2018 Subaru Forester Review
Pros & Cons
- All-wheel drive comes standard and doesn't sink fuel economy
- High ground clearance offers better than average off-road ability
- Airy interior with plenty of room for adults both front and rear
- Optional turbocharged engine makes Forester very quick
- CVT feels less responsive and refined than a traditional automatic
- Handling isn't as sporty as some rivals
- Cabin design and materials are just average
- Modest tow rating limits overall utility
List Price Range
$15,950 - $27,998
Used Forester for SaleSee all for sale
Which Forester does Edmunds recommend?
The standard 2.5i is well equipped for a very reasonable price, but we think it's worth stepping up to the 2.5i Premium. It offers a sunroof and improved seats and media interface, among other conveniences. You can get other luxuries, but we think the Premium offers the best value.
Edmunds' Expert Review
Thanks in large part to the XT's 250 horsepower, the Forester is arguably the best performing vehicle in this class. Combined with confident braking, precise on- and off-road handling and multiple driving modes, the Forester is one of the best in its class.
The Forester's comfortable cabin and quiet ride make the case for taking this SUV out of the city and onto the open road. The ride is well controlled across all surfaces and most everyone will be able to find enough room and creature comforts to stay happy for hours at a time.
There's nothing exceptional about the Forester's interior, but it shows the efforts Subaru has made to bring this SUV up to par with its competition. An overload of screens and redundant menus, along with an unusually high seating position, are the biggest marks against it.
Practicality is definitely one of the Forester's strong suits. With plenty of headroom for day-to-day items, there's also no shortage of space for larger bags, groceries or camping gear. But all that practicality does come at the expense of room for larger child seats.
Though the new center display is a welcome step forward for Subaru in terms of both resolution and usability, the lack of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is a big disappointment. Subaru's own suite of safety features is very comprehensive and has improved since last year.
|Overall||7.3 / 10|
Most helpful consumer reviews
Mark in the North Georgia Mountains,05/01/2018
2.5i 4dr SUV AWD (2.5L 4cyl 6M)
We purchased a base model 2018 Forester as an economical everyday/trip vehicle to replace our 16 year old Mazda hatchback. We needed something with a little more room, but was still economical to own and operate. Another requisite was a manual transmission which is getting harder to find outside of sport models, but was still available in the Forester. This is our first Subaru, and we hope their reputation for durability and reliability are warranted. The vehicle has so far (1600 miles and about a month of use), proven to be better than expected. The interior comfort, quietness of the cabin at speed, ride quality, ease of entry and exit, storage space, and fuel economy have all been excellent. The fuel economy has been a surprise (over 29 mpg combined), in that we exceed the EPA estimates for the model without really trying. The manual 6 speed shifts well and the engine has plenty of power and torque for everyday driving. It has a roomy and comfortable back seat capable of long trips with little trouble. The only criticism so far is that some of the interior materials seem to have hard plastic finishes. The base infotainment stereo unit has an excellent sound and easy Bluetooth connectability, as well as great radio reception, and shockingly, a CD player for us old folks that like such things. The standard backup camera comes in handy for parking in tight places. It handles well on our mountain roads with some expected body lean (for the class of vehicle), and tracks well through the curves. The turning radius is excellent for a vehicle of it's size, for great maneuverability in tight spaces. The all wheel drive and ground clearance will come in handy for exploring the Forest Service roads around here, and when the snow is an issue. Overall, we are very pleased so far with the purchase. Update 11/1/2018 - We have now owned the Forester for 7 months and 9800 miles and are still very pleased with it. One thing I neglected to mention in the earlier review was how fantastic the brakes are in this thing. They have great pedal feel and stop the vehicle very quickly, which has come in handy on a number of occasions. The visibility from the cabin is much better than on any of our other vehicles which helps with confidence on the road. Plus we are still getting over 29 mpg combined mileage. I was disappointed to hear that Subaru has dropped the manual transmission option from the 2019 Forester, and hope they reconsider it in later years for those of us who prefer them. Update 11/1/2019 - We have had the Forester for a year and a half with over 21,000 miles on the odometer, and are still pleased with the purchase. We have had no issues at all and are still getting 29 mpg combined. If I had to nitpick, I would wish for the original equipment tires on the base model to have a little more aggressive AT style tread and a higher treadwear warranty, as the current tires are showing significant wear at this point. Given that we live in the mountains and have pretty much continuous curves and hills to traverse, I'm not surprised with the tire wear, but one can wish. Update 5/1/2020 - We have had the Forester for a little over 2 years now and the vehicle is still running great with no issues at all. Still comfortable, quiet, over 29 mpg combined, and holds contents like Hermione's purse. Still very happy with the purchase with no regrets.
