2012 Subaru Forester 2.5X Convenience
2012 Subaru Forester 2.5X Convenience. Click image to enlarge

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Subaru Canada

2.5X Convenience Package

Review and photos by Michael Schlee

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2012 Subaru Forester

Subaru has gone to the dogs.  The American Automobile Association and Consumer Guide Automotive both agree that the Subaru Forester is one of the most dog-friendly vehicles out there.  Polls, rankings and comparisons over the past several years have been slotting various Subaru models as the most canine-friendly cars on the market, thanks to a combination of large cargo holds, low entry height, reasonable fuel economy and slippery-road-capable AWD (to take Fido out to fresh snow).  This trend hasn’t gone unnoticed by Subaru, which is now using dogs in its commercials, with canines piloting various vehicles with comical consequences.  We are still waiting for Subaru to play on the obvious pun of a Boxer (dog) selling a Boxer (Subaru engine configuration).

The Forester has always been a decent seller in Canada to a wide cross section of people, not just animal lovers.  All new in 2008, the current Forester received a facelift last year as well as an all-new DOHC 2.5-litre flat-four engine.  Although the new one produces the same 170 hp as the old engine, torque is up slightly to 174 lb-ft and fuel economy is also marginally improved.  Carried over from the old Forester, and still the only transmission options, are a four-speed automatic or a five-speed manual.  Our test vehicle, the 2012 Subaru Forester 2.5X Convenience Package, only comes with the four-speed automatic.

2012 Subaru Forester 2.5X Convenience
2012 Subaru Forester 2.5X Convenience
2012 Subaru Forester 2.5X Convenience. Click image to enlarge

The 2.5X convenience package is one step above the entry-level 2.5X model and adds some niceties like Bluetooth hands-free connection, a power driver’s seat and 16-inch alloy wheels shod with 215/65R16 tires.  Starting at a very reasonable $28,295, our specific tester had two dealer-installed options: fog lights ($369.95) and a cargo cover ($224.61). This pricing puts it right on par with equivalent mid-trim AWD rivals like the Honda CR-V, Nissan Rogue, and recently introduced Mazda CX-5.

Competitive pricing is a must if the Forester wants to continue selling well, as it is now the senior citizen of the compact crossover segment.  Five years is the usual time limit for a redesign and rumour has it that an all-new Forester will hit the streets soon.  Even if the Forester is eligible to receive discounts at Shoppers Drug Mart on Thursdays, it still has this great, refreshingly simplistic quality, which is a nice break from the trending focus on catchy designs that compromise functionality.  Even the simple yet well-worn exterior seems to be appealing after all these years; very similar to the Suzuki Grand Vitara’s.  The Forester is one of the last vehicles in this segment that doesn’t look out of place wearing smallish 16-inch wheels.

Inside, the theme of dated design meets useful practicality continues.  The best example is the cheap-looking Bluetooth unit stuffed like an afterthought in a former cubbyhole at the bottom of the centre stack.   Although it looks like an aftermarket butcher job, the Bluetooth is actually one of the clearest, loudest, crispest systems I have ever used.  No shouting on my end, no shouting on their end, no “Sorry, can you repeat that, I’m in the car.”  The rest of the controls are dead simple to use and are visually appealing, thanks mainly to the KISS strategy (Keep It Simple Stupid) used on the Forester’s interior.   There are no menu screens, but there is a forward sliding arm rest.  There are no paddle shifters, but there are windshield wiper heaters.  Get what I mean by simple yet practical?

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