New 2014 Subaru Forester is our top-scoring small SUV

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A new small SUV champion has been named: the 2014 Subaru Forester. This redesigned model earned an impressive road-test score of 88 points (out of 100 possible), besting last-year's model by eight points and trouncing the previous leader, the Honda CR-V, by 11 points. Yeah, it's that good.

What makes the accomplishment even more impressive is that this popular category has seen most sales leaders introduce new models, such as the Ford Escape and Toyota RAV4, or update existing ones, like the Mazda CX-5. Despite competition that won't rest, Subaru has stood out from the class. (Read our complete Subaru Forester road test.)

The Forester succeeds by focusing on the fundamentals with a space-efficient design, large windows, and big square doors. The result is the easiest access and the best view out of almost any vehicle we've recently tested. It also has one of the roomiest rear seats in the class, with copious amounts of head and leg room.

By adapting various fuel-efficient technologies, including replacing the antiquated four-speed automatic transmission with a new continuously variable transmission (CVT), the Forester now delivers quicker acceleration, as well as a class-leading 26 mpg overall and 35 mpg on the highway in our tests.

We bought a Forester 2.5i Premium for testing, with a $26,814 sticker price. This proved to be a good value that included heated front seats, large sunroof, backup camera, and a power driver's seat. Because above-average reliability is anticipated based on our analysis, it is CR Recommended.

The final jewel in the Forester's crown is that it was the only small SUV out of 13 tested to earn a top score of Good in the new small overlap crash test conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

If you're looking for a safe, practical, fuel-efficient small SUV, read our complete Subaru Forester road test and take one for a test drive.

—Jeff Bartlett

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