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March 28, 2017

Review: 2017 Subaru Forester 2.0i-L

Subaru is in a cusp. From building hardcore turbocharged tarmac-ripping machines, they’re now glorified grocery getters and soccer mom mobiles lining the driveways and garages of idyllic Stepford Towns globally. And that’s not such a bad thing given that for every hundred well-manicured, pooch-carrying, muffin-baking housewife out there, there’s just one Colin McRae wannabe. Now, before long-time Subaru fans will take to arms because of this travesty, it also goes without saying that this move doesn’t erase what the brand’s built up for more than 60 years. Case in point is the 2017 Subaru Forester 2.0i-L.

Launched four years ago, the current generation Forester is already approaching the end of its lifecycle and yet, Subaru seems to have done something right as the aesthetics remain timeless. It’s the Chuck Taylors of crossovers: plain, but it’ll match just about any outfit. With a restraint against swoopy lines and bulbous fenders, it’ll continue to be in fashion for decades to come; something that can’t be said with other crossovers which are like Adidas NMDs: bordering on the baduy. Of course, Subaru has given it the requisite nip and tuck last year by changing the grille, bumpers, headlights, and taillights—all of which will likely escape the typical Stepford wife.

The same goes for the Forester’s interior which is a perfect example of function over form. It’s not as flashy or techy looking as some of its rivals and for that, it comes across as disappointing. And yet, it’s got everything down pat: excellent ergonomics, stellar visibility, generous space—it gets top marks on them all. Going in and out is easy with doors that swing up to 90 degrees and door sills which are extra low. The simple, high set dash also means a lot of knee and leg room for those in front, while the back seats remains good enough to sit three abreast comfortably. Finding a good seating position is quick thanks to the steering wheel offering a good range of adjustment. The seats themselves are quite comfy too, even comfier than the XT’s, despite looking flat and unsupportive in photos. Reach around and every knob, stalk, and switch falls right into place. There’s no need to read the owner’s manual here as the Forester is pretty intuitive.

Now, if there’s anything you can hate about the Forester is that it convincingly hammers down the fact that you got the entry-level model. In fact, it’ll shove that in your face every chance it gets. The gauges and its graphics are plain and dull. The multi-information display looks like it’s been nicked from a classic calculator. The display on the infotainment is decidedly low-res (and the touchscreen controls aren’t snappy either). And the voice control only seems to understand two words: “help” and “cancel.” It’s a good thing that the steering wheel is great to hold, the dashboard still has soft-touch materials on it, and the doors have fabric inserts; or else there would have been effigies of the Forester burning in protest everywhere. Do yourself a favor and spring the added cash if you can and head straight for the 2.0i-Premium.

Of course, looking at things in a purely mechanical sense, the 2.0i-L and 2.0i-Premium offer more or less the same driving experience, so Forester buyers on a tight budget may be well served by this entry-level variant. At this point, fans of Subaru’s racing efforts may want to look away since this normally-aspirated model doesn’t offer straight line performance remotely close to its turbocharged brethren. Don’t get it wrong: it’s solid and commendable; it’s just not fast. At city speeds, it’s lively enough with the Lineartronic CVT reacting well. Plus since it’s a non-turbo, the throttle is easier to module and feels less jumpy. And all things considered, 8.06 km/L (average speed 16 km/h) for a full-time all-wheel drive machine is not bad. It’s only when you require that extra grunt that you’ll wish you had the turbo. While you hear the transmission reacting as quickly as it can, the power just isn’t there. Even with the SI-Drive set to Sport, the powertrain feels taxed likely due to the portly curb weight which is 30 kilograms heavier than the Subaru XV.

While straight line performance is a bit of a letdown, it still handles pretty tidily. It still lives up to Subaru’s reputation of making great handling cars and that’s evident when you push and toss it through corners. Granted the typical Forester won’t do canyon carving with their pet poodle, the copious amounts of grip make it feel secure in every situation. It does without the XT’s Active Torque Vectoring, but considering the target market, it’s largely unrequired. Kudos though the new steering rack which makes it more obedient during turn in. There’s a bit of body roll and lean, but it’s all controlled. Also welcome for this update is the improved NVH and riding comfort. Not only is it noticeably quieter and smoother than before, but the ride is just more pliant this time. The choppy ride of the pre-facelifted Forester successfully addressed.

This current-generation Forester, known by its model designation as SJ5, is the continuation of Subaru’s move towards the mainstream. Although there’s no denying it still has all the elements that make it a Subaru, from the smooth horizontally-opposed engine to the impeccable handling provided by the all-wheel drive system, it’s now wrapped in a friendlier, more practical package. And while purists and long-time fans may roll their eyes at the prospect of seeing their beloved rally-bred machines now driven by everyone from hipsters to yuppies to mommies to geriatrics, it also shows the completeness of the Forester package. Yes, it does feel lacking in some areas, but truth be told, it’s hard to beat the value proposition of this crossover.

