Used 2001 Subaru Forester Review

An enjoyable vehicle that can't quite match the versatility of other mini SUVs.

what's new

The 2001 Forester receives slight alterations to the front and rear fascias, a new Premium Package, and upgrades to the interior.

vehicle overview

What do you do when sport-utility buyers won't drive home in your all-wheel-drive station wagon, which is dressed up like an SUV, because it looks too "wagony"? If you're gutsy like Subaru, you put a taller, more squared-off body on your wagon chassis, and call it good. The Forester is a Subaru parts-bin exercise, and since the parts bin is rather small at Fuji Heavy Industries, which owns the upstart all-wheel-drive automaker, the car is cobbled together from a mixture of Impreza and previous-generation Legacy bits.

Based on the rally-proven Impreza platform, the Forester uses the same popular all-wheel-drive system found in other Subaru models. The 2.5-liter boxer engine comes from the Legacy Outback, and makes 165 horsepower in the Forester. And, thanks to its hunkered-down stance, low center of gravity and car-based foundation, the Forester handles better than its primary competitors: the Chevrolet Tracker, Honda CR-V, Nissan Xterra, Suzuki Grand Vitara and Toyota RAV4. The trade-off is lower ground clearance and less capable off-road ability, but you weren't going to go too far off the beaten path anyway, were you? (Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.) Automatic transmissions are available on both models for an extra $800 and feature a hill-holding setup that detects the inclination of a road surface and holds a gear to maximize torque or provide engine braking. Inside is room for four adults, with a rear center position marked off for a fifth rider in a pinch - he even gets a headrest for the new year!

Though the Forester offers an accommodating rear seat, low step-in height, and a cavernous cargo area, the interior fabric looks and feels like terrycloth stretched over old cardboard, some secondary controls are placed illogically, and the stereo controls are difficult to operate. Two Forester models are available this year: the L and the high-end S. Air conditioning, roof rack, rear defogger, tachometer, power windows, tilt steering, rear wiper/washer, cassette stereo, antilock brakes, power door locks and cruise control are standard on the L. Included for the 2001 year are an in-glass antenna and 60/40 split fold-down rear seats. The uplevel S adds a toothy chrome grille, alloy wheels, bigger tires, rear disc brakes, and an in-dash 6-disc CD changer. You can opt for the Premium Package on the S which will get you gold accents on the wheels, side air bags and a huge power moonroof.

While we are partial to the Impreza Outback Sport and Legacy Outback models, the Forester will attract buyers who want an inexpensive, functional, all-wheel-drive vehicle that looks like a truck and drives like a car. As long as Subaru keeps a lid on pricing, the Foresters pick up right where the Outback Wagons leave off.

edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.