By KBB.com Editors
KBB Expert Rating: 7.2
Smaller crossovers have replaced gas-guzzling SUVs for thousands of drivers concerned with volatile fuel prices or just eager to reduce their carbon footprint without giving up SUV versatility. Among the most praiseworthy of these is the 2012 Subaru Forester, an agile vehicle that's surprisingly well-mannered on the road, and with off-road capability you wouldn't dare try in a Honda CR-V, Nissan Rogue or Toyota RAV4. Based on Subaru's signature 4-cylinder boxer engine and Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive (AWD), the Forester's low-profile drivetrain results in a lower center of gravity, promising more stable handling despite its commanding seating height and generous interior volume. Factor in Subaru's excellent reputation for reliability and longevity, along with impressive fuel economy, and the Forester grows even more appealing.
If you like equal parts sport and utility in your SUV, the Forester is maneuverable in the city, yet roomy and capable enough for weekend excursions off the beaten path. You'll also like its low starting price, standard AWD, respectable towing ability, top-rated safety and reliability, and turbo option.
If you want six cylinders, seven seats or rear-seat entertainment, the Forester is not for you. And although a 5-speed manual transmission is standard on the base and 2.5X Premium models, a SportShift automatic with just four speeds is the only transmission choice on the upper-trim levels or any of the turbocharged models.
The Forester's wide range of trim levels includes two turbo models. All include a new height-adjustable front passenger seat for 2012. A new option on the higher trims is a touch-screen navigation system that's bundled with a USB, iPod and Bluetooth features, satellite radio and traffic, and a text-message feature.
Driving Impressions Off-roading in the Subaru Forester showcased the vehicle's firmer 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 engine's power to the wheels with the best traction. Back on pavement, we liked the added get-up-and-go of the turbocharged models (who wouldn't?), but those with a more practical and budget-minded outlook will be just as happy dashing around town with the naturally 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 views 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 imparting driving confidence. The Forester's large rear 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 oversized glass roof provides pleasant light to both the front and rear passengers, bringing a bit of the outdoors inside.
The 2012 Subaru Forester's colorful gauges are set into a sweeping dashboard with a logical layout. A multifunction display with fuel-economy and outside-temperature readouts is standard, as is a versatile center console with numerous cubbies and two 12-volt sockets. The roomy front seats adjust at least six ways, and materials feel reasonably rich. Rear legroom is plentiful, and the 60/40-split seat folds easily and even reclines in all but the base 2.5X. The wide liftgate opens to 33.5 cubic feet of cargo space, plus such niceties as hooks for grocery bags and other items, tie-downs in the floor, and storage well underneath it.Exterior
While earlier Foresters looked like tall Subaru wagons, the third and latest generation is a svelte take on the SUV. An upswept beltline, prominent wheel arches and nearly nine inches of ground clearance lend it a clean yet businesslike profile. Up front, a large grille and wraparound "hawkeye" headlights add a hint of sporty aggression, especially in combination with the functional hood scoop on the turbo models. Sporty alloy wheels (optional on the base 2.5X, standard in a 17-inch size on all the higher trims) and a tasteful measure of chrome accents add just enough finesse to its clean, functional design.
The base Forester 2.5X comes with a 5-speed manual transmission, AWD, Hill Start Assist, air conditioning, keyless entry, 16-inch steel wheels, front side-impact and front/rear side-curtain airbags, Vehicle Dynamics Control, driver-seat lumbar adjuster and auto-off headlights. The Premium (in 2.5X or turbo 2.5XT form) adds a panoramic moonroof, 17-inch alloy wheels, 10-way power driver seat, and Bluetooth for audio and phone. The turbo also adds foglights, a rear spoiler and heated front seats. The 2.5X Limited adds leather, automatic transmission, climate control, heated mirrors and 6-speaker audio. The top 2.5X and 2.5XT Touring models include electroluminescent gauges, dual-zone climate control, 7-speaker audio, rearview camera and xenon headlights.
Among the Forester's most attractive options is a new touch-screen navigation system with premium audio and iTunes song tagging on Limited and Touring models, or a removable TomTom navigation system for the 2.5X Premium. An All-Weather package for the 2.5X Premium adds heated front seats, heated side mirrors and a windshield wiper de-icer. (It's standard on the higher models, though oddly not available on the 2.5XT Premium.) Other than satellite radio (choice of XM or Sirius), most other options are bundled into the various trim levels. The 4-speed automatic transmission is optional on the 2.5X and 2.5X Premium, and standard elsewhere.
