Subaru Forester Review
The rather utilitarian Subaru Forester is one of the last remaining rugged SUVs. It was facelifted in 2016 to hold the line against more modern rivals such as the Toyota RAV4, Mazda CX-5 and Honda CR-V.
This score is awarded by our team of expert reviewers after extensive testing of the car
- Feels well built
- Lots of space
- Well equipped
What's not so good
- Anonymous looks
- Poor on-road
- Unattractive interior
Subaru Forester: what would you like to read next?
Off-road ability is one of the Forester’s calling cards and the standard four-wheel-drive system is much better at providing traction in slippery conditions than many of its rivals. The drawback is that the Subaru feels quite dated on road with its leaning body and overly soft suspension.
There’s ample passenger room and the boot can hold as much as rivals, but there are areas of the interior where the Forester falls behind – mainly in design and material choice.
The engine range is also stuck in the past with a choice between a petrol engine that’s gutless, the same engine fitted with a turbo making it thirsty; or a diesel. Only the latter is a worthwhile offering, blending strong pulling power with decent fuel economy.
Equipment on entry-level models is comparable to rivals, so you get an infotainment system with a seven-inch touchscreen, climate control, rear-view camera, electrically adjustable driver’s seat and cruise control.
It's the perfect car for a dog owner or an outdoorsy person
Those seeking a stylish interior, memorable looks and a dazzling drive may not be wowed by the idea of Forester ownership. Nevertheless, don’t completely rule it out – its proper four-wheel drive system and hewn-from-rock build quality are sure to appeal to people looking for a proper four-wheel drive SUV with second-to-none reliability.
As a car that will be able to transport family and luggage in relative comfort, while resisting wear and tear like few others – the Subaru is definitely worth considering.
There’s no doubt the Subaru Forester is a tough and durable car, solidly built and able to withstand anything a family can throw at it, but it’s easy to find something much more stylish
Despite the fairly low ground clearance the Forester has one of the grippiest four-wheel drive systems on sale.
Avoid the CVT automatic and you should be fine
Subaru is one of the few companies to fit its cars with flat-four-cylinder engines, which have a lower centre of gravity than the units fitted to most other cars, providing better handling as a result. Buyers can choose from a 2.0-litre petrol, with or without a turbo, but most will be more interested in the more frugal 2.0-litre diesel.
The diesel model is the one to go for because it provides good mid-range grunt and is capable of just under 50mpg. It has nearly twice the torque of the similarly powerful petrol so it feels faster than the 10-second sprint from 0-62mph would suggest.
The first petrol option has 148hp, and Subaru claims fuel economy of around 43mpg, although it’s rather gutless and you need to work it hard if you’re towing a trailer. There’s a much more potent 237hp version with a turbocharger, capable of hitting 60mph in well under eight seconds from a standstill. It sounds great on paper, but the engine is slow to respond, only feels powerful at high revs and is incredibly thirsty when you’re in a hurry.
The Forester does without trick electronics like the ones in the Discovery Sport, but is a permanent system that will probably take you further than any of its more road-focused rivals.
Good as the Forester is in the rough stuff it’s almost as bad again on the open road. The steering is inaccurate, there’s lots of wind noise and a lot of body roll.
The manual gearchange in both the petrol and diesel models is imprecise, but the automatic gearbox is especially bad, feeling lazy and out-dated.
It’s not all bad, however, because the suspension performs adequately at smoothing out lumps and bumps. Around town, the light steering makes navigating fairly easy.
Those using a Forester for towing will be pleased to know that it can pull up to 2,000kg and Subaru’s Trailer Stability Control will help prevent weaving and instability.