Perhaps hoping the American driver isn’t steeped in automotive history, Subaru has gone all in on safety. Its EyeSight Driver Assist Technology, a standard feature on every model, is an electronic Big Brother that subtly, and sometimes aggressively, discourages drivers from doing anything stupid.
Ford Motor Co. tried something similar during the 1956 model year. Its Lifeguard System protected drivers from being speared by the steering column or tossed out of the car by a sprung door latch during a crash. Seat belts, standard equipment in airliners but seldom seen in cars, were available for an additional $16. Chevrolet ate Ford’s lunch that year.
Subaru, meanwhile, is loading its cars with advanced safety equipment that is optional, or even unavailable, in more expensive vehicles. Our latest test car, a 2019 Subaru Forester Touring, came with the whole package.
Standard in all Subarus is the EyeSight system. It “monitors traffic movement, optimizes cruise control, and warns you when you’re swaying outside your lane,” according to Subaru. “The Automatic Pre-Collision Braking Feature can even apply full braking force and bring you to a complete stop in emergency situations.” But that’s not all. Our test car’s standard-equipment list included blind-spot detection, rear cross-traffic alert and the DriverFocus distraction mitigation system — “like having an attentive co-pilot along for the ride, available to give a helpful alert if the driver becomes distracted or drowsy.”
In wake of multiple tragic crashes recently that took the lives of school children trying to board buses, with distracted driving a likely culprit, distraction-mitigation technology has more than the usual appeal.
Behind the wheel of our Forester, we received a few driver-distraction warnings, which we frankly appreciated. Less welcome was the Lane Keep Assist, which nudged the car away from the white or yellow solid lines on the highway. Driving on the Saw Mill Parkway in New York, which is quite narrow in places, we turned this system off to make sure we didn’t get nudged into the side of another car.
The 2018 Forester was rated a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which also gave the 2018 model top scores for frontal crash prevention, “with optional equipment.”
But what of its driving qualities? Well, all things considered, we’d rather drive a Mazda CX-5, the most engaging of the compact SUVs, or a Honda CR-V. The 2019 Forester didn’t seem to transmit as much road feel to the driver as past Foresters did. However, the Forester rides smoothly and quietly, and is roomier than many in its class.
Another of the Forester’s strong suits is its fuel economy: 26 mpg city, 33 highway, with the only available engine-transmission combination — the 182-horsepower boxer Four and continuously variable automatic gearbox.
Compact, right-sized SUVs are hot these days, and there are plenty of alternatives — notably, the CX-5, CR-V, Toyota RAV-4 and Ford Escape. In the last three years, more than half a million Foresters have been sold in the U.S. market.
2019 Subaru Forester Touring AWD
Engine: 2.5-liter horizontally opposed (boxer) Four, 182 horsepower, 176 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: Lineartronic continuously variable automatic
Weight: 3,588 lb.
Suspension: 4-wheel independent
Ground clearance: 8.7 in.
Wheels: 18×7-in. alloy, black, with machine finish
Tires: 225/55R18 H all-season
Seating capacity: 5
Luggage capacity: 33 cu. ft.
Maximum cargo capacity: 70.9 cu. ft.
Maximum towing capacity: 1,500 lb.
Fuel capacity: 16.6 gal.
Fuel economy: 26 mpg city, 33 mpg highway
Fuel type: regular unleaded gasoline
Steven Macoy ([email protected]) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.