Suzuki Grand Vitara vs Subaru Forester vs Hyundai Santa Fe vs Jeep Liberty vs Ford Escape vs Saturn

carczarcarczar Member Posts: 23
I've started this topic after reading the topics
on other small SUVs. I've found there to be a lot
of comparisons, and I think it makes sense to have
a few on your shopping list before you fall in love
with one of them and sign away your check. Lucky
us, we have several choices today.
Personally, I favor the Santa Fe because it has
the most bang for the buck. It also feels the most
upscale among the three models, in terms of NVH
damping, sophisticated exterior and interior
styling, ride comfort, and lots of gizmos. In
short, it feels more expensive than what you have
to pay for; the sound of the door thud resembles an
upscale German sedan for example.
The Tribute is definitely for the sporting crowd.
Corners, accelerates, stops well for an SUV. But
at the same time stiffer ride and subpar
fit-and-finish penalize its advantages. Also
reliability is a question mark, with numerous
recalls since it hit the market. Room and utility
are comparable to the Santa Fe.
Finally, the Forester is also a good choice
although it is definitely a 'box on
wheels'(translation: homely). The Forester sits
lower than the other two models, giving it an
advantage in handling, but frankly I think it
defeats the purpose of owning an SUV if you have to
do without the commanding view offered by the
higher stance. There are better choices out there
if you opt for an AWD wagon (VW Passat, or even
Subaru's own Outback) that sits low, handles
better, and is more sophisticated. Also the
Forester cannot be had with a V6.
To wrap it up, I'd choose the Santa Fe for
comfort, value and a dose of luxury, or the Tribute
for sporting light off-track duties on the
weekends (although I'd keep a cellphone handy in
case of mechanical failure), or the Subaru for its
proven reliablity and longevity.


  • big_guybig_guy Member Posts: 372
    So, in other words, the ultimate small SUV would be made by Hyundai (to include all the bells and whistles, outstanding warranty, and "upscale" look for a small price), it would have the suspension, steering, and brakes from the Tribute (for the sporty handling and great braking numbers) and it would have the engine, transmission, and AWD system from the H6 Subaru Outback (for proven reliability and power).

    I think I would buy a car with that composition as well!
  • e_l_greene_l_green Member Posts: 30
    Note that "commanding seating position" is not a virtue. I have rolled a truck with a "commanding seating position" while avoiding a deer on the road, and can attest that it is NOT a fun experience. Or do you think that spending a week sore and bruised, with a wrist in a cast for six weeks and with cracked ribs for three months (for the first month I could not even sleep through the night without heavy pain medication, because every little movement in my sleep would make my cracked ribs hurt and wake me up, leaving me exhausted for the next day), is "fun"? Thank god for seat belts, and thank god that my Ford Ranger's roof was stronger than average for pickups and SUV's!

    Any tall, boxy vehicle with a high seating position will roll over if you ask it to do energetic accident-avoidance maneuvers. That is why the Santa Fe and Tribute have stickers on the driver's side sunvisor saying as much. That is also one reason why I bought my Subaru Forester. In crash tests it out-performed every competitor, and with its low center of gravity it is unlikely to roll over when doing energetic maneuvers (and in fact does not have said sticker on its sun visor). Its performance off-road is mediocre -- it isn't going to run the Rubicon anytime soon -- but my Forester has proven quite capable at taking me up rough forest service roads to trailheads, which is as off-road as I (or most people) get with an SUV.

    If you want REAL off-road capability, buy a Jeep Cherokee. It does not have the "commanding tall seating position" that you mention, but has off-road capabilities that make all such cars look ridiculously pretentious. A stock Cherokee, properly equipped, will run the Rubicon without a problem, despite the seating position not being 20 inches above the ground, and despite a low center of gravity (due to the unibody construction) that makes it unlikely to roll (and in fact the Cherokee has very good rollover ratings in the Insurance Institute's statistics).

    Of course, you give up on-road ride and handling with the Cherokee, plus a lot of gas mileage (the I6 is powerful but very thirsty), but you gotta decide what you want. Personally, I decided I did not need such extreme off-road capabilities, and bought an SUV that was what I needed -- something to get me to a trailhead, without the sacrifices in on-road capabilities of a REAL off-road vehicle.

  • carczarcarczar Member Posts: 23
    I am sorry to hear about your personal ordeal. I hope you've fully recovered.
    You are absolutely right in saying that any car with a lower center of gravity can be a much safer choice than a top-heavy SUV.
    However, it is also a reality that many buyers of SUVs choose it because it has that "commanding view" enabled by the high seating position. Just imaging getting stuck in traffic with a behemoth SUV or minivan in front of you while you're sitting in a Honda Civic. It's unfortunate that America's become an SUV nation, but that's a reality. And I am not here to promote people to snap up the SUVs and abandon their cars.
    Nor do I condone the ever-growing size and thirst of the behemoth SUVs that are driven by a single driver during commuting hours.
    But the marketing reality is that the mainstream SUV buyers favor the high seating position as well as the all-weather versatility and utility. Add to that the fervent pitch by manufacturers to project the romantic image of an active lifestyle of their potential customers.
    Given the circumstances, we should push for safer, more frugal SUVs cause SUVs will be around as long as people will buy them and gas is affordable. And in this context, I think small SUVs, driven with care makes a lot of sense.
    And ofcourse people who are concerned about the rollover potential have the choice to go for the likes of Forester or other AWD wagons. People vote with their checkbooks in this market economy, and as long as SUV's are "in" it's not easy to tell them otherwise. Under the circumstances, i think the Santa Fe and Tribute/Escape are viable options; not too big, thoroughly modern, relatively good MPG, smooth V6. I like the Forester as well.
    By the way the Jeep Cherokee is aimed at a different category of customers altogether. It's more of a down-to-earth, hard core SUV that attracts different crowd than the mainstream buyers who opt for crossover vehicles.

