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Saturday, June 19, 2021

The Forester GT Lite Keeps Things Fresh For Subaru's Compact SUV


In 2019, Subaru launched the fifth-generation Forester. Known by fans as the “SK5,” it became the most obvious sign that the once quirky carmaker—known for their all-wheel drive and oddball designs—was headed straight into the mainstream.

Bigger, cushier, and with features that were more sensible than sexy, it satisfied the “needs” rather than the “wants.” True enough, when we drove the Forester 2.0i-L EyeSight in 2019, we called it the “Tito’s choice” among compact SUVs. A few months later, seat time in the top-trim 2.0i-S EyeSight did little to sway our opinion. Sure, it was prettier and better loaded, but the drive remained equally unexciting.



A year later, to allay fears that Subaru’s gone boring, they added the GT Edition. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it), it was purely cosmetic. It’s great that regional distributor Motor Image went through great lengths to have the kit designed and built in Japan, but even Subaru’s hitmaker himself—Masahiko “Jack” Kobayashi could do nothing to add spice to the drive.

This brings us to 2021, and the launch of yet another GT variant—this time called the GT Lite. Of course, you don’t see any “GT Lite” badges anywhere on this Forester. Instead, it’s the mid-trim 2.0i-L EyeSight with new aero bits tacked on. It’s basically the very same GT Edition kit minus the special wheels. With that, you get the front bumper lip, the side skirts, the rear bumper lip, a larger muffler cutter, and a roof spoiler. Yeah, it doesn’t sound exciting.



Now, eagle-eyed readers will notice that this particular Forester GT Lite demo unit is the very same 2.0i-L EyeSight we borrowed in 2019 with the GT bits put on. So, we’ll skip the entire part of our impressions and delve straight to answering whether it’s a transformative experience or not.

Well, no. This is exactly what you’ve come to expect with the fifth-generation Forester. A spacious, practical, family-friendly compact SUV with zero excitement. Floor the throttle, and the normally-aspirated flat-4 feels anemic; it’s not that fuel efficient too. In terms of handling though, the Subaru Global Platform delivers the goods. It’s safe, secure, and predictable, if a bit roly-poly. And having driven this back-to-back with the refreshed Subaru XV, it doesn’t feel as polished or refined through the rough stuff.



Perhaps the best thing to happen to the Forester this year, and this isn’t limited to the GT Lite is the upgraded infotainment system. It keeps the same 8-inch size, but ditches the low-res, zero smartphone connectivity version for a high-def one that rocks both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It’s the same one in the 2021 Subaru XV as well, so overall, there are no complaints. Plus, it also gifts the Forester with a 360-degree camera. I mean, the large windows already make parking a cinch, but for those who’re still spatially challenged, then this is good news for you. Of note, the Forester doesn’t have a direct shortcut for the camera on the steering wheel. This one requires you to access it via a permanent shortcut on the infotainment’s menu; no big deal.

Okay, so while the GT Lite kit isn’t transformative, performance-wise for the Forester, it does add good value, especially for buyers of the 2.0i-L EyeSight. Initially, it was a P 42,000 premium. But right now, all the aero add-ons are free. So, if you’re into modifying your family SUV, this serves as a good starting point. You won’t be able to install a turbo, or anything of that sort, but slap on a spiffy set of 18-inch wheels, and you’ll probably be the star of the school parking lot (once school re-opens though).



From a car manufacturer’s standpoint though, the GT Lite is clearly a stopgap measure designed to keep the Forester interesting, at least until the refreshed model arrives next year. There’s still no word on what sort of engine we’ll be getting, or if there are any improvements to the handling. At this point, let’s just hope that Subaru manages to inject a bit more fire this time around.

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