2009 Subaru Forester 2.5X
2009 Subaru Forester 2.5X. Click image to enlarge

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2009 Subaru Forester

As I write this final instalment about my Subaru Forester “Bring It On!” tester, it’s actually snowing! Too late for us, and too bad for Mother Nature that the temperature is mild enough that none of the white stuff is actually accumulating on the pavement.

So, no snowy weather testing for this Subie, but after spending a month behind the wheel, this is one vehicle I will actually miss – and believe it not, I don’t feel that way about many of the cars I test.

The Forester proves that a crossover really doesn’t need anything more than a four-cylinder engine for everyday driving, and that a smaller one can be just as useful as the larger offerings out there. As alluded to last week, the boxer-type engine used in the Forester (as well as the Impreza and Legacy/Outback) provides decent acceleration, particularly in the low-end, where it out-torques many other four-cylinders of similar displacement. It’s only in the higher reaches of the tachometer that the engine runs out of breath, and starts to make mostly noise, and provide less forward motion.

Even the Forester’s four-speed automatic transmission, which is a cog short compared to the five- and six-speeds that are increasingly common these days, is a terrific gearbox. Both upshifts and downshifts are smooth, even at wider throttle openings. The torque converter (what replaces a manual transmission’s clutch in cars with an automatic) locks up early, which tends to help lower fuel consumption. Indeed, my observed average of just under 11 L/100 km for the month shows that this Subaru is really no thirstier in day-to-day driving than its more mainstream competitors from Honda, Toyota and Ford.

2009 Subaru Forester 2.5X
2009 Subaru Forester 2.5X
2009 Subaru Forester 2.5X. Click image to enlarge

I wouldn’t call the Forester the sharpest-handling car in its class. The soft suspension lends itself to a fair amount of body roll, but it still tackles curves with enough confidence to keep back road drives from turning into a chore.

While the equipment is simple, the standard features list is impressive. One of my favourite features in any Subaru is the headlight switch that can be left in the “on” position at all times, with the lights shutting themselves off when the key is removed from the ignition; replace it, and they turn on again. Who needs fancy “automatic” headlights? The five-position heated front seats – standard kit, even in this basic model – were a real blessing on cold mornings; this is a feature that, when offered in this way, makes you feel just fine about having chosen an entry-level model to save a few bucks.

Of note, though, is how well this new-for-2009 Forester is being received by the buying public: Subaru sold 755 examples of this vehicle in March 2009, a whopping 88.8 per cent increase over sales of the old model in March 2008. Once an industry outsider and purveyor of quirk, Subaru is clearly making progress in its quest to move into the mainstream.

Of course, price plays a major role in convincing people to buy your cars, and Subaru has responded in that regard, too. My test vehicle’s $26,895 as-tested price is just $200 more than the starting MSRP of the original 1998 Forester. That’s kind of incredible, considering the 2009 has far more standard equipment and refinement, is larger and safer and has an engine both more powerful and efficient than that 1998 model.

It really is too bad winter stayed away for the last few weeks, but all the same, a month in this car has shown it to be a very competent daily driver. And its efficient operation also makes it a crossover you don’t have to feel guilty about driving when the pavement is smooth and the weather just fine.

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