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.
Did not know SUV existed until I read Consumer Reports. They rated this #1 in small SUV category. I test drove also small SUV Nissan, Honda, Mitsubishi, Toyota and the Forester out classed them all. I bought it used from the Subaru dealership (Jax, FL) and they had the Carfax. Took it to my mechanic and he said everything looked great! Wanted something that seats 4 & back seats go down so I can carry wood for my woodworking projects. Took it on a couple of long drives already and nice smooth ride. Car accelerates well given it is a 4 cylinder. I bought the SUV because of its reliability history and price. I read all the reviews on Edmunds.com and almost everyone liked their Subaru.
I've owned this car two years now and this car has been nearly flawless. I love the low end RPM power this car has. The torque curve is very flat on Subaru's 4 cyl engine. driving in snow is great. Heater and air conditioning is simple to operate. Wiper controls are fantastic and make sense. Cruise control on the steering wheel as well as radio controls are like a a more expensive car would have. Changing your own oil is a breeze as the oil filter is vertical and you can get to everything without driving the vehicle on ramps. Visibility when backing up is best in class. Paddle shifting manual mode transmission is handy holding gear downhill. For ~25K out the door a fine machine.
Manage you expectations. It's a crossover. So it doesn't do anything exceptional. The insides are unremarkable. So is the exterior. We have 2 little kids. So we need lots of space, with two car seats. It has a reasonable amount of space, but we can't fit everyone in--and the dog. I like the head room. Also, it has pep in the city for local driving, but with only a four banger, it is gutless on the highway. Maintenance is OK. Go under the wire for the warranty on the AC and replacing the rotors at 3 mm. 46K miles so far. So if you want something with more room, get a real SUV (We have a Sequoia for long trips). If you want a sports car, get something with more guts.
I like this car, but can't get excited about it. Overall handling is very good and the turning radius is the best of any small SUVs that I've driven. It's a very stable drive, and it's been good on rough roads and in the rain. I have no problem with the sound system as many others seem to have, but I'd love to have more power, the lack of which is sometimes downright dangerous when trying to enter the freeway or pass slow cars on the two lane roads in the desert where I live. The car has been fairly trouble free for three years, except for the A/C going out last summer in 100+ weather here. But Subaru took care of the problem and I have to say that they've been very good overall.