Long before beginning our Subaru Forester Six-Month Road Test--and before the brand's recent sales surge--the Forester had built quite a reputation as one of the safer small utility vehicles or crossovers on the market. Today it lives up to that reputation; and that holds whether we're speaking of empirical results, or our own observations of what make a car feel safer from behind the wheel.
Turns out there are plenty of both types of reasons. What makes the Forester one of the safest vehicles on the road? It's a combination of serious occupant-protection measures and smart structural engineering, as well as packaging benefits like good visibility, all-wheel-drive traction that helps stability and confidence, and some seriously useful accident-avoidance features.
The 2014 Forester doesn't quite add up to a perfect 10 (like the Mazda CX-5), by the federal and insurance-industry crash-test results that weigh heavily in how we rate vehicles in this category; but in our full review of the 2014 Subaru Forester you can read more about all the safety that's offered in this compact but very family-friendly vehicle--and how we think the Subaru might have a subjective/feature-based edge.
Click on to see the six things that we see as exceptional about the Forester's safety.
EyeSight to help keep you out of trouble. The so-called EyeSight system in the Forester uses a camera-based (rather than radar-based) system to help spot road hazards up to 80 meters ahead, braking at up to 0.4g when it sees an imminent collision. With two cameras mounted up at the top of the windshield, it also allows adaptive cruise control and lane departure warnings—and altogether this system could make a big difference if your attention has shifted away from the road at the wrong moment.
Last year, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) named Subaru's EyeSight system the single highest-performing in a round of testing that included accident-avoidance systems costing many times as much. The NHTSA also notes the Forester's forward collision warning and lane departure warning systems as 'Recommended Technologies.'
EyeSight is available on Forester 2.5i Touring models, as well as 2.0XT versions like ours. On our top-of-the-line $32,995 2.0XT Premium, we have the $2,400 package that includes EyeSight along with push-button start. We've had good experiences with it in general, without any major false alarms to speak of; although we have noticed that sunset light will render the system unusable at times.
Good outward visibility. As well as EyeSight works, we're also big fans of the Forester's visibility, and how it fundamentally offers a pretty good view outward without any assistants. With the redesigned 2014 Forester drawn in essentially the same footprint as the previous model but with different proportions such as higher seating, a repositioned (forward and down) dash, and a new windshield angle—as well as well-placed pillars, we've had an easier time parking and changing lanes than we would in a number of other small crossovers.
All-wheel drive, and its lack of fluster with X-Mode. We'd also consider the Forester's all-wheel drive system to be a safety asset, as it doesn't rely on the electronic stability system for power distribution (but they're willing companions, on the road, or on a snowy or muddy trail). And with the new X-Mode and Hill Descent Control, it all adds up to unparalleled confidence at slower speeds on especially slippery slopes.
Excellent IIHS crash ratings. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has crash-tested the Subaru Forester and given it top 'good' scores in all test categories—including small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side impact, roof strength, and the seat-based rear-impact test. The insurance-industry funded safety group has also Subaru's EyeSight accident-avoidance technologies, as included in our Forester XT, as 'superior.'
That all adds up to a Top Safety Pick+ rating for 2014—among just 22 vehicles in all that have achieved the new accolade so far. Two other Subaru models (Legacy and Outback) have been named Top Safety Pick+, while two others (Impreza and XV Crosstrek) have been given the Top Safety Pick nod.
Very good federal crash ratings. In federal testing, the Forester has earned an excellent five-star overall score, including four stars for frontal impact and a top five stars in side impact. That includes top five-star results in the individual side-barrier crash test, as well as the side pole test, which compares to a collision with a rigid, immovable object like a utility pole or large tree.
The Forester earned a four star result (again out of five stars) in the federal rollover rating, although that was based entirely on a geometric calculation of its center of mass as the vehicle didn't tip in the agency's dynamic test.
The feds have, by the way, already extended those results to the 2015 Forester.
A record for safety that's unparalleled among small SUVs. For even more confidence, it's worth a brief look at how well the Forester has done out in the real world. According to data from Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI), the companion organization to the IIHS, the 2010-2012 Subaru Forester is the only vehicle in the 'Small SUV' category to have achieved 'better than average' scores in all three injury-related categories (personal injury, medical payment, and bodily injury). Admittedly, this doesn't guarantee anything about the 2014 model; but it speaks well for how the company engineers its vehicles.
Follow our Subaru Forester Six-Month Road Test, and follow The Car Connection on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.
(c) 2014, High Gear Media.