Powering all 2012 Forester 2.5X trims is a recently revised 170-horsepower 4-cylinder boxer engine (a "flat" engine in which the pistons lie horizontally, one advantage of which is a lower center of gravity). The new-for-2011 engine features a longer stroke and chain-driven dual overhead cams replacing the old engine's belt-driven single cam. A 5-speed manual transmission is standard on 2.5X base and Premium trims, with a 4-speed automatic transmission optional (and standard on all higher trim levels). Forester 2.5XT models enjoy a 224-horsepower turbocharged boxer-4 (not sharing the updates to the 2.5X engine). Although the base engine is practical around town, those seeking more power without suffering typical SUV fuel-economy penalties will appreciate the turbo, as long as they don't mind paying for premium gasoline.
170 horsepower @ 5,800 rpm
174 lb-ft of torque @ 4,100 rpm
EPA Estimated City/Highway Mileage: 21/27
2.5-liter turbocharged boxer-4
224 horsepower@ 5,200 rpm
226 lb-ft of torque @ 2,800 rpm
EPA Estimated City/Highway Mileage: 19/24
By Bruce on Thursday, April 17, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 19,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Love the AWD and good mileage (30 -32) cruising."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"I bought it to tow behind a motor home and it has the towing hitch still installed on the front and tow bar available. I also wanted to be able to drive it off road. With the AWD, it does both very well and is also a great car for driving around town and shopping. Also has receiver hitch for towing a light utility trailer (2000 lb. capacity). It has manual transmission, very clean and non-smoker. I have had no problems with it at all and it's had regular service and oil changes."
By teach on Friday, March 14, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 23,000overall rating 5 of 10rating details
Cons: "not good back-up visibility."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"Great turning ratio. Good visibility EXCEPT rear view mirrors much too big. They block vision from R & L at 4-corners. No need to have increased the size overall. 2008 was a perfect size. square back and wide vision in rear perfect. Won't own another because of the new curved and slanted rear-view windows. Too bed Subaru had to "follow the trend of poor rear visibility". Changed storage holes. They were perfect and now much lese useful."
2 people out of 3 found this review helpful
By Linda on Saturday, March 01, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 41,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Is holding its value well, safe, great in snow"
Cons: "body integrity is its only flaw."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"I have had my 2009 Forester since it was new. Living in Colorado, one can expect any kind of weather, anytime. My Forester is ready to take on the worst of conditions. When others are slipping and sliding on ice and snow, my Forester keeps me safe and sound. It is fun to drive and easy to handle. Love the fold down seats when extra space is needed. The safety factor is what really sold me on the Subaru. I frequently transport twin grandchildren and want to know that they are riding in the safest car there is. Love my Suby!"
1 person out of 1 found this review helpful
By Grandma D on Tuesday, February 25, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 42,500overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Safe, dependable, pretty."
Cons: "Loud until warmed up, road noise."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"I've had my 2011 Forester certified pre-owned for 2 months now. So far, so good. I really like it. My elderly mother doesn't like the fact that it's hard for her to see out through the windshield from the passenger side, but I like that it is easy for her to get in and out of... not too low and not too high. My only complaints would be road noise and loud engine noise on start-up/warm-up. Considering I live in San Diego, a cold start-up should be a non-issue. And those square cup-holders!"
2 people out of 2 found this review helpful
By JoJo on Saturday, February 22, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 117,000overall rating 7 of 10rating details
Pros: "It gets you where you want to go (within reason)"
Cons: "Overall, hasn't been that impressive"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 6
"I bought this vehicle for three main reasons: 1) It was rated high for small SUVs in Consumer Reports 2) It was a manual (5-speed) which are hard to come by anymore. (Not many choices.) 3) The Honda Element was no longer made (which is what I really wanted) so I "settled" for this one. (I sold my Element to a friend @ 165,000 miles. It's still running @ 275,000! I drive a lot of miles in a year and felt it was time for lesser mileage.) I've had to replace the clutch and the back brakes in the Forrester already. First time I've ever had to do either on any vehicle I've owned. ... And I've been driving a LONG time (over 50 years)! I'm now doing my homework for the next vehicle. I'm certain it won't be a Forrester."
1 person out of 2 found this review helpful
By rkarene on Monday, February 10, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 92,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "great handling, lots of room inside."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I have had 3 Subaru Foresters. I have a 2009 model now for sale as I am about to replace it with a 2014 Forester or an Outback. Love my Subaru !"