The Subaru Forester debuted in the late 1990s as an option for consumers interested in the emerging segment of compact SUVs. Essentially a tall station wagon with all-wheel drive (AWD), the original Forester offered buyers the rugged style of a traditional SUV, but because it shared its basic platform architecture with Subaru's Impreza, it had the ride and driving characteristics of a small station wagon. That meant it was pretty nimble for a utility vehicle, yet it could still handle inclement weather and the occasional trip to the trailhead.
The more recent Subaru Foresters, including the newest generation, are more in line with established crossover SUV design. They're larger, roomier and less wagonlike than earlier Foresters and have nicer interiors, though the design is still fairly utilitarian compared with some of the trendier cabin decors in this class. New or used, though, the Forester offers buyers strengths such as easy maneuverability, sure-footed handling in slippery weather, available turbocharged power and solid build quality. It's worth considering if you're shopping for a small crossover SUV.
Current Subaru Forester
Redesigned for the 2014 model year, the Subaru Forester (now in its fourth generation) is a five-passenger compact crossover SUV. Compared to the previous generation, this Forester is slightly roomier and nicer-looking inside. It's also more fuel efficient.
The Forester is available in six trim levels that are split into 2.5i and 2.0XT models. The 2.5i models use a naturally aspirated horizontally opposed (boxer) four-cylinder engine rated at 170 horsepower. Shoppers have their choice of a six-speed manual transmission or a continuously variable transmission (CVT), and all-wheel drive is standard. For more performance the 2.0XT models use a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder good for 250 hp. All 2.0XT models come with the CVT.
Standard equipment on all versions includes cruise control, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity and an iPod/USB interface with an auxiliary audio jack. The Premium trim levels add alloy wheels, roof rails, a panoramic sunroof, a rearview camera, an eight-way power driver seat and a six-speaker sound system. Limited models add automatic headlights, a power rear liftgate, automatic climate control (single-zone), leather upholstery and reclining rear seats.
Top-of-the-line Touring models come standard with a navigation system (optional on most other trims), upgraded gauges, dual-zone automatic climate control and an eight-speaker sound system. An optional Driver Assist Technology package adds adaptive cruise control, keyless ignition/entry, xenon headlamps and Subaru's EyeSight system, which integrates lane departure warning and frontal collision warning/mitigation systems.
The newest Forester stays true to its roots, with a roomy cabin and ample cargo space. The seats are soft but supportive and the ride is fairly plush, so it's comfortable whether you're commuting to work in town or going on a lengthy highway road trip. Forester 2.5i models provide respectable power and fuel economy, though the engine does get a little raucous at high rpm. The 2.0XT, meanwhile, is one of the quickest small crossovers in its class. Above-average off-road ability is another plus to the Forester. As for downsides, the main ones are lackluster on-road handling abilities and the optional touchscreen system, which we've found slow to respond and difficult to navigate.
Overall, however, the latest Subaru Forester stands up well to best-selling competitors from Ford, Honda and Toyota.
Read the most recent 2015 Subaru Forester review.
If you are looking for older years, visit our used Subaru Forester page.