Having spent the last couple of decades lying low, the Subaru brand is enjoying something of a renaissance in the Malaysian market. Local assembly of the popular XV crossover has brought volumes to almost mainstream levels, boosting the brand’s visibility in our shores tremendously.
Emboldened by the XV’s success, Subaru now ups the ante with a second locally-assembled model from the TCMA Segambut plant. Launched recently, the new locally-assembled Forester brings Subaru into the heart of the SUV segment, taking on the likes of the Honda CR-V and Nissan X-Trail.
Ahead of a more comprehensive review to be arranged at a later date, we headed to a Subaru dealership and took one out for a spin.
Variant Tested: 2.0i-P
Price: RM154,488 (OTR without insurance)
Engine: 2.0-litre Boxer four-cylinder petrol
Power: 150PS @ 6,200rpm
Torque: 198Nm @ 4,200rpm
Transmission: CVT, AWD with Active Torque Split
Safety: 7 airbags, ABS, EBD, Brake Assist, electronic stability control (VDC), side impact beams, brake override, ISOFIX, hill descent control, Auto Vehicle Hold, reverse camera
Origin: Locally-assembled in Segambut
The locally-assembled Forester is available in the Malaysian market with two variants, starting off at RM144,948 for the entry 2.0i model, and moving on to RM154,488 for the higher-trimmed 2.0i-P variant as tested for this review. A turbocharged 2.0XT variant is also offered, but being fully-imported from Japan, it is significantly more expensive at RM211,729. All prices provided are on-the-road without insurance.
Safety is commendably given a high base line, with all variants getting seven airbags, electronic stability control, and reverse camera as standard. Differentiation of grade is focused entirely on amenities, where the Premium variant exclusively gets items such as swivelling LED headlamps, keyless entry with PIN code access function, electric front seat adjustment, and paddle shifters.
Follow this link to our launch story for a more detailed breakdown of features in each variant of the Forester.
At a Glance
The fourth-generation Forester has been in Malaysia since 2013. The locally-assembled model we’re getting now is a facelifted version of that model, and it can be identified by its revised head and tail lamp assemblies. Both the standard and premium models wear 17-inch sized rims with the fully-imported turbocharged model getting them a size up at 18 inches.
Inside, the Forester offers seating capacity for five people, and typical of SUVs, the rear seat backs can be folded to expand the cargo hold. Premium models get rear-mounted remote release switches that allow either side of the 60:40 split seat backs to tumble down at the touch of a button.
Cabin quality is, in general, respectable. There is nothing spectacular about Subaru’s selection of materials, but there is similarly little to fault on the account of fit and finish. The overall impression is one of unspectacular solidness. Ergonomics appear good too; in our brief driving stint, we found most of the relevant controls easy to reach and familiarize.
With outputs that are merely on par with the class average, we did not approach our brief test drive of the Forester with significant anticipation or excitement.
Much to our surprise, the 2.0-litre Boxer powerplant punches with more enthusiastic gusto than one would expect of a naturally-aspirated engine of this capacity, notwithstanding the burden imposed upon it to power all four wheels. Mid-range pull is particularly strong, making the Forester feel a lot more responsive to throttle inputs than other 2.0-litre petrol SUVs.
Ride quality seems to err slightly toward the firm side, but body movements appear well controlled. Typical of Subaru vehicles, there is a high level of mechanical refinement and in the Forester’s case, extra effort has been paid in the area of noise suppression, resulting in a vehicle that is impressively quiet on the move.
A starting price of just under RM150k puts the Forester in direct competition against 2.0-litre AWD variants of the Honda CR-V and Mazda CX-5, both of which are priced slightly higher in comparison. They do have more affordably priced FWD versions, although Subaru’s near-religious devotion to having all-wheel drive makes the existence such a variant out of the question.
All being said, the Forester appears to be a vehicle of good value. Equipment levels are competitive, and Subaru’s renowned expertise in the technology means that you will be buying into one of the best-honed all-wheel drive systems in the business.
Editor’s Note: The vehicle featured in this review was provided courtesy of All Wheel Drive Sdn Bhd, an authorized Subaru dealership based in Kota Damansara. All Wheel Drive Sdn Bhd’s premise is located at 12A-G Jalan Teknologi, Sunsuria Park.