    Finally, it's important that the public be educated on the risks associated with driving SUVs. I've seen too many devil-may-care reckless driving by SUV owners who think they're invincible. Unless the federal law mandates that SUV drivers need to go through a series of tougher driver ed courses and training to obtain a separate drivers' license, we have to share the road with some of the idiots.
    The educated buyer however has a choice in terms of safety, economy, fun factor, etc., and we should honor that freedom of choice.
  • p0926p0926 Member Posts: 4,423
    First off I'll admit that I'm biased since I'm a Forester owner. However, here's my take on the Forester:

    Handling: Best of the 3

    Accelerating & braking: comparable even though the Forester is the only one with a 4-cylinder

    Interior room: The Forester has as much as or more front seat room than either the Santa Fe or Tribute

    Appearance/Styling: This is a purely subjective field but I'll grant you that many people find the Forester's looks less than exciting.

    Reliability: Subaru has established a reputation of building extremely reliable vehicles. On the other hand, both the Santa Fe and Tribute are first year models with all the inherent potential design flaws. As an example of this, the Tribute/Escape is all ready on recall #6. While Hyundai has a completely deserved reputation of building junk. Of course they are working diligently to change that as evidenced by the length of their warranties.

    Cost: Equipped comparably, all are in the same ballpark.

    Just my .02

    -Frank P.
  • plaaaaaneplaaaaane Member Posts: 32
    I was on the IIHS web site today trying to find any kind of onfo on the Santa Fe, (None), but I came across a link to statistics on injuries and thefts.

    I thought it nice that Forester is much better than average on injuries. I must admit I giggled when I saw its MUCH better on theft! No kid wants to go joyriding in something that looks like that I guess. I think in both cases that is a great plus. It must be good on insurance costs.

    Had my first Sube in '76. A DL I believe. And so far it looks like the only one to get for safety and bumper durability...... and theft resistance.

  • rshollandrsholland Member Posts: 19,788
    The reason the Forester does better in terms of injuries, is the fact that it is a car (according to the EPA) and not an SUV or truck, and, unlike the Escape, Tribute and Santa Fe, must meet the tougher safety standards that all cars must meet.

  • bobmazdabobmazda Member Posts: 4
    Tribute with a few recalls which by the way mine has zero loved by our family...glad we got it. Last Mazda gave us 188K of great service.
  • hciaffahciaffa Member Posts: 454
    We purchased our Forester in 99. Unlike the other sites that people sugar coat the Forester, I tend to be frank about ours. We have had nothing but problems with ours since the second week of ownership. The auto tranny went and had to be dismantled and bebuilt, you think they would have given us a new tranny. The brakes squeal, moan and growl, they are soft and spongy feeling which does not give a re-assuring feeling when stopping. Many other Forester owners have noticed this as well. Our Forester not only pings when accelerating but there is a nasty pinging, rattling sound when we de-accelerate, funny I had the service manger take a ride and he heard it but when I brought it in for service they could not duplicate it so no service was done. The gas milage is terrible. Grant you the sticker said 23/27 but we average 16-17 in the city and 19-21 on the highway and we are not heavy footed drivers. Right know I am doing a gas survey for Subaru, they want to gather info, but from my central CT. dealer I get that its normal. I have tried different octanes as well as brands but the result is always the same. I bought this vehicle for the AWD that its known for and for my wifes assurance while driving in foul weather. Right now as it stand that if this problem continues we might purchase a Santa Fe after the warranty expires.
  • kennyh2kennyh2 Member Posts: 9
    I buy a car about every 7-10 years, so I am certainly not an impulse buyer. Therefore, before buying the Sante Fe, we researched ... and researched and researched. Bottem line: If you want a car-based SUV that looks and feels great, is well equipped, looks compact on the road but mid-sized from the inside, and is moderately priced, the Santa Fe is a very good choice. But, you must be able to live without a hard charging engine (but one that is adequate enough). We came mightly close to buying the Tribute/Escape, but after just a little internet research, the multitude of horror stories scared us off. On the other hand, both the professional and consumer reviews of the Santa Fe were universally strong. We were (and are) somewhat concerned about the "first year model" factor, but Hyundai's bold warrenty got over that hump. Price? We got a heck of a deal - about $19,500 +fees & tax for the GLS V-6 two-wheel drive model, with a few added accessories. (and like I said, it comes well equipped anyway - cruise, CD player, split rear seats, etc). We are getting a lot of compliments, noticing a few turned heads -- and the best part: we are very happy with our decision. My two-bits....
  • joinmijoinmi Member Posts: 2
    I am down to deciding between Tribute and Santa Fe. I am looking for info on the 4WD systems. Tribute appears to really be an all wheel drive system that can be locked in to keep the power from shifting back to the front wheels. Is the Santa Fe system similar, or is it true full time 4-wheel drive. Also, for those with experience with the Tribute, I am wondering if the automatic transmission shift on the drive column is a constant annoyance or if you get used to it. The thing is so long I almost knocked the one I test drove out of gear trying to operate the radio. Input is appreciated.
  • sliwinski1sliwinski1 Member Posts: 5
    I'm glad to see there are other like minded people out there. As much as the Scoobie Forester was a great value, ride and AWD (it's awesome), I just couldn't get comfortable in the seat. My dog just barely fit (height-wise).

