By Kingsley Wijayasinha
SUBARU has been gaining ground in the Thai market thanks to a wider range of products that suit the market, such as the Forester Crossover.
What’s more is that the Forester is now assembled in Thailand at the Tan Chong International Limited (TCIL) plant in Ladkrabang, with production of 6,000 units during the first year. Markets in which the Thai-assembled Forester will be sold include Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia and Vietnam.
The new Forester is priced from Bt1.33 million to Bt1.45 million for the top 2.0i S (ES EyeSight) version I drove during the past weekend.
The 2019 Forester is an all-new model, although when you see one on the road it’s not easy to tell the difference compared to its predecessor. Compared to its rivals such as the Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-5 and the Nissan X-Trail, the Forester might seem a bit bland, but to be frank, exterior design isn’t usually the strong point of Subarus. While older models had pretty unique designs, more recent models have lost that character and started to blend in with the crowd.
The Forester is based on the Subaru Global Platform, boasting a 40 per cent improvement in torsional rigidity, 50 per cent lower vibration plus improved steering precision.
There are LED headlights, LED foglamps (with jet washers) and LED tail lights, as well as roof rails and a rear spoiler. While the ground clearance is a standard 220mm, which allows off-roading, you don’t have to climb up to get into the cabin. Getting in and out is almost as easy as for a normal passenger car.
The interior looks modern enough and the slim A-pillar offers good visibility, but also feels very Japanese. There are control buttons everywhere, which needs some getting used to (the dozens on the steering wheel are just the beginning), but I like the shape and size of the sporty steering wheel. The seats are pretty sporty, not the comfy type like in the CR-V. Apart from the usual air vents, rear passengers get two USB ports and 3-zone seatback pockets good for smartphones and gadgets.
There is 520 litres of luggage space as well as enough width to store a golf bag across it. There are hooks for keeping stuff in place, as well as switches for folding the back seat. The tailgate is powered, which makes life easier.
The centre console has a special display on top for the time, air-con settings and various vehicle information, while the eight-inch touchscreen below comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, plus navigation (which didn’t work well compared to Google Maps on my smartphone).
While other markets get the 2.5-litre engine with 185hp and 239Nm, Asean markets get the 2.0-litre engine capable of producing 156hp and 196Nm offering lower fuel economy. But you can expect a hybrid version in the near future.
Engine performance is pretty mediocre even with the CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission), and you hear a strange and nagging whine during hard acceleration – it sounds like an aircraft before take-off. Not much audible enjoyment from the boxer (horizontally-opposed) engine here.
What the Forester does well is handling. While rivals come with automatic all-wheel-drive, which means that they normally run with front-wheel-drive, the Forester gets a full-time 50-50 symmetrical all-wheel-drive system. In tough conditions, particularly while off-roading, the Forester will have an edge over the competition too. The Special X-Mode system offers driving configurations for snow (sand), mud and dirt.
The suspension (front strut and rear double wishbone) and steering setup, in addition to full-time all-wheel-drive, provides for a nice road performance, although there is a lot of noise when going over ruts and other undulations. Brakes are vented discs both front and rear.
The EyeSight active safety system uses two cameras with functions such as automatic emergency braking (front and reverse), lane-keeping assist and variable cruise control.
The new, locally assembled Subaru Forester might not appeal to everyone due to its design, but surely more people will be interested thanks to the improved packaging and performance.
Subaru Forester 2.0i S ES (EyeSight)
Engine: 4-cylinder DOHC 16-valve
Bore and stroke: n/a
Compression ratio: n/a
Max power: 156ps/6,000rpm
Max torque: 196Nm/4,000rpm
Final drive ratio: n/a
Average fuel economy: 12.6km/litre
Average CO2: 183g/km
Suspension (f/r): McPherson strut/double wishbones
Steering: powered rack-and-pinion
Turning circle: n/a
Brakes (f/r): Vented disc/vented disc
Track (f/r): n/a
Wheels: 18-inch alloys
Tyres: 225/55 R16
Ground clearance: 220mm
Fuel tank capacity: 63 litres
Price: Bt1.45 million