Even for a brand not known for dramatic redesigns, the fifth-generation Subaru Forester doesn’t look radically different than the one it replaces. It’s not even changed as much as in other generational turnovers of the Forester, which was easy to see because Subaru brought previous generations to the 2018 New York International Auto Show unveiling of the redesigned 2019 Forester compact SUV.
Related: More 2018 New York Auto Show News
Not that the 2019 isn’t better looking than the outgoing model, particularly in person. It has a dash more style, with crisper lines and a bolder grille. It won’t ruffle Subaru loyalists, and why would you want to do that anyway?
The exterior might look like a mild-mannered fashion makeover, but under the new Forester is a new foundation that’s very much changed in almost all good ways. Getting the disappointment out of the way first, the 250-horsepower, turbo 2.0-liter engine — the fun option — has been dropped in favor of a slightly more powerful version of the current base 2.5-liter boxer four for all models. But to be honest, most buyers likely will be perfectly happy with it.
Elsewhere, here are four important ways the new-generation Forester is improved:
Under the skin is a new and better foundation. The 2019 Forester is underpinned by the new Subaru Global Platform that has made the redone Subaru Impreza and Subaru Crosstrek more confident as well as quieter. Noise levels have been a sore point for the current Forester.
It doesn’t shout bigger and roomier, but it is. The slightly longer wheelbase adds space to the already roomy backseat with its upright seating position. Wider-opening doors make it easier to get there, or to get kids buckled into their child seats. Cargo space also is up by a couple of cubic feet, and the liftgate opening is bigger.
You still can see in all directions. The updated vehicle design doesn’t tinker with the big windows and low beltline that have made the current Forester exceptional among small SUVs for driving visibility, many of which have gone the other way in sleeker cabin redesigns.
Standard safety tech, plus a compact SUV safety first. Subaru’s excellent EyeSight package of safety and driver assistance tech, including a front collision system with automatic emergency braking, is standard on all models. And in what Subaru says is a first among compact SUVs, the 2019 Touring trim level will have a system Subaru calls DriverFocus that uses manual facial recognition software to warn of driver fatigue or distraction.
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