By KBB.com Editors
With rising gas prices compelling many large SUV owners to abandon their fuel-hungry rides, small crossovers like the new, third-generation 2009 Subaru Forester have never looked better. An agile vehicle built to handle practically anything man or nature can put before its tires, the latest iteration has a much more contemporary-looking exterior complemented by a more spacious interior and a smoother, quieter ride. And with a respectable four-cylinder Boxer engine under the hood and Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive as standard, the Forester offers the capability of an SUV with fuel economy that won't break the bank. This segment has seen a lot of growth in the last few years, but the Forester can go places the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, Saturn VUE and Nissan Rogue can't.
If you like your SUVs to be true to the "Utility" in "Sport Utility Vehicle," while still being small enough to comfortably maneuver in a city, the Forester may be the vehicle for you. With a low starting price, standard AWD, proven reliability, more towing power than many others in its class and great visibility all around, there's certainly a lot to love.
If you want a V6 engine, room for seven or rear-seat entertainment, the 2009 Subaru Forester may not be for you. And although a manual transmission is offered, the automatic is the only transmission available with the turbocharged engine.
The Subaru Forester sees substantial changes for 2009. Built on an all-new platform and now sporting double-wishbone rear suspension, the Forester not only handles better, it also has more rear legroom and a quieter ride.
Driving Impressions Off-roading in the 2009 Subaru Forester showcased the vehicle's stiffer suspension, direct steering and notable ground clearance, all of which came into play when traversing rocks and ditches. Also helpful...was the Forester's standard Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive (AWD) system, capable of transferring up to 100 percent of the available power to the wheels with the best traction. Back on the pavement, we liked the added get-up-and-go provided by turbocharged models (who wouldn't?), but those with a more practical and budget-minded outlook will be just as happy buzzing around town with the normally-aspirated engine. Getting in and out of both rows of seats was a breeze thanks to wide-opening doors, and we found the all-around visibility from the driver's seat to be excellent; a boon when changing lanes, reversing, and exploring dirt roads.
Being able to see what's behind a vehicle when backing up, changing lanes, or even venturing off-road can make a big difference in how someone behaves while driving. The Forester's large back window allows the driver to see an object only 39 inches tall within 39 inches of the vehicle.
Although not as large as others we've seen, this moonroof provides pleasant light to both the front and rear passengers, bringing a bit of the outdoors inside.
The 2009 Subaru Forester features gauges that are colorful and easy to read, plus audio and climate controls configured in a logical, clear manner. A single cup holder is located next to the driver, while an additional bottle holder is situated in each door. Back in the second row, leg room is plentiful and the seats are wide and comfortable. In all trims except the 2.5X, the second-row seats recline. Cargo room in the back is a respectable 33.5 cubic feet, made all the more accessible thanks to a wide-opening rear gate door.Exterior
The latest version of the Subaru Forester is a little less wagon and a little more modern crossover. Overall, the vehicle is taller and longer, with up to 8.9 inches of ground clearance that comes in handy when the road gets rough. Up front, a larger grille and "hawk eye" headlight treatment impart a more aggressive appearance, especially when paired with the available turbocharged engine's air scoop and fog lights. The optional chrome door handles and tailpipe add a bit of fresh bling to the Forester's exterior, while the wheelwells are filled with 16-inch steel or available 17-inch alloy wheels.
The base 2009 Subaru Forester 2.5X comes equipped with a five-speed manual transmission, Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive, Hill Start Assist, 16-inch steel wheels and 8.7-inches of ground clearance. Notable interior touches include a height-adjustable driver's seat with adjustable lumbar support and auto-off headlights. Opting for the XT trim will add the turbocharged engine, four-speed automatic transmission, 17-inch wheels (helping to bump ground clearance to 8.9 inches), premium sound, fog lights and a telescoping steering column. To help keep occupants safe and sound, both trims feature six airbags, Vehicle Dynamics Control and anti-lock brakes with Electronic Brake-force Distribution and Brake Assist.
Some of the 2009 Subaru Forester's most attractive options include a navigation system, leather seating, power driver's seat, panoramic sunroof, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, premium sound, automatic climate control, satellite radio (choice of XM or Sirius), and cold-climate desirables like heated seats, heated side mirrors and a windshield wiper de-icer.
Powering the base Forester X is a 170-horsepower four-cylinder Boxer engine (a "flat" engine in which the pistons lie horizontally, an advantage of which is a lower center of gravity) with a five-speed manual transmission, available only in this trim. Moving up to the L.L. Bean Edition adds a four-speed automatic transmission, while the XT trims come with a 224-horsepower turbocharged Boxer engine. Although the base engine is practical for around town driving, those looking for a little more power without a significant drop in fuel economy will likely appreciate all that the turbocharged version has to offer – if they don't mind paying for premium gas.
