2014 Subaru Forester is sophisticated, practical

Soon after its U.S. debut 15 years ago, the Subaru Forester compact crossover utility vehicle became a staple of the Pacific Northwest, particularly among drivers in the Seattle area. Here was a reasonably fuel-efficient, all-wheel-drive SUV sized right for city driving but with room for extra passengers and all their outdoor gear. Ideal for daily use, perfect for mountain getaways year-round and in any kind of weather, and suitable for off-highway driving.

In April, the 2014 Subaru Forester won best in class (it competed in the Family class) at the Northwest Automotive Press Association’s Outdoor Activity Vehicle of the Year competition. In October, it won Motor Trend’s Sport/Utility of the Year award.

The early Forester was rough-and-ready but Subaru has upgraded it through the years, culminating in a sophisticated all-new version for 2014. The exterior is redesigned to present a more modern and aerodynamic appearance. The interior has been completely redone for the better, including the use of higher quality materials throughout.

Performance, fuel economy and passenger comfort have been boosted. And, even though the new Forester is only 1.4 inches longer and 0.6 inches wider, its new interior gives passengers considerably more elbow room. Rear-seat riders will especially appreciate the increase in leg room, which is now a generous 41.7 inches.

Body-stiffening, a new suspension and more sound-deadening materials also contribute to a more refined Forester for 2014.

There are six different trim levels: the 2.5i in base, Premium, Limited and Touring models, and the 2.0XT in Premium and Touring.

All 2.5i models come with the same 170-horsepower, four-cylinder boxer engine introduced on the 2013 Forester. The 2.0XT versions have a new 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder boxer engine generating 270 horsepower.

A six-speed manual transmission is standard on the 2.5i, with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) available as optional equipment. The 2.0XT comes standard with a CVT whose gearing has been tweaked to complement the more powerful engine. A manual gearbox is not available on the 2.0XT.

Fuel economy ratings for the 2.5i with a manual transmission are 22 mpg city, 29 mpg highway. With an automatic, the numbers are 24/32. For the 2.0XT, it’s 23 mpg city and 28 mpg highway.

My test vehicle was the 2.5i Touring model equipped with the automatic transmission. No doubt a 2.0XT would have been a livelier companion, but the 2.5i powertrain was no disappointment, and it has the highly attractive qualities of better fuel economy and being happy with regular-grade gasoline. The 2.0XT requires premium fuel.

A $2,400 option package on the tester added keyless access and start, HID (high intensity discharge) headlamps, and an EyeSight Driver-Assist System that includes a pre-collision braking system, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, lane sway warning, and a pre-collision throttle management system.

Keyless access and start and the EyeSight system are new features for 2014. A rear power liftgate, another new feature for Forester, was among the standard items on my tester. To the uninitiated, a power liftgate might seem like something only for weaklings and divas, but I’m neither, and a power liftgate is one of my most appreciated features on an SUV.

Other standard stuff on the tester includes a 400-watt Harman/Kardon audio system, SiriusXM satellite radio, 10-way power driver’s seat, all-weather package with heated front seats, and Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity.

2014 SUBARU FORESTER 2.5i TOURING

Base price, including destination charge: $30,820

Price as driven: $33,220

Mary Lowry has been reviewing cars for more than 20 years. She is a member of the Motor Press Guild and a board member of the Northwest Automotive Press Association. Vehicles are provided by the manufacturers as a one-week loan for review purposes only. In no way do the manufacturers control the content of the reviews.

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