    I finally found a Tribute, they're selling like mad in Chicago, and took a test drive. A Dx-V6. The seating was ok, but the driving in snow condition was a little sketchy. I'm a competent off-roader, and I know this vehicle is not for off-road, I have a Cherokee for that. But the tires are mediocre and the traction was mediocre. (No ABS) I did not get stuck, but slipped alot. I engaged the diff lock and it was a bit better. I did not get stuck but when I used the brakes, the sliding distance was not comforting. (Kudos to the Suby's AWD)

    I then went and test drove the Santa Fe GLS for the second time and found that despite the sluggish start, which doesn't bother me, the handling was better in 6-8" deep snow covered road. The tires are better and I gave it a good slalom on a close by forest-preserve road. It slipped a little bit but it didn't worry me. The sporty feel was good and the road handling was good also. During the slalom test the vehicle did not rock or tip, like a cherokee does.

    I'm somewhat apprehensive about the Hyundai name.
    But you know Honda and Toyota did't get off to a great start either in the U.S.

    Although here's some food for thought. Look and touch (push) the front and rear bumpers, and front wheel panels of both Santa Fe and Tribute. All three features on the Tribute were soft and weak. I checked each on the Santa Fe and they were appreciably stonger. Now I'm no crash test scientist, but I suspect I'd put my money on the Sante Fe when the test results come out. (Can you tell I was on the web for too long looking at crash stats). No stats on the Sante Fe or Tribute yet.

    My biggest obstacle right now with the Sante Fe is that the rear seats do not fold flat. My 110 lb. dog was not too happy about that, even though he fit just fine in the cargo area. (I've got two dogs).

    Good reviews on the WEB for both.

    I suspect I'll be making my decision after the first of the year.
  • kostamojenkostamojen Member Posts: 55
    Ive been out car window shoping as I always do :) but anyway, just 2 days ago, we were at the local Mazda/Subaru dealer (Yup, same place) and I sat in both the Forester and the Tribute again (I wanted a better look at the Tribute, and I always sit in all the cars on the lot :) )...

    And anyway, after sitting in several other models (Protege, MPV, Impreza, Legacy) I then sat in the Tribute... I was horendusly suprised to find the interior pannels to be extremely flimsily put together... So I sat in another model, top of the line w/ leather this time... Same thing... Then another... Same thing... This bothered me tremendously.
    So then of course, i went and sat in the Forester... Nothing flimsy there. Lackluster maybe (tribute was more so IMO), but not flimsy. And considering the Recalls, perhaps the Tribute is a rather poor put together vehicle...
    And a couple months ago, I was able to check out the Santa Fe. Guess where? Maita Subaru/Hyandai where my mom got her Legacy GT Sedan :) I found the price of the Santa Fe apealing, especially for having a V6 + 4WD (Definatly the lowest price for that, Tribute/Escapes get in the $22k+ range, and the Rav4 w/ 4x4 = $21k plus, all with less features than the Santa Fe...) I was also suprized at the Hyandai build quality, definatly a step up for them. Hyandai also has their new DX something orether thats a rather upscale Sedan... I doubt we can consider the "new" Hyandai to be so... Lackluster, no?

    Anyway, on to a more comprehesive comparison-

    Looks: Definatly the Tribute wins this, with the bulbous Santa Fe coming in dead last... (PS, check out a black Forester S with a Spoiler... Thats pretty sweet looking!)
    Off-road ability: Not the forester... But none of these are major Off-roaders. ANY road maybe, but not off-the road (PS, Subaru's AWD is a big plus in "Real Life" conditions. Also note: Subaru's outstanding Rally racing reputation)
    Ground Clearance: This is pretty suprizing... 8.4 (higher trim Tributes), 8.1 (Santa Fe) and 7.5 (Forester)... Despite the Forester's small stature and lack of "view height" it still compromizes little in ride height (Also note: Outbacks have like 6.5 inch ground clearance, and the Impreza's have 5+ inch ground clearance... Go look under the car's if you have a chance, its neat)
    Quality: Subaru wins this one. Foresters have very good reliability, as do all current Subaru models. Tribute bottems this group, but I havent heard anything bad about the Santa Fe yet...
    Fuel Mileage: Subaru wins this one too, not by much though... (like 21/28 vs. 19/23 (SF v6) and 19/24 (Tri V6))
    Warranty: Duh, Hyandai! :)
    On-road Performance: Forester... Better turning radius, lower center of gravity, and suprizingly good car-like handling put it at the top still... Despite the Tributes faster 0-60 time.
    Cargo room: 33.1 Tribute, 32 Forester, 30.5 Santa Fe
    Weight: 3200lbs Forester, 3400lbs Tribute (V6 4x4), 3700lbs Santa Fe (V6 4x4)
    Price: Santa fe wins this easy... V6+4wd for #21k... But the Forester is right there, minus the V6 (Note, Foresters boxer 4 = 165hp, its no slouch, and its rather light as well) Tribute takes 22k+ for the same ammenities. (Check, its easier to tell than Edmunds)

    Final Analysis: This one goes down to Personal Opinion purely... Best Price + V6 + Warranty for the Santa fe? Or, Better Reliability + Better Mileage + Proven Subaru AWD? Or More interior room + More HP + Higher ride height?