170 horsepower @ 6000 rpm
170 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4400 rpm
EPA Estimated City/Highway Mileage: 20/26
2.5-liter Boxer-4 Turbocharged
224 horsepower@ 5200 rpm
226 lb.-ft. of torque @ 2800 rpm
EPA Estimated City/Highway Mileage: 19/24
By Matt (NY) on Monday, April 22, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 15,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Powerful, fuel efficient and fun to drive"
Cons: "Disappointing in the snow"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"The forester is great to drive and has plenty of power. In fact I have gotten myself in trouble on more than one occasion. And while the power is more than I expected from a four-banger the gas mileage never drops below 24 mpg. The car has excellent ground clearance for off road use and deep snow. My only complaint is the ability in the snow. Maybe it's the Bridgestone Dueller H/T. Maybe the car is too light. In comparison with subarus I've owned in the past this one slides around a bit much. Whatever the reason or reasons, the 2012 Subaru Forester is a disappointment in the slippery conditions of western NY."
3 people out of 3 found this review helpful
By Cowgirl (GA) on Thursday, April 18, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 6,800overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Great driving"
Cons: "Much improved design from the first model"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 5
"I love this car. I feel safe, the ride is really comfortable. I like the carbon footprint and everything Subaru stands for in it's manufacturing practices. I love the ease in which it handles. My sister is buying her 2nd...the first one is being handed down to her son. It's 15 years old."
2 people out of 2 found this review helpful
By CleElum (WA) on Tuesday, April 16, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 35,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Everything--especially handling in bad weather."
Cons: "Need keyless start."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Our second Forester. Live in snow country--it just keeps going--and no chains for us when chains are required on the Pass for non-AWD/4WD. It's comfortable, a pleasure to drive. We leave the back seats down unless we have passengers so there's room for all the extra stuff we keep in the car and the dogs. We average about 23-24 mpg in winter and 26-27 in summer and a year's average of 25 mpg with mostly highway driving but lots of hills that suck up the gas. Our next car will be a Forester."
1 person out of 1 found this review helpful
By Marcy (FL) on Saturday, March 16, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 7,800overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "Decent MPGs, AWD/fun to drive, great visibility"
Cons: "Uncomfy seats"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"I drove a jacked up 2006 6.0 F250 until a couple of months ago. I traded it for a used 2011 2.5X with less than 5,000 miles on it. Going from a diesel truck to a gas crossover has been nice in many ways, including the fuel mileage and decrease in fuel bill by about $350 a month. I get about 24 in the city, and get 27+ on the highway, and about $50 for a fill up (much improved from my $105 fill up in the truck.) The engine does make an interesting noise when turning over after it has been sitting for a few days, shifting isn't always incredibly smooth when I'm really pushing it on tight turns (from 1st to 2nd gear I'd imagine). The awd is great! Makes it fun to drive and comforting in bad weather. My biggest complaint is the interior. The seats aren't that comfortable by any means with zero lumbar support. It's also weird that the passenger's seat rides so low and has no real adjustment mechanism either. Audio system could use an upgrade. That's about it. These things, while we expect to get exactly what we want (unless we can afford to order custom) is unrealistic. Lumbar support can be purchased for the vehicles aftermarket, as can an audio system upgrade. If you really want to throw the money into it after market, I'm sure someone has come up with a solution for the passenger's seat to become adjustable. The parts of the vehicle that matter, which are engine, safety, fuel efficiency (if driven with mpg's in mind), and handling are all there in a big way. Everything else is colored bubbles, either you have the money for the top model with all the nice features, or you have to upgrade them later. Take your pick, but I love this vehicle for its bare bones and despite what it is lacking."
5 people out of 5 found this review helpful
By Chevalier (WA) on Friday, February 15, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 2,000overall rating 7 of 10rating details
Pros: "AWD, great value"
Cons: "Intermittent starting problem that won't go away"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 7
"New 2013 Premium 5MT with Plus package. Terrific value for the money: AWD, heated seats, mirrors and windshield, large panoramic roof, height adjustable drive and passenger seats. Weird problem with starting sometimes; having to crank the engine at least 3 times to start, each time about 3-5 seconds of cranking. Dealer installed shim kit for camshaft sensor; starting problem occurs less frequently after the dealer repair but still happens occasionally. Rattles in the dashboard and A-pillar almost from day one. Stereo is weak even with the upgraded 6 speakers. Otherwise, overall a good car with great value."
4 people out of 4 found this review helpful
By red (AR) on Wednesday, February 13, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 90,000overall rating 2 of 10rating details
Pros: "Great on the snow"
Cons: "not comfortable or quiet"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"My Forester is a Great Car if you want something that starts most of the time and rides like a log wagon. The carpet is rotting out, it is very noisy, rough on the interstate but great on snow and ice."
2 people out of 4 found this review helpful