I bought this car after extensive research in 2003. It was down to the Honda Element vs. the Forester XT and the power won out. This is the first car I've had that I can honestly say I've used most of it's capabilities regularly. I'm no street racer but I do enjoy the acceleration and handling of this little SUV. I usually travel by myself or with my young son and it's just the right size. I've had it off road on the beach and on dirt trails - no complaints and it's easy to maneuver. It towed my 17ft Boston Whaler nicely as well. However, for family road trips we take my wife's Pilot - more room.
Engine & chassis - power and handling, all wheel drive, versatility. Not everyone has one.
Transmission is a weak point and 5th gear could be taller for better mileage. Wind noise from front door gussets. Rear seat room - Britax car seat with child forces front passengers to move forward. Front seats should fold forward to use seatback as table.
I do not give this vehicle 10s across the board, but I give it a 10 in what I was looking for. It is not fast. It produces lots of wind noise. It doesn't corner particularly well. It does provide amazing versatility, functional all-wheel drive, and plenty of room for storage. I am an outdoorsy type. I take this vehicle camping, hunting, fishing, biking, and for long distance traveling. I have driven this through sand, mud and water. I accidentally went through an innocuous looking puddle that came up over the hood, and the Forester pulled right through. Am very happy with the Forester and will drive it until the wheels fall off, or I do, whichever comes first.
Interior design, all wheel drive, factory roof racks, audio system, heated seats, HUGE sun-roof, so secure it feels like you are inside an '84 Sedan DeVille.
Too much wind noise, needs more power, continuous power outlet even when ignition is off.
I bought this car new in 2003 and have loved it ever since. I just payed it off and plan on keeping it until it dies. It handles great in the rain and snow. The only warranty work I had done was to replace the CD changer and rear view mirror. My only complaint is the very loud road noise. It's a great car that can definitely move when you want it to.
Love the versatility of the vehicle. Like handling, but lacking power IMO. Passing other vehicles is often a challenge, which is my major concern. And, turbo is much more expensive to drive. Maintenance is on the expensive side. Sunroof doesn't open/close properly. Dealership was unable to determine exact cause after 1 hr inspection. Another mechanic found trickling current in the power circuit suspecting a failing diode in the alternator. Dealership tested and said that it is okay. Suspicious. Don't take vehicle to the dealership anymore. Central console plastic is easy to scratch. Rattles inside are annoying. Overall, good vehicle.
Need at least 180HP engine and at lest 5-speed automatic transmission. Fuel consumption is worse than expected. Interior build quality (type of materials used, tolerances, padding). Wind noise. Exterior paint is not great. Cruise control is awkward. No trip computer.