    After going over these stats, the Santa Fe has re-caught my attention. But the Forester still holds the candle IMO... Tribute would easily be my favorite, if not for the shoddy build quality, uncomfortable interior, and very bad reliability problems so far...
  • doverlydoverly Member Posts: 2
    I had been following the Tribute on the Mazda web site for 9 months when they finally hit the dealerships. I was convinced it was the vehicle for me. Test drove it and loved it--except the gear shift lever drove me crazy--awkward and an eye sore. Couldn't get one ready built with my options, so I was holding out. Dealers said they were selling faster than they could get them, which is why they claim they had only a few. However, I wasn't seeing any out on the road. Then I came to Edmunds and read about all of the problems and stop sales, and I think this is the real reason they don't have any on the lots. I felt like the Mazda dealerships (I visited about 6)were very underhanded about the whole thing--never giving me a straight answer. I saw a commercial for the manta be (didn't even know it existed), went and tested it. At first I wasn't sure because I had been set on the Tribute for so long, I couldn't get out of that mind set. I bounced back and forth, testing both vehicles a multiple of times. The Mazda dealerships looked at me like I was speaking in Korean when I said I was also looking at the SantaFe. The ones who would admit that they knew what a Santa Fe was would only say "Well, the SantaFe doesn't compare to the Tribute!" (They could give me no substantiation for that claim). The Hyundai dealers were extremely professional and knew all about the Tribute and could tell me point by point what was better about their Santa Fe. Bottom line, I bought a Santa Fe over Thanksgiving weekend and I love it!! Several factors: I felt that the interior appointments on the Santa Fe were much better than Tribute--styling and attention to detail, more luxurious. The gear shift is on the floor, so it's not in the way. It came with heated seats, (don't laugh--if you live in a cold climate or you've ever ridden in a car that has them--they're a must!). Little things--the visors in the Mazda seemed cheap, mirrors didn't light up, they do on the SantaFe. I love the way the SantaFe rear hatch is so easy to open. Center arm rest in the back seat of the SantaFe.
    Hidden cargo storage compartment. 4 wheel drive automatically engages (I think on the Tribute you have to engage it yourself.) I could go on and on. All in all, I felt the Hyundai was sturdier, better built and was more stylish inside and out. The Tribute looks so plain and boxy to me now, so much like the CRV. I have 1700 miles on my SantaFe, no problems at all, and it drives beautifully. The engine starts off slowly when it's been sitting overnight in 20 degree temps, but it heats up fast and can really sail. I got the LX with heated seats, floor mats, roof rack rails, etc. for $24,400 out the door (DC area.-College Park Hyundai) Downside: no sun roof, although I can have one installed privately for $895 with lifetime warranty, and no cassette in radio. Don't count it out because it's a Hyundai, it defies any prior opinion you've had or heard before!! People who stop and ask me about it (and I have had MANY) "can't believe it's a Hyundai!" P.S. The rear seats DO fold down Sliwinski1, so there should be plenty of room for pooch (what made you think that they didn't?)
  • rutegerruteger Member Posts: 60
    Under normal driving circumstances, the Tribute/Escape 4WD system engages exactly the same as the Forester/Santa Fe in that the computer automatically senses torque slippage and controls how the power is applied to which wheels. On dry pavement, the split is something like 90% drive to the front wheels/10% to the rear. The 4WD switch on the dash of the Tribute/Escape is for *locking* the 4WD into a 50/50 drive split. This is why the switch says 'LOCK' on it.

    This is a nice feature to have if you get stuck because you can control how the traction is applied to all four wheels. If you don't have this, like on the Forester or Santa Fe, you can get stuck because traction will be applied by the computer to the wheel that is free. You'll sit and spin, just like an open differential 2WD car.

    The only problem is exactly what's happening now. Uninformed consumers think that the switch on the dash is required to get 4WD on the Escape/Tribute. They're going to be locking the 4WD unnecessarily and it's going to cause damage to the system if it is engaged all the time, meaning warranty repairs. I can foresee Ford/Mazda eliminating the switch in the near future, and it's too bad, because it's a good feature to have.
  • sliwinski1sliwinski1 Member Posts: 5
    Ruteger, you're right about the lock switch on the Tribute. When I test drove the Tribute, I knew about this feature. When I drove around their snow filled parking lot with the lock off, the Tribute struggled and slipped in the 5-7" of snow. Now I know this is not a off-road SUV, and I engaged the differential lock to get equal push from both axels. It still was slippy although it got me through without a problem. I also know that even the Cherokee with its low gear 4WD can get stuck. And you are right that if the uninformed consumer left the lock on they may cause problems. However, I have heard that uninformed consumers also leave their 4WD on in larger SUV's when their not supposed to. I guess the dealer should take some time to explain this.

    I would like to say that probably all the people that have been posting here have done too much research (as I have) and are cautious and informed consumers.

