The fourth-generation 2014 Subaru Forester is 1.4 inches longer, 0.6 inches wider and 1.3 inches taller than the outgoing model on a 0.9-inch longer wheelbase.
The 2014 Forester's all-new body has an evolutionary look (not much different from the 2013) but with sharply defined new details. So-called hawkeye headlights and a slightly taller hexagonal grille define its slightly bolder face. All have lightweight aluminum hoods, black side cladding and body-color door handles.
Turbocharged 2.0XT models lead with a more aggressive sport front bumper, a one-piece mesh grille and, on the 2.0XT Touring, chrome-rimmed fog lamp bezels. The 2.0XTs also sport dual stainless steel exhaust tips.
The A-pillar (the strips of metal between the windshield and front windows) on the 2014 Forester is moved forward for a sleeker silhouette and improved aerodynamics. Forward visibility is improved despite a slightly higher hood (to meet European pedestrian-protection requirements), which makes room for under-hood ducting to feed the 2.0XTs' turbocharger intercoolers instead of their predecessors' boy-racer hood scoop. New partitioned front door side glass and door-mounted mirrors help reduce wind noise and improve side visibility. Subaru says the 2014 Forester's 0.33 drag coefficient is nearly 11 percent better than the outgoing model's.
The new interior takes advantage of the 2014 Forester's expanded roominess by creating a feeling of spaciousness through a combination of horizontal design elements and more space between the instrument panel and seats.
The front seats use a new cushion spring array for long-distance comfort, the hip point is 1.1-inches higher than before, and the driver's seat has 1.3 inches more fore-aft and 0.6 inches more height adjustment travel. Materials are upgraded compared to previous models with soft-touch surfaces on the upper instrument panels and armrests.
Rivaling some larger vehicles, rear-seat legroom is 41.7 inches in the 2014 Forester, from the previous 38.0, ample room for a leggy six-footer even with the front seat all the way back, and there's more room than before for a center rear passenger. Wider-opening rear doors make it easier to climb in and out and to install a child seat, and the rear seatbacks recline a bit in all but the base 2.5i model.
To better accommodate cargo, the load floor is flatter and total capacity is increased to 74.7 cubic feet when the standard 60/40 split rear seats are folded down. The available power moonroof cuts cargo space to 68.5 cubic feet.
Instruments are limited to large, round speedometer and tachometer dials and a digital fuel gauge between them. We appreciated the blue cold-engine light following a cold start but would have gladly traded it for a real temperature gauge. The climate controls are very nice. We also loved that top-center color screen for the rearview camera, which can also display a multitude of information including average fuel economy, range and entertainment system selection.
The base Forester 2.5i has a 4.3-inch LCD screen at top center of the dash that displays outside temperature, fuel economy and a road surface freeze warning. All other models have a multifunction color display with rearview camera, audio and Bluetooth information, climate control, vehicle self-check and maintenance reminder; when equipped, X-Mode and Hill Descent Control operation are displayed as well. Premium and Limited models offer a new standard six-speaker audio system with AM/FM HD (but no satellite) radio with capability to play music from CD, Bluetooth audio streaming, iPod and other players.
GPS navigation comes with a 6.1-inch LCD touch screen, voice-activated controls, Aha smartphone integration features, iTunes tagging, Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity, SMS Text Messaging and XM Satellite Radio with NavTraffic. Compared to others in this class, however, this infotainment screen seems a bit dated and small, with small touch pads (instead of easy-to-use knobs) for volume and tuning.
Touring models come with a premium 440-watt, eight-speaker harman/kardon system.
We found the covered console box small, but there's a large open bin under the climate dials that also contains a convenient 12V accessory outlet. The steering wheel spokes offer handy buttons for audio, cruise, phone and multi-function display control.