Test Drive: 2012 Subaru Forester car test drives subaru reviews
Test Drive: 2012 Subaru Forester car test drives subaru reviews
2012 Subaru Forester 2.5X Convenience. Click image to enlarge

Due to its boxy design, cargo space is impressive.  A healthy 949 litres can fit behind the rear seats with space growing to 1,934 litres with the rear seats folded down.  Even with this impressive cargo hold, weight rings in a relatively svelte 1,500 kg, which may help explain how a crossover with an out-of-date four-speed automatic returned a decent 10.8 L/100 km observed fuel economy.  That number beats out the CVT-equipped Jeep Compass and the five-speed automatic Suzuki Grand Vitara we tested recently.  This lightweight boxy design does have some tradeoffs, however, like excessive wind noise at highway speeds and a susceptibility to cross winds.

Visibility over the hard plastic dash is good, although some shorter drivers may complain that the large side mirrors obstruct side-forward view because the seat does not adjust high enough.  Once in motion, the driving feel is great and it is easy to get comfortable behind the controls.  Direct, weighted steering is complemented by firm, responsive brakes.  The ride manages to be compliant yet sporty, and despite a fair amount of body roll in the corners, it always felt secure and capable.   Calling it fun to drive may be a bit of a stretch with this particular Forester, but it is not as far off as you may think.  We imagine the four-speed automatic coupled to the 224-hp turbocharged XT or even the base model’s five-speed manual would easily push it over the brink into that elusive joy-producing category.

As should be expected of a Subaru, the Forester feels planted and surefooted in snow, slush, ice, and freezing rain – we encountered it all during our test week.  It is more than just the all-wheel-drive system that gives the Forester driver a certain invincibility complex; it just feels like the whole chassis is designed from the ground up for the sloppy stuff.  To add an extra layer of safety, the Forester comes with all the latest safety kit like stability control, traction control, and a slew of airbags.

Test Drive: 2012 Subaru Forester car test drives subaru reviews
2012 Subaru Forester 2.5X Convenience. Click image to enlarge

As mentioned earlier, our Forester came with the less-powerful, naturally aspirated 2.5-litre engine that provided decent enough power.  Step on the gas and the Forester drives away with purpose, albeit in an unrefined thrash of mechanical bits.  Even though they come from the same engine family, this 2.5-litre unit in the Forester doesn’t make the sweet boxer sounds the new 2.0-litre unit in the 2012 Impreza does.  Gear changes are on the slow side, unless the transmission is in the available Sport mode that instills a sense of urgency for gear changes and holds each gear longer.

All-in-all the Forester remains a competitive choice even if it isn’t the newest, most feature-packed or dramatically styled.  But for most who buy Subarus, that’s just fine.  All they want are vehicles that will perform the tasks they ask of them, reliably and with little fuss.

Pricing: 2012 Subaru Forester 2.5X Convenience Package
  • Base price: $$28,295
  • Options: $594.56 (Fog lights, $369.95; Cargo cover, $224.61
  • A/C tax: $100
  • Freight: $1,695
  • Price as tested: $30,684.56

    Specifications
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2012 Subaru Forester

    Competitors
  • 2013 Ford Escape
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2012 Honda CR-V
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2012 Hyundai Tucson
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2012 Jeep Compass
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2012 Kia Sportage
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2013 Mazda CX-5
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2012 Nissan Rogue
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2012 Toyota RAV4
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2012 Volkswagen Tiguan

    Related articles
  • 2013 Ford Escape
  • Test Drive: 2011 Subaru Forester 2.5X Touring
  • Test Drive: 2012 Subaru Forester 2.5X Touring
  • Day-By-Day Review: 2011 Subaru Forester
  • First Drive: 2011 Subaru Forester
  • Used Vehicle Review: Subaru Forester 2003-2008

    Crash test results
  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
  • Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)
  • Connect with Autos.ca