What's New for 2002
Subaru's mini-SUV/tall wagon gains three new standard features: a cargo area cover, daytime running lights and an intermittent mode for the rear wiper. Other changes include a new color for the Forester S' lower body cladding (from Titanium Pearl to Graystone Metallic) and the option of leather seating for S models equipped with the Premium package and automatic transmission.
With the Forester, Subaru offers a no-nonsense mini-SUV for those who need the versatility of a small wagon with the grip of all-wheel drive (AWD). The Forester's platform is comprised of previous-generation Legacy and Impreza components. This is mostly a good thing, as the Forester rides and handles like a car, not a clumsy truck, and gets gas mileage that won't have you going broke or feeling guilty about rapidly depleting our finite fuel supply. The downside of the Forester's architecture is that it's not meant for hard-core off-road duty, which will probably be a non-issue for 99 percent of the people who would consider purchasing one. Tackling poor-weather driving conditions and getting to the campground or mountain bike trailhead are what the Forester is geared for.
All Foresters come with Subaru's 2.5-liter flat four that pumps out 165 horsepower, substantially more power than its competitors' four-bangers and even more ponies than some other mini-SUVs' V6s. Transmission choices include a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. Opt for the automatic and you'll get a smart tranny that knows when to hold a gear to optimize engine braking when descending a hill or prevent hunting between gears when going uphill. A fully independent suspension contributes to the Forester's agility, as does a lower center of gravity than most of its rivals, such as the Honda CR-V and Suzuki Grand Vitara.
There are two trim levels in the Forester line: base L and up-level S. Air conditioning, power windows/locks/mirrors, cruise control, antilock brakes and a stereo with cassette deck are all standard on the L. The S ups the ante with 16-inch alloy wheels, rear disc brakes, a six-disc CD changer, heated seats and leather wrapping for the steering wheel, gearshift handle and parking brake handle. If that's not enough luxury for you, a Premium package for the S adds a huge power moonroof, front side airbags, gold accents for the wheels and a monotone color scheme. Want leather seats? You can have 'em as an option, but only on S models with both the Premium package and automatic gearbox.
Safety conscious consumers will be pleased to find that in the offset crash test (arguably the most realistic scenario in a collision), the Forester scored the highest rating in its class.
Apart from a couple of minor flaws, such as funky upholstery on the L model and minute stereo controls, the Forester is a well-rounded vehicle that offers active folks a fun, safe and functional ride.