are actually not that expensive except for the major service at 40k, 80k, 120k when all the fluids (differentials, etc.) need to be replaced.

  9. which would you prefer hyundau tucson or forester?

    1. Forester

      If you're really bent on going Korean, the Sportage offers better value for money IMHO.

    2. The better car is the forester. and in areas where there is no Subaru dealership I think Toyota supports it, correct me if I'm wrong.

  10. Does anyone knows if the 2.0i really has a leather seat? I got a brochure that says fabric seats only.

  11. Between this and the kia sportage 2.0 AT gas, which would be a better choice. One advantage for the kia is that it is cheaper. Fotester seems higher to drive thru floods but the sportage looks capable as the intake is high as well.

    I realize this is a forester article but what am I not getting with the forester that sportage or other cuvs have? Have not test driven the spotage, is ride comfort better or worse than the forester?
    Forester I think has better driving view front and back though.

    1. Consider the AWD capability of the Forester compare to the Sportage 2.0 AT FWD that will help you from getting stuck during floods, and the Forester is cheap for its features.

      I have test drive a forester and the visibility is excellent.

      Only thing holding me back from getting this because its a 5 seater and the wife wants a 7 seater.

  12. :) i also have a forester deep cherry, we love it. highest clearance among all SUV's of it's kind. very stable AWD. it's spacious too for backseats.

  13. does 2.0i worth over xt? hows the availability of this car? i heard you have to order it first

    1. The Forester is readily available at all 8 Subaru dealerships nationwide.

      If you can shoulder the price difference, I would recommend going for the XT (turbo) model. It's certainly work the P 400k difference.

      That said, if you're penny pinching, the 2.0 i-L isn't bad either. You don't get as much toys as the XT model, but as a driving machine, it's actually pretty good as well.

  14. Sir ulysses, im planning to get a second car for alternate ride with my hyundai accent. And i'm choosing between subaru forester 2.0 iL, chevrolet 2.8 4x2 and toyota 86 MT. I know they are in different class but what would you suggest? I'm just 23 years of age and single. And planning to have a family maybe after 3 years. Thanks!

    1. Given your unique situation, I just have a question to ask: do you keep cars until they are almost past their useful life or do you change cars every a couple of years?

      The reason I ask is that if you plan to keep the car for the foreseeable future (long-term), the 86 is certainly out of the question. As much as the car's nice to drive, it's not suitable for families, even with a single kid.

      The other side of the equation is the Chevrolet Trailblazer 2.8 4x2. I currently have it for test drive, and I'm loving the new features and the improved power, better NVH of the 2014 model. That said, it may be a bit too big for your use. It's nice insurance against floods, but the driving dynamics are no where close to that of a car.

      That leaves me with the Forester 2.0 i-L. It still handles tidy. It's no 86, but it handles beautifully. Good space for the size, especially if you plan to have just one kid in the near future. Ride is also comfortable and it's also surprisingly fuel efficient. It also can go through floods pretty well with a ground clearance of 220 mm and a water wading depth of 500 mm.

      My verdict: based on your needs, go with the Forester 2.0 i-L. Or better yet, go with the Forester XT--now that's a WRX with a family-friendly body :-)

  15. hi sir ulysses..
    the agent i spoke to said that the required RON for fuel is 95. but seeing your review at the end it says 93~. does this mean it can accept 93 RON? would there be any adverse long term effect on the engine if you use 93 instead of 95?

    1. Subaru recommends running 95 octane. However, it can run 93 octane with no detrimental (harmful) effects. It only means you get less power when running on 93 octane. I suggest, if you can afford 95 octane, stick with 95 octane.

  16. Hi! I'm curious if the overtaking speed of this particular model is decent. How's the acceleration in terms of 0-100 kph? Thanks in advance and more power to your website.

    1. Subaru quotes a 0-100 km/h figure of 10.6 seconds for the 2.0 i-L.

    2. Its not decent. Compared to other SUVs, its insane. Put it in sport mode and you can race against a Montero, Wildtrak or a Santa Fe. I often do it in the Skyway after exiting the Alabang toll booth and going up the ramp. Another fun (but dangerous) thing about the Forester is the cornering grip. I can turn a corner while running above 80 km/h without braking while a similar or bigger SUV will need to slow down drastically for fear of turning turtle. But I advise against doing that stunt unless you know what you're doing.

  17. The ride is jittery/bouncy compared to the 2013+ CRVs. What are the reasons?

    1. I think it's because the Forester is designed to both a good handler and comfortable. The firmer suspension is a result of this. I don't find it any less comfortable than the CR-V though.

    2. Pillow ball-type bushings are the reason. I got dizzy test driving the Forester as did my passengers seated in the rear.

    3. During test drives, Forester's tires are at 35psi. I put in only 32 psi on my 2013 Forester's tires for daily drive and the bounce is minimized. Foresters love cargo. The car is much refined with more weight inside than with only 2 passengers. Power adjusts to the weight so performance is not much affected esp. when you put it in sport mode.

  18. i'm thinking of getting one but wondering about spare parts. Subaru is quite new in the Philippines and not sure if the spare parts would be readily available.

  19. We are getting our Forester 2.0i-L (accessorized!) next week!

    Thank you for your review!

  20. Hi, we're planning to buy Forester but my boss says the maintenance cost is high compared to that of Toyota's. I'm also comparing it with Mazda CX-5, any comments please?

  21. just curious if this comes with bluetooth feature on the steering wheel?

  22. what's a nice color for forester 2.0i-L?

  23. i am planning to buy an alternate car and i am torn between the new nissan x-trail 4x2 and the forester 2.0i premium. i am a little bit particular about the fuel consumption.. so this will be i guess the tie breaker for me. help pls... which of the two is more fuel efficient? thanx

  24. Hello Car Guide PH, been going through your reviews and comment sections. Have to say that they are very informative.

    Currently looking at Subaru Forester 2.0i L vs Honda HR-V E.

    Young family of 3 needing everyday commute vehicle here in Metro Manila with occasional trips to Tagaytay, Pico de Loro and Anvaya Cove.

    Any suggestions and possible alternatives to the 2 models would be appreciated! Thanks and more power!

  25. Sir Ulysses, is it practical if I trade my 2008 2.4 rav4 to this 2.0 forester, do they have the same pull like when going up Baguio?

  26. Hi sir Ulysses, im planning to buy the Forester 2.0L i live at pasay to QC will tis be better than everest which runs of diesel? im just concern with evereset trend being too big to go thru some small streets... ...

  27. Hi Sir Uly, a friend of mine is selling his Subaru Forester 2.0i-l 2014 model with 25k odo for 600k. I like to get your opinion if this is a good buy and tell me if I won't be spending too much on repairs on a Subaru considering that it is already out of warranty. Would appreciate your input.

    1. Try to nego for a lower price.

      Typical things to look out for in a Subaru (especially the non-turbo ones) would be suspension. They wear out their bushings quite quickly.

      Also, make sure all recall measures were already taken cared of by the previous owner :-)

  28. hi ulysses, do you recommend owning a secondhand forester? any tips. thanks...


Feel free to comment or share your views. Comments that are derogatory and/or spam will not be tolerated. We reserve the right to moderate and/or remove comments.