    Nonetheless, I still prefer the Santa Fe. No switch, no lock, but I won't be taking it in areas where I would get stuck. If I end up driving off a the side of a highway and can't get out. I suspect the Tribute wont be able to get out either... they both do not have low end range and torque is only good at high RPM's.
  • sliwinski1sliwinski1 Member Posts: 5
    Ruteger, your right about the lock switch on the Tribute. When I test drove the Tribute, I knew about this feature. When I drove around their snow filled parking lot, the Tribute struggled and slipped in the 5-7" of snow. Now I know this is not a off-road SUV, and I engaged the differential lock to get equal push from both axels. It still was slippy although it got me through without a problem. I also know that even the Cherokee with its low gear 4WD can get stuck. And you are right that if the uninformed consumer left the lock on they may cause problems. However, I have heard that uninformed consumers also leave their 4WD on in larger SUV's when their not supposed to. I guess the dealer should take some time to explain this.

    I would like to say that probably all the people that have been posting here have done too much research (as I have) and are cautious and informed consumers.

    Nonetheless, I still prefer the Santa Fe. No switch, no lock, but I won't be taking it in areas where I would get stuck. If I end up driving off a the side of a highway and can't get out. I suspect the Tribute wont be able to get out either... they both do not have low end range and torque is only good at high RPM's.
  • pdebusepdebuse Member Posts: 1
    Ruteger, to my understanding the Santa Fe has an option for an ABS/traction control that would provide a similar type of traction that the Escape/Tribute has without the switch. When a wheel slips it is detected and the brakes are applied to stop the slipage which transfers the torque to the other wheels that have traction. Kind of like a limited slip differential but done through the braking system.
  • ddeemoddeemo Member Posts: 8
    Here is an article comparing the Escape to the Santa Fe, note versions compared and prices are in Canadian Dollars.
  • kenskens Member Posts: 5,869
    Actually, with automatic tranny Subarus, you can get the drivetrain split power 50/50 if the gear selector is in 1, 2 or Reverse.

    Also, the manual tranny Subarus default power split is 50/50.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    currey: rumors abound, but it could get a light-pressure turbo 2.5l with over 200hp, a 2.0l turbo with 240+hp, or the 212hp H6 from the LL Bean and VDC. I'd gladly take any one of those!

    Some also say it may be based on the Legacy platform instead of the Impreza, but I don't think it will. It'll probably get a stretch in the wheelbase, and maybe the rear multilink suspension from the new Legacy, so interior room will increase.

    The big question is, can they do it without gaining 400 lbs?

    Maybe they'll even style it more toward the tastes of folks like Bill, who knows. I have not seen any spy photos yet. The current one is very much function-over-form. Despite being light and small, the usable cargo room offered is better than several bigger SUVs.

    Will it get taller? Maybe a little, but not much. Subaru uses the low center of gravity in its advertising. It probably will get a seat mechanism like the new Impreza, which ratchets. It's kind of like the one in newer VWs.

    Should be interesting. You have to remember, the Forester, competitive as it is, is in its last year on the current platform. It's already the 5th model year!

  • big_guybig_guy Member Posts: 372
    The manual switch that locks the differential on the Tribute to 50/50 is only effective at low speeds. Once the vehicle gets up over 18 mph it shuts out the electronic clutch that is engaged by the switch and goes back to normal operation (i.e. 100% FWD until wheel slip occurs and then power is re directed rearward for traction).
  • sschumersschumer Member Posts: 19
    Earlier this week my wife and I picked up her new 2001 Subaru Forester S. I wanted to take a moment to share how pleased I was with this decision, and the positive buying experience involved. A couple of months ago I set out looking for a replacement for my wife's 1992 Honda Accord EX Wagon -- which has served us (and our two young sons, now ages 10 and 8) extremely well through 220,000 miles. We were looking to buy outright again, and the buying criteria was clear. In priority order, it was: reliability, safety -- based largely on all-wheel drive and air bags offered, cargo space, gas mileage, key features that had to include among other things a moonroof and leather interior, and price. Based on this, another Honda Accord Wagon would have hit the mark (except for the all-wheel drive). But since Honda no longer makes wagons, I began researching other small wagons and small SUV's. I spent a couple of months going through Consumer Reports, Consumer Guide, The Car Book, and a host of Internet sites that included Edmunds,, Car and, and others. What I learned was the Subaru Forester was far and away the best choice for us. It is clearly a better overall product than either the Toyota RAV-4, Honda CR-V, Mazda Tribute or Ford Escape among small SUV's. What really set the Forester apart was its consensus top-of-the-class rating by Consumer Reports, Consumer Guide and The Car Book; its proven
    reliability; excellent customer satisfaction; all-wheel drive from most experienced manufacturer, along with a viscous limited slip rear differential; highest HP & torque 4-cylinder engine; best-of-class crash rating; best-rated handling and ride; larger cargo space; and 60 month/60,000 mile major components warranty. Key features that were also important to us but pretty much comparable to its competition were the 4-wheel ABS & disc brakes, side impact door beams, side airbags (except the RAV-4), moonroof (except for the CR-V, which doesn't offer one and can't have one installed -- Honda says they have to remove a roof beam, which would negatively affect the structure of the car body) and leather interior, gas mileage, price, heated seats, ability to use regular gas, a full-size spare, heated power mirrors, loaner cars for overnight service while under warranty and door-to-door shuttle service thereafter . Although I have to admit even the little things -- like the de-icing front wiper, integrated window antenna, multiple storage compartments, a rubber cargo area tray, subfloor storage, a dimming rear view mirro with electronic compass, and the easiest-to-open rear door (especially when compared to the CR-V) -- were advantages over the competition as well. I never would have bought the Ford Escape or Mazda Tribute -- neither companies have good reliability records overall, and these products are in their first year of production. The President of Mazda happens to be an old friend of mine, so I knew if I wanted the Tribute I could get a great deal. It
    wouldn't have been worth it.

