The long-awaited all-new Subaru Forester is here and I get to test it for its family friendliness for BabyDrive! I am a Forester owner and I didn't find too much to fault in the previous generation Forester, so without bias lets see how good this new one is as a BabyDrive!!
I am always VERY eager to test each new Subaru Forester for BabyDrive as we have one as our family car!! It's not as clean and modern as the shiny showroom car tested here though!! Ours, Gump, is old and battered and has carried us and our memories around Australia a few times since we bought him eight years ago!
Our pre-baby selves have cheered him over sand dunes, held our breath down slippery liquid dirt roads and slept on top of him in our roof tent in some of the most remote and beautiful locations!! He is also the one we brought our baby girl home in and the one she has peed all over the seats of during toilet training, has squished monster crackers into the seats and she also fondly calls him Gump too! Heart melt!!
Oh! Enough of the reminiscing!!!! Let's see how the all-new generation Forester holds up as a BabyDrive!!
Hang on a minute… they said it's all-new but apart from saying Forester in the headlights it looks pretty much the same as the old one … on the outside!! It's on the inside that you can see the Forester has really had the update.
Using the new facial recognition technology you can register a few drivers so that the car will scan your face each time you get in and remember where you had your seat, mirrors, aircon and digital display preferences and of course gives you a welcome greeting!! It is quite impressive when it works! I found probably 8/10 times it would recognise me and when it doesn't recognise your face it doesn't change anything.
This is the gimmick but it is actually used for safety too. It scans your face for drowsiness and attention too and if I turned or tilted my head to see my little rear passenger then I got a “keep your eyes on the road” warning! Which is of course great technology but how about pop a conversation mirror in so I can see my rear passengers and I wouldn't have to turn my head??! Just saying!!
So onto those rear passengers… Subaru hasn't really changed much there, the previous Forester stacked up as a pretty good BabyDrive in that sense and fitted three child seats easily in the back seats: The Britax Maxi Guard Pro in the central seat, with the rear-facing Britax Graphene on one side and Britax Unity infant capsule on the other side.
There are three top tethers in the seat backs that are easily accessible through the boot and within clearly labelled, plastic guides. The ISOFix are in the two outer rear seats, and although they are not within plastic guides I still found them easy to connect to. The ISOFix points are concealed behind flaps of seat fabric, stuck down with velcro which for me is the weakest link in the whole car! I think over time the velcro will collect dust, fluff and food and will also easily get caught on clothes and ruin them
With rear-facing child seats installed, the legroom was still really good in the front and a 184cm passenger could still sit in front of them.
Storage was quite good inside the Subaru Forester and hasn't really changed; the door bins were all well-sized to hold a large refillable water bottle, the cup holders in the back held 600ml and smaller vessels well too, but the front ones were not so practical and disposable and reusable coffee cups both rattled around as they weren't held securely.
There was a convenient well in front of the gear lever that I found good for a phone and there is a glasses case in the ceiling although the glove box was not enormous. The central console storage box had a phone and coin tray in the top, the same as the previous models, but it wouldn't hold phones bigger than my old iPhone SE!
The first improvement over the previous Forester I noticed about the boot was the floor was flat and there was no big slope at the edge. The new Forester boot fitted 15 shopping bags when empty, which was two more than the previous Forester. It also held all three Mountain Buggy strollers and the Britax tandem stroller with differing amounts of shopping bags alongside them.
The boot floor was nice and flat, suitable for an emergency nappy change and there are shopping bag hooks on both sides of the boot.
The media system is where I noticed the most change in the Forester, it is a nice and more modern system to use, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, digital radio. The sat-nav is easily navigated and the announcements easily muted too.
The reversing cameras are much better and not only do you get the large main screen image but two extra views on the screen above as well, which you could change using a button down in the central console. The old Forester had this second screen too, I am glad they kept it as I found the left-hand kerb image very useful.
There were rear parking sensors in the new Forester, which the old ones didn't have. I couldn't find a way to turn them off, just within the screen in front of the steering wheel you could adjust the volume to max, mid or min.
The new Eyesight system in the Forester is constantly scanning the road ahead for cars moving in and out of your lane and around you, scanning your face and it all felt a little over the top and all kept beeping and lights flashing, I felt a bit like an 80's tech movie!! I wasn't sure how much of it is just the same technology that is in all cars but just with flashing green lights added so that you know it is there?!
I found the new Forester a great car to drive, it is smooth, comfortable and responsive at lower speeds. I am glad they have not messed around with the comfort and drive of the Forester because I still love getting in Gump after driving all these test cars!
Overall the new Forester was a great BabyDrive, the only real dislike I have is the velcro patches used to cover the ISOFix, they look really makeshift and will definitely catch on your clothes and get fluff etc trapped in them over time!!
The previous Subaru Forester scored a five-star ANCAP safety rating in 2013 and has seven airbags as standard, but the new Forester is yet to be rated.