2.5i Touring 4dr SUV AWD (2.5L 4cyl CVT)
I've had the car for nearly a year, and I have over 8,000 miles on it. I am 6'4" tall, and I have sufficient leg room up front. I have slept, fully stretched out, in the rear of the vehicle overnight several times. You have to move the front seats all the way forward, and you have to lay something on the floor of the rear cargo area to raise the floor to the same height as the back of the rear seats. But once you do that, there's plenty of room to sleep in it. I don't like the hesitation and stutter of the transmission when starting from a stop, however. The CVT is quirky, but this can be overcome with a delicate touch on the gas pedal and a lot of practice. I turned off the lane departure feature because the pulling and tugging at the steering wheel just drove me crazy. I pulled a 1,600 lbs. utility trailer behind the car for over 3,000 miles, traveling between San Diego, CA and Eugene, OR. It handled wonderfully on flat-and-level as well as mountainous roads. The high tech safety features on this vehicle are outstanding. The backup and rear cross-traffic sensors will alert you to approaching traffic even if you can't see it, and will stop the vehicle in a hurry should you fail to respond appropriately. If you want to get the maximum freeway gas mileage (33 mpg highway), you'll have to set the Adaptive Cruise Control to 65 mph. That seems to be the sweet spot on my Forester. I HAVE been able to achieve that without ACC, but the car is much better at managing fuel consumption than my right foot. The shorter wheelbase makes the Forester very responsive to steering input. That's great when it comes to the turning radius, but not so great when you're traveling at highway speeds. I found that driving on the freeway for more than an hour at a time meant that my shoulders got a little workout. The headlight beam is designed in such a way that it doesn't rise above waist height. So the traffic ahead of you isn’t exposed to a lot of glare. The high beam is appropriately bright, but it too is flat on top so as to avoid shining where it doesn't have to shine. UPDATE November, 2018 Edmunds asked me to do an update, so here it is. I’ve owned the Forester for about 18 months, and I have over 12,000 miles on it. I love this vehicle as much as I did when it was brand new. I got used to the CVT, but it’s still a little annoying when shifting from reverse to drive because of the delay. Oh well! I can’t complain about the mileage on the freeway though. My best was 36.4 mpg. Pulling my 1600 lb. utility trailer drops that down to just over 15 mpg. This vehicle is rated to pull 1500, but I cheat sometimes when I’m fully loaded. I don’t do this often, but I haven’t had any problems. I’m 6’4", and I can nearly stretch out fully in the back while sleeping. What I’ve learned to do is angle my body diagonally across the back, and that gives me all the room I need. Of course the front seats have to be all the way forward. The Forester’s high clearance makes climbing over serious ruts and relatively rough terrain quite easy. It’s not designed to go rock climbing though. The street tires it came with suffice for the kind of driving I do, but if I were doing a lot of off-the-highway driving, I’d get a more aggressive tire. I also put a roof basket on top to carry additional gear. No problems there, but it cuts about 3 mpg off of the fuel consumption. The Forester has a very, very short turning radius. I have no problems making u-turns on any of the streets I have driven on. The 2.5 liter engine is perfect for this vehicle’s weight. There is a whole lot of rear-passenger leg room. I got the sunroof, and I like how it has two different open positions: normal open and "big-mouth-bass open." UPDATE May 22, 2019 The only thing I want to add is that I still love driving this SUV. And even though it only has the four cylinder engine, it’s fine for my usual type of driving. I’m nowhere near ready to buy a new car, but when I get there I’ll make sure to get a six cylinder version. Of course if they don’t have one of those I guess I’ll have to switch to the Outback, heaven forbid. By the way, I’ve taken the Forester off-road several more times, on some pretty washed-out trails as well. It takes them all in stride. UPDATE November 22, 2019 You’re probably tired of reading about my experiences with the Forester, but I’m telling you, this is my favorite vehicle of all time. I’ve now owned it for about two years and three months. I don’t get anymore free services, but I still love this vehicle. UPDATE November 22, 2020 The AC failed (leak) in August this year. It’s only three years old! The Forester was out of warranty, so I took it to an auto AC specialist. Within a week or so, I received a letter from Subaru of America stating the warranty covering the AC would be extended. I took my Forester to the dealership where they replaced the condenser and refrigerant, and SOA reimbursed me for the earlier AC service.
