Subaru’s standard all-wheel drive and adventuresome image apply perfectly to the Forester compact SUV. Although it seems to be a competitor for the brand’s Outback station wagon in terms of functionality and size, the Forester offers a more SUV-like driving position, larger windows for better outward visibility, and a bit more ground clearance. The cabin of the Forester is the definition of sensible, offering plenty of practicality leavened by a touch of stylistic flair. There’s a four-cylinder engine under the hood, which delivers adequate power and decent fuel economy. The Forester’s key rivals—the Honda CR-V and the Toyota RAV4—offer more powerful powertrains and more driving engagement, but the Subaru’s smooth ride and relaxed handling won’t offend buyers who fall for its other attributes.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
All Forester models are powered by the same 2.5-liter flat-four-cylinder engine that makes 182 horsepower and can tow 1500 pounds. A continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) routes the engine’s power to Subaru’s trademark all-wheel-drive system. At our test track, our 2019 Forester Touring test vehicle required 8.5 seconds to reach 60 mph—not exactly thrilling performance, but it’ll meet the needs of most buyers. Those looking for more oomph should check out the Honda CR-V or the turbocharged versions of the Mazda CX-5 and the Kia Sportage. For an SUV without any sporting intentions, the Forester’s handling is competent. The ride is compliant and refined, the steering is accurate, and the brakes are adequately strong for emergency stops.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
With EPA fuel-economy ratings that match much of the compact-crossover segment (26 mpg city, 33 mpg highway), the Forester will likely satisfy buyers seeking efficiency. In our 200-mile highway fuel-economy test, our Forester Touring test vehicle missed its highway-fuel-economy rating by 1 mpg, returning 32 mpg. However, that figure matches the result that the CR-V Touring and the Toyota RAV4 Adventure delivered.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
The Forester’s cabin is a straight-forward, frill-free affair with a good driving position and great outward visibility. Our Touring model’s interior was nicely finished with caramel-colored leather on the seats, door panels, and dash; textured plastic trim layered on the rest of the cabin looked and felt of high quality, too, while glossy-black plastic on the center stack and the chromed and matte-metallic plastic trims spruced things up quite well. The back seat is plenty spacious (there is no third-row option), and even adults should find the bench seat a comfortable perch for road trips. We fit 11 of our carry-on suitcases behind the back seat and a whopping 23 with the back seats folded. That’s more than either the CX-5 or the RAV4 could muster, but the CR-V maxed out at 25 carry-ons with its rear seats stowed.
Infotainment and Connectivity
All Forester models come standard with a touchscreen infotainment system using Subaru’s latest Starlink interface. Base, Premium, and Sport models come standard with a 6.5-inch display, but a larger 8.0-inch unit is optional on the Sport and standard on the Limited and Touring models. Two USB ports are provided for front-seat passengers; two more are optional and reside on the back of the center console, giving rear-seat passengers a way to juice their smartphones. Navigation is available only on the Limited and Touring, but for those who decide to stick with a lower model, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability are both standard and can provide turn-by-turn directions broadcast from the user’s device. Onboard Wi-Fi via a 4G LTE data connection is standard on all but the base Forester.
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
The Forester earned a five-star rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and a Top Safety Pick designation from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. All models come standard with Subaru’s EyeSight suite of camera-based driver-assistance features.