Subaru Forester right at home in Maritimes
ACCOUNTING for a quarter of its sales, the Forester is an important vehicle for Subaru Canada. In the intensely competitive small-SUV segment, the goal is pretty much like a tight baseball game: protect your lead but start stealing bases.
I once called a Subaru the guy your mom wanted you to marry. I meant it. And after a recent romp through the glorious potato fields of Charlottetown, I mean it even more. A flat tire on a muddy road will test a vehicle the way dragging a date to a dry wedding will test a relationship.
Subarus have always been more about what you can’t see than what you can, and the 2016 Forester is no exception. Redesigned last year, nobody opted to muck with what was working.
The interior is competent but underwhelming, and you won’t get lost in myriad screen selections that on other brands resemble nothing so much as disappearing down a rabbit hole, when all you want to do is lower the temperature.
The Forester gives me knobs; the Forester lets me see where I’m going on the models equipped with a navigation system and what I’m backing up into with the camera (until it gets covered in mud; see those potato fields).
I want high-tech functionality that doesn’t send me scrambling for the owner’s manual to hook up a phone. A car’s information and entertainment systems should be like an excellent waiter: intuitive, seamless and unobtrusive. The Forester’s updated Star- to be headboard-busting sexy designs or Hollywood infotainment systems that will retain those loyal Subie customers, while stealing new ones away from their top competitors, Honda and Toyota. It’s going to be that AWD system and that safety record.
But it was a random act of rock that convinced me. Taking a side “road” with admittedly a little too much enthusiasm, I met up with a veritable minefield of sharp rocks. For hours we’d been able to choose lines through obstacles, but this one got away from me. It only took a split second to carve out a gash in the side wall, but the two of us were on our own.
I can change a tire; I struggle loosening tight lug nuts, and I readily admit it. My co-driver supplied most of the power, but we got that tire changed in six minutes — because Subaru gives you the proper tools to change a tire.
I’ve driven $100,000-plus SUVS that provide little more than a couple of toothpicks and a paper clip and call it a jack (sorry Land Rover, but really?).
I don’t dread changing a tire; I dread changing a tire with cheap tools that a manufacturer hopes a buyer will never see. The flat was my fault, the quick-fix prize goes to my co-driver, but Subaru gets all the points for not just telling you to take its vehicle into the boonies, but realizing you have to get it out again.
Subaru boasts a 75 per cent conquest number: that’s the number of buyers who are new to the brand.
It’s surely a combination of a longgame goal of establishing loyalty among existing customers, surpassing its own safety records year after year, and building incrementally on what works. And maybe more people are just listening to their moms.