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 Its outdated 4-speed automatic transmission doesn't provide the best fuel economy and the 5-speed manual isn't available on the sportier turbo models.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 TOP DOG on Friday, July 25, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 51,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "awd works great"
Cons: "oil consumption rate is excessive"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 4
"I have a 2012 Forester and in a 5000 mile oil change interval there is a 4 quart oil consumption. I use a Subaru oil filter and Mobile 1 0w-20 synthetic oil that is recommended. Is this normal or did I get a lemon ?"
1 person out of 1 found this review helpful
By Web on Sunday, June 15, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 40,400overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "good gas mileage, reliable, trustworthy"
Cons: "poor cupholders, rear seats don't fold flat."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Subarus are reliable in all kinds of weather. Service them by the owner's manual & they just about run forever. My best one was a '94 Legacy - nearly 300,000 trouble-free miles on it & still running!"
7 people out of 9 found this review helpful
By Ginger on Thursday, June 05, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 24,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I have not needed any significant work and I've had the car for almost 5 years. but the mileage is low."
3 people out of 6 found this review helpful
By ant barb on Saturday, May 31, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 89,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Cons: "tire pressure light is very sensitive"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I loved this car until I injured my back. The seats do not have the correct support for me. Long trips were always taxing but now I am in pain within the first mile or two. Have tried sheep skin and memory foam without relief. May have to let it go and get something else. Have not had any problems with it. Have gotten up to 34 mpg and average 28 to 29 mpg."
2 people out of 2 found this review helpful
By Bob on Thursday, May 29, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 58,000overall rating 5 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"Runs and drives wonderfully. But, cannot sit in the car for more than 20 minutes without my legs going numb. 10 way power seat is no help. I'm 5'9" and 189 lbs. Wife has no problem."
By Steve on Thursday, May 22, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 35,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Fun to drive, great traction, great visibility"
Cons: "4-speed auto gets poor mileage at high speed"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"We own a 2011 Forester. Bought new. Has a panoramic sunroof -- probably why we bought it, and we love it. Lots of great visibility. Great smooth ride. A little bouncy at times, but not annoying. Superb traction in all driving conditions -- feels like you could drive straight up a cliff. Very reliable, after 35K miles still going strong, nothing has broken so far. Lots of space in the back. Cloth seats stain fairly easily, but they clean up ok. Only issue is the 4-speed automatic transmission with the 2.5L engine, max speed is 80mph. Gets 29mpg at 60mph, but only 20mpg at 75mph. Overall, we love the car."
4 people out of 5 found this review helpful