    I'll also tell you we considered a few wagons -- with the Subaru Outback and Volkswagen Passat coming out on top. Here, my wife and I simply preferred the SUV-style over the Outback wagon. And while the Passat wagon is a highly-rated vehicle, to get what we got with the Forester would have meant spending an additional $4,000 to get all-wheel drive, forcing us into the 6-cylinder model with much poorer gas mileage and a requirement to use much more expensive premium gas. All in all, I can't get over the outstanding combination the Subaru Forester offers in terms of reliability, safety, features and value.

    With all this, I still had just a bit of hesitation before making the final buying decision because neither my wife or I had ever owned a Subaru. This is where Al Rowe, our salesman, came in. His professionalism, knowledge and straightforwardness in dealing with both of us made the difference. In sales myself -- 20 years with IBM as a salesman, sales manager and now sales executive -- I've learned a thing or two about salesmanship and the right way to earn a customer's business. Al Rowe represented Subaru very well. We expect this to be just the start of a long-term, positive relationship with Subaru of Morristown, New Jersey as we need to service our Forester along the way -- and look for our next car!
  • sasquatch_2000sasquatch_2000 Member Posts: 800
    Why do I get the feeling that the previous poster is either "salesman Al Rowe" or some other Subaru employee? This same posting appeared in at least 4 places without Subaru in the topic's title.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    Both Tribute and Santa Fe have part-time AWD systems. They're aren't true 4x4s because they lack a low range. The "4WD" label is misleading, IMO. They are really FWD/part-time AWD.

    They are part time because they only operate on slippery surfaces. 90% of the time they are FWD.

    That is the Forester's edge. It's AWD is truly full time, wet or dry. So it acts to reduce understeer and neutralize the handling on dry pavement, which is 90% of the time. Part-time systems are by definition re-active, but the Soob is pro-active and works to prevent slip in the first place.

    Despite all the clearance, C&D managed to get an Escape stuck in a recent test, and they couldn't even dig out. The Navigator saved it.

    OK, none of these are intended for off road use. My Forester was great on the beaches in the Outer Banks and around the apple orchard for picking Granny Smiths. That's what these are intended for and the Forester was great.

    The other point is that the Tribute isn't really a Mazda. We own two Mazdas now and would consider a Mazda SUV, but the Tribute is a Ford through-and-through. Ford Duratec engine from the Taurus with the lame and problematic Ford CD4E tranny.

    If you disagree about the tranny, I'd invite you to read up on the 626 topic under Sedans. It's interesting, because the 5 speed trannies are Mazda units, and the auto for the V6 is also a Mazda unit. Only the 4 cylinder auto gets a Ford tranny, and guess which is the ONLY one with reliability problems?

    To top it off, the Tribute has a bigger engine with more torque, and that tranny is being burdened with more weight to haul as well.

    I personally would not gamble on the longevity of a known-bad Ford tranny.

    The interior room is a big plus, and that a powerful V6 is offered is nice, but Mazda should have used the 626's engine, or even the Miller Cycle engine, along with a MANUAL transmission, and a true Mazda unit to boot.

    Hyundai is an underdog and I hope they do well. The V6 should have more power, though, and it also needs to be offered with a manual tranny. Kind of funky looking but give them credit for being unique.

  • sschumersschumer Member Posts: 19
    Sasquatch, don't know whether this pleases you or not to learn, but I really have no ties to Subaru whatsoever. My story and opinions are my own. I'm an IBM worldwide sales operations executive, located at 1133 Westchester Ave, White Plains, NY. Feel free to check. My apologies for the multiple postings. I'd never posted before, thought it helpful to share my experience within the different postings that made sense. This is what my research turned up, but in the end it's just my opinion and not be taken as anything more than that. I have found it interesting so far that almost no one seems interested in debating the points I made between these vehicles, instead just assuming my bullishness for the Forester must be because I'm a Subaru mouthpiece. To each his own.
  • scape2scape2 Member Posts: 4,123
    stock in IBM not performing damit! :-) Thats ok, I'm in it for the long run I'm only 34. I have faith Big Blue will take a good turn...
    Back to the Forester debate. The Forester is the better "offroad" SUV when comparing to the tribute. The Foresters frame is more stout and can handle the terrain better. But, The Trib will eat a Forester for lunch on the highway, curves or hills when it comes to the road. (V6 of course). So it all comes down to your preference, road manners, or offroad manners?
  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    Actually, on the curves I'd take the Forester's low center of gravity and 5 speed availability any day.

    For the hills and long straight highway drives, the torque of the V6 ought to come in handy. What they really need to offer is a manual tranny though!

  • rplumrplum Member Posts: 48
    This is a great thread, hopefully it keeps up, as my current pet project right now is to "benchmark" the Escape against the Forester. A 2001 RAV4 gets into the mix in mid to late February.

    sschumer, thanks for your comments, SOA couldn't have said it better.

    Both vehicles have their ups and downs, but it's nice to read the real world opinions.....I'm trying to spend a lot of seat time in the Escape right now.

    your comments are great.....

    Subaru R&D
  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    Interesting, so we have a factory rep, eh?

