By KBB.com Editors
KBB Expert Rating: 6.7
Big, heavy gas-guzzling SUVs have their place, but if you don't need room for seven or the ability to tow a heavy trailer, a vehicle like the 2013 Subaru Forester makes much more sense. Easy on gas, the 4-cylinder Forester combines car-like ride and handling with the ground clearance and AWD tenacity of a light-duty off-road vehicle. Unlike most compact crossovers, the Forester's Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive is permanently engaged, providing excellent traction in all weather conditions. The Forester's roomy interior is highly versatile, and Subaru offers an abundance of roof-rack accessories for securing everything from cargo to kayaks. Best of all, the Forester is reasonably priced, holds it value well, and is an IIHS Top Safety Pick.
If you like the ride and handling of mid-size sedan, but the need for maximum cargo space requires a more SUV-like solution, the Subaru's 2013 Forester gives you the best of both worlds. Its low-profile boxer engine gives it remarkable poise in the curves, and its AWD lets it go places no car would dare to venture.
If you need room for seven, the ability to tow more than 2,400 pounds, or a rear seat DVD entertainment system, the Subaru Forester probably won't make the grade. Its outdated 4-speed automatic transmission doesn't provide the best fuel economy and the 5-speed manual isn't available on the sportier turbo models.
For 2013, the Subaru Forester 2.5X receives a new radio with built-in Bluetooth and streaming capabilities, as well as iPod control and a USB port. Steering-wheel audio controls are standard on the base trim, while Premium models get a new Value Package that includes an upgraded radio display, fog lights and the Cold Weather Package.
Driving Impressions We took our 2013 Subaru Forester on some light off-road trails, which 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 system, capable of transferring up to 100 percent of the engine's power to the individual 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 2013 Subaru 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 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 are height adjustable, and the 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, plus tie-downs in the floor and a storage well underneath it.Exterior
While earlier Foresters looked like tall Subaru wagons, the Forester for 2013 is a svelte take on the SUV. 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 accenting add just enough finesse to its clean, functional design.
The Subaru Forester 2.5X comes with a 5-speed manual transmission, AWD, Hill Start Assist, air conditioning, keyless entry, 16-inch steel wheels, six airbags, driver-seat lumbar adjuster, auto-off headlights, and Bluetooth for audio and phone. The Premium (in 2.5X or turbo 2.5XT form) gains a panoramic moonroof, 17-inch alloy wheels and a 10-way power driver seat. The turbo also adds fog lights, a rear spoiler and heated front seats. The 2.5X Limited adds leather, an automatic transmission, climate control, heated mirrors and a 6-speaker audio system. 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 for 2013 is a touch-screen navigation system with premium audio and iTunes song tagging on Limited and Touring models. Premium models can be equipped with a removable TomTom navigation system. 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, 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 2013 Forester 2.5X trims is a competent 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). This engine features chain-driven dual overhead camshafts for greater power and longevity as well as quieter operation. A 5-speed manual transmission is standard on 2.5X base and Premium trims, with a 4-speed automatic optional (and standard on all higher trim levels). The Forester 2.5XT enjoys a 224-horsepower turbocharged boxer-4. 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 mpg
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 mpg
By toml on Sunday, February 15, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 44,600overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "A great reliable car that is fun to drive ."
Cons: "Wish they had cup holders"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I have 2011 Forester and will buy another. It handles like a sports car the engine is quick and responsive and the steering is quick and precise. In snow it goes as well as my 4x4 jeep My only complaint, I'm about 6'1" tall and the drivers seat doesn't go quite far enough back for my comfort on long drives. I just sat in a new 2015 Forester and I love what they did with it. Beefed up the body style made the interior roomier and the drivers seat goes back far enough someone 7' tall. The car is reliable and other than normal service have not had any service issues with the car"
4 people out of 7 found this review helpful
By Donna on Monday, February 09, 2015
I don't own this caroverall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Great car, great driving, But I want more comforts"
Cons: "Rides a little rough when the roads are bad. Yes"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"have all my minor work on the cars. services when needed Subrau .. I have paper for. two accidents.sb The car is great to drive and, The two accident you would never notice itl"
By Jimbo on Wednesday, February 04, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 44,000overall rating 7 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 7
"I wish I didn't have to bash this machine, but it deserves it in a few areas. Lets start with the good: Driving this car is an amazing ride and feel. Steering is sensitive and responsive, braking is excellent, suspension is smooth, and pleasant over California's non-maintained garbage roads. Gas milage is low for a more modern car. My old 1996 Rav4 did 22mpg. My 2010 Forester averages 23mpg. The cons: The EJ25 motor is prone to head gasket failure. Subaru knows it, was sued over it, but decided keep the design for 13+ years. The car comes new off the lot with stop leak mixed in with the radiator fluid (radiator conditioner is the Subaru customer facing politically correct name) At 43,000 miles the shift fork wore out. Either the previous owner was really bad at shifting or this is another design flaw. Boots on the sway bar end links were ripped at 43k miles. Fabric inside is cheap. And the plastics are soft and scratch easily. And seriously... Why is there no manual transmission turbo option? Converting the X to an XT is a major ordeal for those that DIY build cars. Subaru is not on par with Honda in this category. If Honda offerd a real AWD CR-V instead of this FWD lie they call 4WD/AWD Subaru would not be able to compete.. AWD is all Subaru Forester has going for it at the moment."
6 people out of 8 found this review helpful
By Irven on Wednesday, January 14, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 42,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "Solid value"
Cons: "Parts too expensive"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"During my career of snow removal in the Sierra I have driven many vehicles in the snow, and the Forester is as good as any."
5 people out of 8 found this review helpful
By baldy on Saturday, December 06, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 53,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "good value in base model, good handeling, sturdy"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I have owned Forester 6.5 years. Bought it new. It is a 2nd car for us used in severe winter weather. Keep Michelin snow tires on year around as do not use much in good weather. Winter is where it shines. Love the handling. Paid $21000 new in 2008 still worth $12,000 . Could sell it in a day. No repairs yet. Brakes will be soon. No rust . I plan to use 4 more years at which time it will have 65000 to 70000 miles . It will still sell in a day in my driveway for a lot. Like $7900. People here in the back country hunt for these when used but clean. It makes a good match with our big loaded Honda Pilot. I believe the basic Forester is the very best value in a basic safe winter car. Load them up and like any car the value goes away ."
16 people out of 20 found this review helpful
By lewis on Friday, November 14, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 104,000overall rating 1 of 10rating details
Pros: "check engine lights light up the dash very well"
Cons: "can't see on dash led light."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"I was told not to buy this car even by the dealership. not sure why, as the vehicle had low miles, looked at the carfax and that was good. this is the 5 speed manual transmission. I purchased an extended warranty and my first unpleasant surprise was that the worry free driving was about to end. the throw out bearing($1,000) had premature failure, and was not covered by the extended warranty(read the fine print). Next the catalytic converters failed, another $1,100 and now replacement of the timing belt and water pump, another $1,000. this past weekend it snowed in MN and now I have more engine work related to the exhaust system, another $200+. none of this work covered by any warranty and the dealership told me to call the Subaru USA number. they offered $200 out of pity, but still have not received the voucher in over a month. my advice is to run, not walk away from this "rugged, reliable vehicle" and to read closely any aftermarket warranty sold by Subaru. read the posts from consumers with multiple problems with the 2009 and newer Foresters, you will be shocked how the quality of these vehicles has gone down hill. I purchased the Forester in 2011. i'm retired and these repair bills have been devastating."
10 people out of 25 found this review helpful