2017 Subaru Forester 2.0i-L
Ownership 2017 Subaru Forester 2.0i-L
Year Introduced 2013 (Refreshed: 2016)
Vehicle Classification Compact Crossover
The Basics
Body Type 5-door SUV
Seating 5
Engine / Drive F/AWD
Under the Hood
Displacement (liters) 2.0
Aspiration Normally Aspirated
Fuel Delivery EFI
Layout / # of Cylinders F4
BHP @ rpm 150 @ 6,200
Nm @ rpm 198 @ 4,200
Fuel / Min. Octane Gasoline / ~91
Transmission CVT
Cruise Control Yes
Fuel Economy @ Ave. Speed 8.06 km/L @ 16 km/h
Dimensions and Weights
Length (mm) 4,610
Width (mm) 1,795
Height (mm) 1,735
Wheelbase (mm) 2,640
Curb Weight (kg) 1,518
Suspension and Tires
Front Suspension Independent, MacPherson Strut
Rear Suspension Independent, Double Wishbone
Front Brakes Vented Disc
Rear Brakes Disc
Tires Yokohama Geolandar G91 225/60 R 17 V (f & r)
Wheels Alloy
Safety Features
Airbags 7
Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) Yes, with EBD
Traction / Stability Control Yes
Parking Sensors No, with Reverse Camera
Other Safety Features X-MODE,
Hill Descent Control,
Auto Vehicle Hold
Exterior Features
Headlights LED, Active
Fog Lamps Yes, Front & Rear
Auto Lights Yes
Rain-sensing Wipers Yes
Interior Features
Steering Wheel Adjust 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
# of Speakers 6
Steering Controls Yes


  1. Best SUV we have bought, even though its the base model, we are loving it. plus we bought it at 250k discount. would love the XT but since we are driving it on the city 99% of the time, the NA engine is adequate. plus it doesnt feel under-powered when we have our weekend trips. I can even keep up with the new monteros and fortuners. but it loses steam past 120kph though.

    1. Wow, that's a big discount... 250K, is that a cash discount? so what is the after discount price of your forester?

    2. What I know is the max discount given for the Forester is P150k only. What Subaru dealer gave P250k since I'm considering getting one. Thanks

  2. What I don't get is, why would people buy a 4 wheel drive with its added bulk, thus more fuel consumption, and much costlier maintenance when all they do is drive around the city.

    1. Because not all consumers drive in cities. And you won't know when you need those 4 wheels to spin.

    2. If you live in the city why would you need the 4 wheels to spin? Slick roads need great tires and a little bit of caution and not 4wd

    3. Just because you live in the city doesn't mean you don't go out of town. Don't assume too much fellas.

    4. Obviously you drive a wrong wheel drive car, and drives along C5/EDSA because you're not man enough to go out of metro.

    5. Symmetrical AWD is simply not for sissies like you.

    6. Dude its a 4 cylinder its not a V8 4cylinder plus all wheel drive = ok gas milage. My dad drives around a new toyota prado the one with fhe V6 and that thing gets a lot better gas milage than my gas toyota fort thats a 4x2 the prado is a full time 4x4 so there is power to the wheels always lol

    7. We got one we need it. We live in the city in a condo where the ramps are so steep its hard for most 2wd cars to go up them specially when it rains our fortuner used to struggle a lot specially due to the bad factory tires changing them helped but awd or 4wd are the best, plus you get more stability during more rainy drives.

  3. did uly just say that NMDs are baduy? lmao

    1. We all have our opinions and yeah they're kind of baduy.

  4. ^The looks is getting old... have a friend who got his front bumper replaced which took a little more than 1 month and about Php 150k (although he paid only the participation fee)... its a reliable car but maintenance cost like PMS is more expensive than RAV4...

    1. The RAV4 is a Toyota, so parts are expected to be cheaper than everyone else.

  5. I can't help but agree w/ Uly, this is indeed Function over Form in its truest sense. Outstanding safety features making it the best in its class. It even has a latch at the lower of portion of the door enabling the passengers to push the door outwards in the event of a major side collision.

    Im excited w/ the new model w/ the Subaru Global Platform technology. Given the expensive maintenance, i'll still trust this vehicle to carry & protect the most precious cargo of my life.

    1. Function over form? Great designs can be both functional yet attractive. Accept the fact that aesthetic design is an important factor people are considering in their buying decision.