    We have a "Subaru Crew" under the Owners Clubs topics, and I'd like to invite you to drop in there too.

  • rplumrplum Member Posts: 48
    Not really a factory rep.

    We just have a small office here in the US that does special research projects/requests for FHI in Japan.

    We're a separate entity from SOA.

  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    That's cool. We have someone (Patti Mickel) from SoA who participates actively in the Subaru Crew topics. I've noticed you've already found those topics.

    Our group also has sponsorship for events (from Quality Subaru of Dandridge, TN) and SoA even catered our last event for free!

    How's that for service?

  • dniehusdniehus Member Posts: 83
    I've driven a Forester for three years. I'll admit it has been a trouble free car. I would have loved to have stayed with Subaru after my lease expires in May. Over the past two years, I've sent SOA several emails with product suggestions. They have always promptly and courteously responded. Well, since 1998 the small SUV market has changed dramatically. The Forester has not. Yes, there now is an S+ (true, awesome moon roof), but otherwise only very minor changes. To me, the Forester just has little excitement or sex appeal. From the first time I test drove the Tribute I felt exhiliarated. A feeling I never experienced driving my Forester. The Forester is a very safe, reliable vehicle -- but, to me, a very boring choice. I realize to some extent I may be taking some risk with the relatively untested Tribute. And, believe me, I have agonized over this decision for several months. But, I'm ordering my Tribute ES on Monday. Zoom zoom!
  • topgntopgn Member Posts: 132
    Santa Fe , Tribute , or Forester, just not the "Aztek". We have enough of Eye pollution in this world..
    Of course why would anyone in his right mind buy a vehicle that in just it's second year, is being
  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    Subaru has added plenty of content over time. Cruise control, power mirrors, 2nd odo, temp gauge, more torquey engine, rear LSD, 3 year roadside assistance, etc.

    Better yet, prices haven't really gone up. If you account for inflation and content, costs are way down.

    If the Tribute makes your heart pump, can't blame you I guess. Hope it's reliable and the mileage at least comes close to the Subie.

  • billtungbilltung Member Posts: 255
    So far 5500km, still very enjoy, no major problem.

    Interesting news about Santa Fe:

  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    Just went to the Baltimore auto show, and was able to see the Santa Fe and Tribute up close.

    Have to say, not bad.

    The Santa Fe in particular was a pleasant surprise. I'm not into the styling much, but that's subjective. The interior was nice and roomy, and the one I saw carried a price tag of just $21.5k. It seemed heavy and probably could use more power, plus I'd wait to see how long-term reliability scores do, but otherwise it seemed like an impressive value, especially considering the warranty.

    The Tribute was pretty nice, too. Very roomy interior, despite compact proportions. I prefer the Tribute's styling, but hated the front high-back seats and column shifter. Price was about $25k on the one I saw, which would be OK if they get a hold of the quality control quickly and stop using the Ford CD4E tranny. 3/50 on the warranty is not enough given this tranny's bad history in other vehicles.

    So both seem competitive but could be better. Give the Santa Fe a bit more power, and keep quality in check long-term. I'd also like to see a manual transmission.

    The Trib could use a manual tranny (which would kill two birds with one stone - more speed and dump the CD4E) and different front seats with adjustable head rests. The current ones look like a Pinto's.

  • natescapenatescape Member Posts: 176
    I almost bought a Santa Fe instead of my Forester S+, but the gas mileage and environmental impact were concerns (the SF had a real bad rating on the window, like twice that of the Forester). I was VERY impressed with it. My wife drives an Elantra wagon and loves it.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    That's no bull, either. Forester won a "Preferred" Award from Automotive Market Environmental Sensitivity (AMES). There is a link from the Edmunds main page.

  • sasquatch_2000sasquatch_2000 Member Posts: 800
    What the heck are you talking about?
  • natescapenatescape Member Posts: 176
    There was a sticker on the window of the floor display Santa Fe and Forester. I think it was an EPA air pollution meter, but I could easily be wrong. It showed a line from 1->10, with 1 being cleanest and 10 being dirtiest. I believe it had about 5.4 as "average".

    The Sube was well lower than average (I think it was like a 3.5 or so) and the Santa Fe was well above average (like a 7.5 or so). Being a closet environmentalist (I almost bought a Jetta TDI for the fuel economy), I went with the significantly cleaner Forester.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    Interesting, I'll have to check on Monroneys (window stickers) from now on.

  • jvmagisanojvmagisano Member Posts: 1
    All- FYI.

    The Santa FE is a full time four wheel drive vehicle with a 60/40 split. The split never changes. Neither the Tribute nor the Forester can run ALL the time in four wheel drive. The Tribute can run for short durations when in "lock" mode with a 50/50 split but when you exceed 18 Mph it switches back into normal mode "AWD". All all wheel drive systems can induce instabilities into any vehicle. AWD can be a detriment at times. The Explorer is such a vehicle that has caused accidents due to it's AWD system activating at highway speeds and causing the vehicle to either spin out or tumble even while traveling straight. Don't assume you are better with AWD.

  • jsteckjsteck Member Posts: 1
    Gotta love the web: I narrowed down my choice of a mini-SUV to two -- the Trib and the Forester -- just through web research (and a lot of eyeballing). Then when I went for test drives I asked for the internet salesperson, got great, knowledgeable service, and a fair price with relatively little haggle.

