I bought the car as a project car with one of the cylinders literally smashed. I've used and worked on Subarus for 4 years. 2.5 liter DOHC Phase I engine is awful. 2.2 engines were much more reliable. After installing an engine with 120000 miles on it it works great. It's a small SUV, really fun to drive. Handles great on snow and rain.
Small SUV, ground clearance.
I hope new Phase II 2.5 SOHC engine is better. Phase I had a lot of problems with piston slap and head gaskets. (I had to fix 2 of them one on my Legacy Outback, the other on Forester. after blowing the second engine on Outback I installed 2.2 liter and using it happily since then).
Great car dependable, excellent in the snow. Low maintenance cost.
Height to get in and out. Great for elderly. Height to load and unload groceries and the many other large items is great!
Better gas mileage, I am currently looking for a environmental friendly vehicle. I thought the B9 looked great but gas mileage stinks. Hurry up, I want to stick with Subaru and not give up the SUV, Prius's are ugly.
I'm a believer of the safety features after hitting a deer with the Forester at 65 mph on the freeway. I also love the way the Forester handles. But there were a few bugs that I wouldn't have expected given that the Legacy chassis had been out a while. First, the wheel bearings went out at 20K on two wheels. Then the oil seals went at 70K and 140K (just like our 95 Legacy). The head gasket went out at 140K When I complained about a manufacturer defect at 70K because of similar problems with our Legacy, Customer Service said it was coincidence and wouldn't negotiate a better rate on repairs, stating the warranty went out at 60K. If you buy a Subie, you better extend the warranty!
Fix the manufacturer defect on the seals and gaskets.
Apparently, Subaru needed to wait a bit longer before turning out the Forester. This was the first year they made them, and the bugs are still present. No way to fix a failing in the AWD; the wheels intermittently lock at low speeds (this was also a problem on the Legacy wagon) - even Sub experts can't fix it. Many other mechanical failings that disrupted trips. I've heard subsequent years are much improved and really wish I'd known more up front, since I've been very happy with past Subarus I've owned.
Interior room & features made this one of our favorite vehicles for functional use. We liked the rubber bumper on the L model so scratches were well hidden.
Seats are uncomfortable for long trips, and a rubberized back of the rear seats for cargo hauling would be helpful. Mechancial issues were the main reason why we canned the car -- spent on average $500/month in maintenance over the final year of owning the car.