I have a 2005 Forester that is the 2.5X Manual version.
I bought the 2009 for my wife, with the Auto.
It is the Premium version.
As a summary, I like the vehicle, but the fuel economy is crap.
We get about 20-22 mpg on average, whereas my '05 gets 26-28 on average.
If we really baby the gas and drive ultra conservatively, we may be able to get 25 mpg, but that is a huge IF.
As for Snow driving, I will take the '09 over my '05, granted, my '05 is more fun to drive.
The '09 is like a tank in the snow.
We are in the market for a replacement for the '09.
Our family is growing again, and the forester is just too small.
Perhaps if it got better fuel economy, we would reconsider.
The AWD system. It is great, almost flawless IMHO.
The 2.5L 4 cyl motor has plenty of power for a lightweight vehicle, and it can get out of it's own way if you want it to.
I like the roof rack better than my '05, but wish that they would give you some accessories with the vehicle.
The rear storage under the deck.
A better transmission.
The 4 speed is crap, especially with cruise control on in hilly conditions.
Put fog lights back in the stock vehicle.
You should not have to jump 2 or 3 trim levels to get something that should be basic.
Better interior space work / compartments, etc.
I find that the '05 had much much better use of storage spaces.
Work on better fuel economy.
Honestly, what is the point of buying this smaller vehicle if does not get any better fuel economy than a larger vehicle?