    2. I agree, who wouldn't want a gorgeous looking crossover anyways? But then again, Subaru never boasted of its looks. Hence the term Function over Form. Subaru takes pride in building cars w/ excellent Symmetrical AWD system, solid built quality, comfort & outstanding safety features in mind.

      Buyers would rather choose this than a crossover vehicle w/ drop deap gorgeous design but has a tight interior space. The reason why the Forester is one of the best selling crossovers in the market.

    3. Maintenance is actually cheaper than toyota most of the time.
      Oil changes are much cheaper most specially them asking 2-3k while toyota charges 4-6k for synthetic oil on for a gas fort and a gas prado. The fort uses more oil the V6 prado go figure but still price per liter is cheaper at subaru.

  6. Hi, Uly. Which would you pick between the Forester 2.0i-Premium or the X-Trail 2.5L 4x4?

    1. the xtrail is not even a real 4x4, its mostly front wheel drive. go get the 2.0i- premium, unless you really want that 3rd row of seats the xtrail has, which is useless cause you cant even fit a normal filipino sized adult. also the xtrail's cvt is so dull.

    2. Only toddlers can fit in the X-trail's third row, and the fuel economy is worse. The 4x4 doesn't match up to Subaru's, it has less visibility, not as good driving dynamics, and more, "matagtag." Surprisingly, I've been hearing left and right that the X-trail isn't even as reliable as the Forester (let alone the Rav4 and the CRV)

      It has a better interior (subjectively) and a more powerful aircon, though.

    3. I've been using xtrail as my daily commute for 2+ years already without problems. Not matagtag as someone claims, ang smooth ng ride. 4x4 is not awd only spins rear wheels when it loses traction. Happy owner here.

    4. hey happy owner. with subaru you always got tracktion to both front and back wheels 65/35 torque split between front and back wheels at all times and when you need more power back it can go up to 50/50 split

  7. We haven't had any problems with ours (We have the oldest current-generation model, 2014). It's solid, reliable, has great visibility, has great suspensions, and indeed prioritizes function over form.

    I will still get jealous whenever I see how good-looking the interiors of Ford Escapes, Honda CR-Vs or Hyundai Tucsons are, and I wish that the engine isn't as noisy, but it serves its function well. Not to mention that it's really fuel efficient as compared to other gas-only variants in its class.

    I'm also excited to see this in its new iteration. I hope they offer a newer 1.6 turbo engine in the new one, similar to the Levorg.

    1. If your forester's engine is noisy, then you need to get it checked. ours is so quiet and with little to no vibration that my dad thinks the car is turned off whenever we stop at a stoplight. I told him its on and it doesnt have that stop-start function lol

    2. The engine of the Forester is so smooth & almost zero vibration. There are times you wouldn't even notice that it's turned on. Have it scanned in the casa. Check the engine support as well, that might be the cause.

    3. LOL Hyundai Tucson interior is nothing get jealous of, it is a sea of plastic, infotainment is junk (3.5"), seats are fabric only even at their TOTL, among others.

    4. engine mounts and supports are ok, its a boxer engine of course,

    5. The Forester is a good product. The problem is that it guzzles gas faster than other 2 ltrs. compared. Simply because it's an all-wheel drive. For a Sunday family car it's perfect. But for daily use make sure your wallet's loaded to pay for that gas.

    6. Yeah, a noisy boxer engine sounds odd. Better have it checked.

      Boxer engines are supposed to be quiet.

    7. turbo doesnt always = good. it's great for torque and some fuel savings due to the displacement down sizing but it becomes a hassle if you dont like turbo idling before shutting the engine off

  8. Just regretted all those years I ignored this brand, don't even know where I got the expensive-difficult-to-maintain stigma until I decided to purchase one after looking at its specs and value. I have nothing but praise even if I compare it against the japan cbu CR-V that was briefly sold here few years ago. Goodness, everything from ride quality to interior materials the forester is just a notch better. The CR-V feels more linear though in terms of acceleration, but fuel economy for both is almost the same. And the ergonomics of the forester is really tough to beat.

  9. At this Subaru's price, you can get an crdi Tucson with an excellent diesel engine and still have 150k left over to upgrade to a premium stereo like Pioneer rather than crappy stock headunits that most cars and suvs come with.

    1. Opt for the similar 2.0l gas Tucson and the difference comes out a whopping 300k+

    2. but the 2.0l tucson is missing sooo much safety features I think if im right it only has ONE airbag and abs+ebd ONLY. while with subaru you pay that amount and get a LOT of stuff, traction control stability control all wheel drive cruise control bluetooth audio 6 airbags or 7 i think. it's pretty good value for money


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