New Car Review: 2014 Subaru Forester

Front 3/4 view of the 2014 Subaru Forester

If you'd asked me what you could do to improve the Subaru Forester, I'd have been struggling for any answer other than "just don't screw it up".

The Forester has, since its introduction sixteen years ago, been one of those rare vehicles that knew what it wanted to be, what its customers wanted it to be, and then hit that target year after year, generation after generation.

When I walked up to the 2014 Forester for the first time, I was worried.  It's bigger.  And bigger in these machines can be duller and dumber.

Rear 3/4 view of the 2014 Subaru Forester

I needn't have worried.  The extra space the Subaru takes up (not much, actually...the car's footprint is essentially unchanged) goes exactly where it was needed...cargo space, headroom, legroom and hiproom.  The difference is especially noticeable in the back seat, where even a six-footer who could stand to drop a few pounds (I'm not naming names) can be comfortable for long periods of time.

Best of all is the news from the front left seat.  The '14 Forester doesn't feel larger at the wheel...with the exception of a smoother, more composed ride.

And all around, the quality of materials, fit and finish just gets better.

It's very hard to find a reason not to buy a Forester, if you're in the market for a small SUV.  Price?  They start at $21,995 (only $700 more than the 2013 model's base price).  Gas mileage?  How does 24 city/32 highway sound for an EPA estimate (a significant improvement over the '13s 21/27).  Range of models? Six should be enough.  Four with the 2.5 liter, 170 horsepower 4 that gets the mileage we just noted, two with the 2.0 liter turbo that makes 250 horsepower and still beats last year's non-turbo mileage with an EPA estimate of 23 city/28 highway.

Interior view of 2014 Subaru Forester

Our tester was the top-of-the-line 2.5i Touring.  Base price $29,995. Bluetooth's standard even on the base model, as is a steering wheel with controls for audio and phone.  But the Touring also makes the following standard: A 6.1 inch touch-screen navigation system with a 440-watt, 8 speaker Harmon Kardon audio system including HD Radio, CD, Aha, iPod control, iTunes tagging, auxilary and USB connections and voice activation.  A 10-way power driver's seat with perforated leather surfaces.  17-inch alloy wheels. An all-weather package with heated front seats, heated exterior mirrors, and a windshield wiper de-icer. Privacy glass. A dual-zone climate control system. Incline start assist.  A panoramic power moonroof. A power rear liftgate and rear vision camera. Vehicle dynamics control. Tire pressure monitoring.

All for five bucks less than 30 grand.  That is a major bargain.  And if you're a minimalist, or just can't quite swing that price tag, 8 grand less buys you the base version, which is no penalty box.

Subaru strikes again. The cult car that the masses would adopt if they'd only take a test drive. So we're recommending that you do.

Meantime, know this:  The 2014 Subaru Forester has just knocked the Ford Mustang of TireKicker's Top 10 Cars (So Far) list.

Yes, it's that good.