    The Mazda dealer had no stock and said the Escape was getting the parts (e.g. rear discs), so the wait was long and no price breaks. He had one Trib available for a test drive. The handling was overall excellent -- very fun to drive! And I loved the rear-seat room. The interior was somewhat chintzy; my guess is they don't want to undercut the Explorer, as the Escape is almost as wide and roomy, and, best of all, very stylish.

    So why did I go with a Subaru? One word, no two, no three, sorry five-- quality, reliability, safety, and fuel-efficiency. I'm giving up a 13-year-old, 35mpg, ultra-reliable Toyota Tercel, finally ready for a change after 159K miles. I want ski and backpacking access, great handling, room for 5 in a pinch, a good commuter vehicle, and I *don't* want my truck in the shop. The Forester, a finely-tuned, proven vehicle, handles as well as the Trib, gets much better, more consistent gas mileage, and is safe. I'll be teaching my kids to drive in this vehicle. The clincher was checking out the user boards, which confirmed my fears about the first-year Ford reliability - ugh! Not to mention very inconsistent (and lower) gas mileage.

    Lately, every time I drive up to the ski resorts (in our minivan), I just can't wait for my new Roo -- five more weeks on a custom order. I treated myself to the 'S', which, compared to my basic Tercel (which doesn't even have a day/night mirror!), will be like driving the Taj Mahal...

    Regards all,


    P.S. I like the way the Forester looks, whereas I love the Tribute's styling. So watch out, Juice, if Ford works out the bugs, I think they'll grab market share from every mini-SUV maker out there.

    P.P.S. The Mazda/Hyundai dealer also took me for a spin in the Santa Fe. Not bad; I just didn't like it's looks or feel compared to the Trib.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    Wrong, wrong, wrong.

    The manual-equipped Forester has a center viscous coupling differential, which allows the full time AWD. Power is split at 50/50 and when one axle slips more than the other, the fluid in the diffy heats up and locks temporarily, ensuring that the power gets to the wheels with grip.

    It is absolutely full-time. In all gears, all speeds, even in reverse, AWD is active.

    With that center diffy AWD is not a detriment. With 4WD locked (i.e. no center diffy) you could have binding, like with the Explorer in your example above. But this does not happen in Subarus with the center differential, which can tolerate axles spinning at slightly different speeds.

    AWD pro: reduced understeer, neutral handling, proactive traction. AWD con: slightly less gas mileage, about 150 lbs weight penalty.

    The Tribute's system is part-time for slippery surfaces only. That's different. Two other catches: rear drum brakes only, and no limited slip differential on either axle.

    John: as to market share, I think the Escape and Tribute are mainstream, so they'll steal sales from the Cherokee and Blazer, plus the market itself will expand. Subaru is a niche manufacturer and sales are actually up since the Escape came out. Go figure.

    I didn't know the Santa Fe's system was full-time, but kudos to Hyundai. It also has rear disc brakes and an optional limited slip differential.

  • rsharp83rsharp83 Member Posts: 82
    I do not believe the Sante Fe AWD system is full time. It is computer dirven and transfers power only when there is slippage. But I do not believe it is a 60/40 full time split.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    I found a couple of reviews on it. Edmunds doesn't give any details at all.

    New Car Test Drive wrote "details from Hyundai about its full-time four-wheel-drive system are lacking", so they're in the same boat.

    The Car Connection wrote "The 4WD system has a viscous coupling transfer case", which implies it's similar to Subaru's setup.

    It's achilles' heel may be the mileage, though. One review said the V6 felt burdened by the AWD system, despite EPA ratings of only 19/23. A Forester S auto gets 22/27.

  • natescapenatescape Member Posts: 176
    Is a major factor in my decision to get a Forester over the Santa Fe.
  • big_guybig_guy Member Posts: 372
    The Sante Fe V6 is taxed by the 4WD system because it is hauling around a portly 3752lbs whereas the Tribute comes in at 3455 lbs, and the Forester comes in at a svelt 3140 lbs.

    Initially, I thought that Hyundai should put the 3.0L V6 from the XG300 into the Sante Fe. However, the increase is not that much. The 2.7L V6 in the Sante Fe has 181 HP and 177 lb-ft of torque. The 3.0L V6 in the XG300 increases the HP to 192 but it only increases the torque to 178 lb-ft. Torque is where you feel it off the line so it probably wouldn't make a big difference in the Sante Fe.

    It would be fun to see Subaru put the 3.0L H6 from the Outback into the Forester and stretch it out another 6 inches to allow adults to sit in the back seat. The 212 Hp and 210 lb-ft in the H6 would really make the Forester get up and go!!
  • rutegerruteger Member Posts: 60
    The Subaru H6 would be a fine engine in the Forester, just as it is in the Outback. However, that 'get up and go' comes at the princely sum of more than an additional $7,000 over the price of a standard Legacy / Outback H4. Until Subaru gets their more powerful engine prices in line with that of the competition, I'm afraid the H6 will be going nowhere in comparison with the Tribute/Escape's much less expensive and nearly as powerful V6.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Member Posts: 72,587
    Using those numbers, power-to-weight ratios would be:

    Forester: 19.0 lbs per horse
    Santa Fe: 20.7 "
    Tibute: 17.3 "

    Not bad, it splits the difference.

    I wouldn't mind a bigger Forester if the weight gain was under 200 lbs, otherwise I'd keep the light and nimble current one. Weight is the enemy of handling and manueverability.

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