Review by Justin Pritchard

Vehicle Type: Compact Crossover SUV

History/Description: The 2009 to 2013 Subaru Forester enjoyed a healthy sales life, recognition from industry authorities for reliability and residual values, and a following of loyal owners. A new-for-2014 model is hitting dealer lots, meaning that the last generation of Subaru’s compact crossover is now transitioning into used vehicle territory.

Forester competes with the likes of the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 with an eye for practicality and All Wheel Drive (AWD) performance. Building on a solid product noted for safety and value, the Forester was available in numerous models and trim levels to fine tune it to the needs of any shopper. All models feature Subaru’s Symmetrical AWD (equal power and weight to each side), four doors, five seats and over 1,900 litres of cargo space.

On a test drive of a barebones 2011 Forester model, I noted good real-world fuel efficiency, a comfortable and car-like ride and good overall value for the money. Many owners back this up.

2010 Subaru Forester2011 Subaru Forester2009 Subaru Forester
Subaru Forester, 2009–2013. Click image to enlarge

Engines / Trim: Standard or entry-level models were called the 2.5X, and packed a 2.5L ‘Boxer’ (horizontally opposed, meaning two cylinders lie flat on each side of the centre) four-cylinder engine, five-speed stick and Symmetrical AWD. A used example with the Convenience Package adds an automatic four-speed transmission, alloy wheels, roof rails, a 10-way adjustable driver’s seat and more.

A Forester PZEV, which stands for Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle, adds additional features like a more powerful catalytic converter and leak-free fuel injectors that enable the model to achieve the cleanest emissions rating possible in a gas-burning vehicle. The Touring Package added larger wheels, a larger sunroof, heated mirrors and more, while the Limited model got heated leather, a premium Pioneer stereo with navigation and iPod connectivity and a xenon lighting system.

2010 Subaru Forester
2010 Subaru Forester
2010 Subaru Forester
2010 Subaru Forester. Click image to enlarge

For the performance-oriented shopper, the Forester 2.5XT booted the standard 170-hp engine from under the hood and added a turbocharged version of it – delivering 224 horsepower.

Equipment levels were the same as the Limited model, here. Other features included cruise, steering wheel–mounted audio controls, power accessories, remote keyless access, automatic climate control and automatic lights.

A turbocharged Forester will have a higher purchase price, higher insurance rates, and higher maintenance costs. It also requires more expensive premium gas, burns through it more quickly, and may cost you a speeding ticket or two. Of course, the fun-to-drive factor outweighs the added costs for many owners.

What Owners Like: Owners tended to comment positively on fuel mileage, performance from the standard engine, the slippery-weather assurance of the AWD system, and laid-back, easy-to-drive character. Many also enjoy the confidence that comes from Forester’s reputation for safety. The manual shifter on more basic models is rated highly, too. An easy-to-use control layout and high interior functionality round out the package.

What Owners Dislike: Common complaints centre around ‘vanilla’ styling, performance from the dated four-speed automatic transmission, clumsy cupholder design, and cramped rear-seat space for full-grown adults. Some owners also say that with a child seat in the middle rear seat, using the outboard seatbelts can be difficult. Other complaints include sub-par audio system performance and uncomfortable seats.

Here’s a list of owner reviews of the Forester:

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