Full 2010 Subaru Forester Review
What's New for 2010
The 2010 Subaru Forester gets mild equipment changes. Last year's Premium package is now considered a trim level and additionally includes a standard power driver seat. The L.L. Bean Edition trim level is no more, though it was actually discontinued midway through last year. The optional navigation system now includes Bluetooth connectivity.
Subaru owners are clearly a fiercely loyal bunch. The brand's commercial showing an owner habitually going from one beloved Forester to the next is no exaggeration. The reasons why, though, are a bit harder to discern. Perhaps it's the standard all-wheel drive that appeals to those who live in wet and/or mountainous climes. Or perhaps it's the perceived ruggedness that encourages owners to pack up their dirty Subies with outdoor leisure equipment and venture into the woods. Whatever the reason, the 2010 Subaru Forester rewards that loyalty by being one of the top choices in the compact crossover segment.
Fully redesigned last year, the Forester is bigger than its wagonlike predecessors and certainly more SUV-like. Virtually every dimension has grown, thereby increasing interior space and providing a more rugged stance and image. Indeed, among compact SUVs, the Forester looks most likely to excel in an off-road environment. Yet the 2010 model has generally retained its carlike handling thanks to improved chassis rigidity, wider front and rear tracks and a new double-wishbone rear suspension. The extra height, ground clearance and increased suspension travel result in extra body roll when cornering, but we suspect most people will be pleased with the latest Forester's combination of adequate handling and comfortable ride quality.
Adding to the Forester's appeal are its generous passenger space, ample cargo capacity and strong safety ratings. The two "boxer" four-cylinder engines under its hood are both competitive in terms of power and fuel economy, despite being saddled with an outdated four-speed automatic that does little for either. All said, the 2010 Subaru Forester should be at the top of your to-drive list if you're looking for a compact or even midsize SUV. Competitors like the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 are also worth considering, especially for those in warmer climates where those models' more fuel-efficient two-wheel-drive layout is sufficient. Particularly in frosty, wet and/or mountainous climes, though, the Forester deserves its loyalty.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2010 Subaru Forester is a compact crossover SUV available in five trim levels: 2.5X, 2.5X Premium, 2.5X Limited, 2.5XT Premium and 2.5XT Limited. The 2.5X is equipped with 16-inch steel wheels, cruise control, full power accessories, air-conditioning, automatic headlights, keyless entry, a tilt steering column, a trip computer and a four-speaker stereo with CD player and auxiliary audio jack. The 2.5X Premium adds 17-inch alloy wheels, a panoramic sunroof, roof rails, an eight-way power driver seat, steering-wheel audio controls and reclining rear seatbacks. The 2.5X Limited adds automatic climate control, the All-Weather package (including heated mirrors, heated front seats and windshield wiper de-icer), leather upholstery and a six-speaker stereo with six-CD changer.
The 2.5XT Premium is similar to the 2.5X Premium but has a bigger engine, foglights, a tilt-telescoping steering column, upgraded cloth upholstery and a six-way manual driver seat rather than power. The 2.5XT Limited adds the power driver seat plus the 2.5X Limited's extra features.
The All-Weather package is optional on the 2.5X Premium. Stand-alone options include a variety of exterior trim add-ons, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, an iPod interface and satellite radio. Available on the Limited trims is a navigation system that includes a touchscreen interface, a single-CD player (replaces six-CD), Bluetooth and an auxiliary audio/video input jack.
Powertrains and Performance
Every Subaru comes with standard all-wheel drive, and the Forester is no different. The 2.5X models are powered by a 2.5-liter horizontally opposed (flat) four-cylinder engine that makes 170 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed manual transmission is standard on the 2.5X and 2.5X Premium, while a four-speed automatic is optional on those trims and standard on the 2.5X Limited. Fuel economy with the automatic transmission is 20 mpg city/26 mpg highway and 22 mpg combined, or about what you'd get from the similarly powered all-wheel-drive Honda CR-V. 2.5X models sold in California-emissions states also earn a squeaky-clean PZEV tailpipe emissions rating.
The 2.5XT features a turbocharged version of this engine that produces 224 hp and 226 lb-ft of torque. The four-speed automatic is the lone transmission available. In performance testing, a 2.5XT went from zero to 60 mph in an impressive 6.8 seconds. Fuel economy dips only a bit with this engine to 19 mpg city/24 mpg highway and 21 mpg combined.
Standard safety features on all 2010 Subaru Foresters include antilock brakes with brake assist, traction and stability control, front seat side airbags and front and rear side curtain airbags. In our braking tests, the Forester 2.5XT came to a stop from 60 mph in 125 feet, which is a good distance for this segment. In government crash tests, the Forester achieved perfect five-star ratings in all front- and side-impact categories. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety also gave the Forester its best rating of "Good" in its frontal-offset and side-impact crash tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2010 Subaru Forester features a pleasantly styled and highly functional cabin design, though its fit and finish is a little hit or miss. Controls are straightforward except the poorly designed ones for the optional navigation system, which we would avoid. We would also avoid the base stereo if possible as its sound quality is particularly bad.
The Forester is one of the most spacious vehicles in the segment, comparing favorably with the RAV4, CR-V and Mitsubishi Outlander, all of which bridge the gap between compact and midsize SUVs. The Forester's split-folding rear seat with optional reclining seatbacks deserves special mention here. "Throne" would be a better term, as the cushion is so high that rear passengers will feel as though they're looking down on those in front. All but the longest of leg will actually be able to rest their hamstrings flush against the cushion -- a rarity in motorized conveyances without wings or bathrooms. The cargo area is similarly generous, boasting 33.5 cubic feet of space with the 60/40-split rear seatback raised and 68.3 cubes with it folded.
The relatively sporty Subaru Foresters of yore are sadly gone, replaced by a bigger, taller vehicle that remains easy to drive but doesn't elicit the same sort of driving enjoyment. We're guessing most folks won't mind, though, since the trade-off is one of the most comfortable rides in the segment. And the Forester's crisp steering and usefully tight turning circle make it surprisingly maneuverable in close quarters.
Both engine choices are highly competitive in terms of power and fuel economy, although an automatic transmission with more gears than the Forester's four would make a big difference. Not only would fuel economy theoretically improve, but more narrowly spaced ratios would make downshifts smoother and less noticeable as well. Still, the 2010 Subaru Forester is an able performer, especially in 2.5XT trim.