• Subaru recently updated its Forester line-up.
• We drove the 2.5 Sport ES CVT model.
• We list four alternatives to the Japanese SUV.
There's a lot of competition in the SUV market, with new entrants chomping at the bit to muscle in on more established offerings. South Africans have been persuaded by comprehensive standard features and comprehensive warranty and service plans when deciding on purchasing an SUV.
Hyundai's Tuscon and Kia's Sportage are examples of cars who challenged the status quo in their respective segments.
Carmakers like Toyota and Volkswagen enjoy success with their Rav4 and Tiguan models by virtue of being more established brands and vast dealer network. They can also ask a premium over their rivals in the segment.
A brand that for most of its history in South Africa has sat on the periphery is Subaru. Well known for its Impreza performance variants, the Japanese brand also has presence in mid-size SUV segment with its Forester.
We spent a few days in the latest Subaru Forester and were duly impressed by the fit and finish inside, more powerful 2.5-litre Boxer petrol motor (136kW / 239Nm) and sporty driving dynamics.
The four-model range has a starting price of R486 000 and all derivatives use a CVT. A 2.0-litre engine is carried over from the pre-facelift model.
The Forester is definitely left-field choice among its rivals. We thought it would be good to look at who exactly those rivals are, here's our list of five Forester competitors:
1. Toyota Rav4 - No longer the market leader in terms of sales, the new Rav4 was launched in 2019. Priced from R457 500, and available with either a 2.0-litre (127kW /203Nm) or 2.5-litre (152kW /243Nm) naturally-aspirated engine the Rav4's line-up fills every gap.
Buyers can choose between front wheel or all-wheel-drive models with a CVT offered as standard except on the flagship 2.5-litre VX all-wheel-drive derivative priced at R643 400.
2. Mazda CX-5 - Another Japanese SUV in the form of Mazda's CX-5 makes a solid case for itself with a five-model strong line-up. Mazda, like Subaru and Toyota offers the CX-5 with either a 2.0-litre or 2.5-litre (143kW / 258Nm) naturally-aspirated engine option.
However, the CX-5 also offers a 2.2-litre turbodiesel engine with 140kW and 450Nm with all-wheel-drive.
Pricing starts from R455 000 for front-wheel-drive 2.0-litre model with 121kW and 213Nm. Standard equipment on the entry-level 2.0-litre Active model includes: smart keyless push-button engine start, front rain-sensing wipers, reverse camera, heated mirrors and 17-inch Grey metallic alloy wheels.
3. Volkswagen Tiguan - The popular German SUV has overtaken its Golf sibling in the sales chart since it was launched in 2016. For 2021, Volkswagen will launch an updated version with sharper styling and an upgraded driver assistance systems.
It goes on sale in the third quarter of this year.
A performance Tiguan R version will also arrive locally. The model range will consist of one turbodiesel and two petrol forced induction engines. VW sold close to 4300 Tiguans last year and there's no doubt the newer version will reinforce its popularity in the segment.
It certainly isn't as capable off road as the Subaru and will certainly have a premium over the Japanese SUV.
4. Nissan X-Trail - The oldest model of the lot, Nissan's X-Trail received an update in 2017 with refreshed styling and newer interior features such as a new flat-bottomed steering wheel and new leather seats.
The range is priced from R453 500 for the Visia model. There's a choice of two engines: a 2.0-litre (106kW / 200Nm) and 2.5-litre (126kW / 233Nm) naturally-aspirated petrol engines.
The entry-level Visia model is available with a six-speed manual, while the flagship Tekna all-wheel-drive derivative makes use of a CVT and is priced at R584 000.