2.0XT Touring 4dr SUV AWD (2.0L 4cyl Turbo CVT)
Review at 1000 miles: We spent the last six months researching and test driving for our first new purchase. We had a budget of $35k and the final three contenders were the BMW X1, Honda CR-V Touring and the Subaru Forester XT Touring. We live at altitude in the Pacific Northwest and are "outdoorsy" without needing extreme off road capability. We also take the highway up to fairly high altitudes for hiking and ski excursions. Coming from a fun & spirited but extremely noisy and uncomfortable Impreza, we were looking for a good blend of comfort and utility. Forester XT Touring satisfied these criteria with the added FUN factor that the CRV just didn't bring to the table. The Forester XT has *almost* all of the get-up-and-go of a WRX with off road capability and a far, far quieter ride. I find the CVT to be quite responsive, particularly in the Sport mode. Interior comfort is impressive; I'm 6'4" and 220 lbs, and have so far taken three 2+ hour trips behind the wheel, on highway and Forest Service roads. The cabin is quiet, with excellent visibility on all sides. While not quite the same in terms of luxury, at this price point, to get the AWD on the X1, we'd have been dropping closer to $40k. I just couldn't justify paying the premium for mostly a badge. Only qualms so far is the entertainment suite: Starlink is basically useless aside from Pandora. Navigation combined with Sirius XM traffic is quite useful. Eyesight suite is powerful, useful and intuitive and is what ultimately swayed our purchase. Considering our Impreza lasted reliable 275k miles with strict maintenance, I am confident that the Forester XT will be reliable for years to come and serve our needs well.
2.5i Limited 4dr SUV AWD (2.5L 4cyl CVT)
I spent the better part of a year researching SUV's as I'm also the owner of a 2004 Tacoma TRD Off-Road. Having spent 13 years in that truck, I was getting a little tired of the stiff ride and poor gas mileage, but I need something that can handle some off-road as well as poor driving conditions in the winter. I was thinking of trading my truck for either a new Tacoma or a 4Runner, but really didn't feel like I'd get anything very different, especially from an MPG standpoint. Enter the Forester. My biggest concern was the available "get up and go" since I live at about 6100 ft in Colorado and frequently drive into the mountains where 10,000+ ft is common. The XT was an obvious consideration but the MPG of the Limited 2.5i was very enticing. After test driving the 2.5i up the local pass, I decided it would suffice. I've got 2000 miles on the car and many of them are mountain driving. No power issues whatsoever! I'll admit I'm not racer, but I usually go about 5mph over the speed limit and have really had no problem with acceleration or keeping the speed up at all with the 2.5i. If I could have gotten blind spot and RCTA on the XT without going all the way to a Touring model, I'd have probably gone that route (although I much prefer regular gas to premium). Anyway, the Limited 2.5i has a very comfortable ride and I'm averaging about 28mpg in town and 35mpg on the interstate...again, at real altitude! Also, I got to keep my truck! I couldn't be happier with my decision. So I've had the car for a little over a year now and thought I'd provide an update. Bottom line, still love it! My gas mileage is not quite as good because I'm passed the break-in period and drive it a little harder than when I first got it. I'm still getting about 26mpg in town and 33mpg or so on the interstate, which I consider to be excellent. My only complaint is the automatic rear hatch is slow as heck, but that's a pretty minor thing that I can certainly live with. Overall, I'm still extremely pleased with this car. Well I've owned the Forester for three years now and couldn't be more pleased. Absolutely no mechanical issues at about 34k miles and the mpg is around 26/33 city to highway driving between 6100 and 9000 ft in elevation here in Colorado. The car has been through two winters and is rock solid in the snow. No rattles or other noises as this vehicle still drives like it was brand new. I'm regularly getting offers from the dealer to trade it in, but it's paid for and my guess is we'll put a lot more miles on it before changing it out. Great car!!
Features & Specs
Our experts like the Forester models:
- Incline Start Assist
- Prevents the vehicle from rolling backward on a hill for several seconds after the brake pedal is released.
- EyeSight Driver Assist Technology
- Helps prevent accidents by adding features such as lane departure warning, lane keeping assist and automatic emergency braking.
- Reverse Automatic Braking
- Helps reduce collisions by applying the brakes if a vehicle is detected crossing the Forester's path while in reverse.