Subaru Forester car reviews - first generation

Review Notes: First Generation Subaru Forester
Personality Inexpensive SUV
Unusual features Carlike AWD and handling
Above Average In: Reliability, ease of owning/driving, handling, gas mileage
Drawbacks: Not designed for serious off-road use

Based on the Subaru Impreza, a respectable and durable rally car, the Forester combines Subaru's excellent all wheel drive with SUV space and styling to create a superior (in its price class) compact SUV. The standard 2.5 liter "boxer" engine provides 165 horsepower with 166 lb-ft of torque, which rivals some V-6 engines in its low-end grunt.

Subaru Forester engine

It is easy to get into and out of the Forester, which is lower than most SUVs but higher than most cars. In this way, the Forester resembles a PT Cruiser more than a real SUV.

Subaru Forester front

The Subaru is terrific for people who have to deal with snow or bad weather on a regular basis, but is also a good everyday vehicle, with relatively good gas mileage (about 22 on average, very good handling, a comfortable if firm ride, and a quiet, easy to live with interior.

Indeed, we suspect most SUV buyers would be happier with a Forester. The all wheel drive system is best suited for the conditions most of us encounter, and seems to be more reliable in the long run than four wheel drive. (It is also always active). The quiet interior is spacious in front and has good cargo room, though the rear seats are short on legroom. Headroom is very good, with an unusually generously sized moonroof. There are storage areas for coins, cups, sunglasses, and other things. The controls are well executed, and the instrument panel is easy to read at a glance.

Handling is good, with a well cushioned ride. The interior is quiet, with well designed controls and a clear instrument panel. The stereo has good imaging, though the sound is a little muddy. The engine quickly warms up and provides strong heat.

Subaru's reliability record is strong, and the Forester is built on the durable Impreza platform. It mixes the atmosphere of an SUV with the driveability of a car, with a reliable all wheel drive system and Paul Hogan to lend a little machismo. Taken together with a reasonable price and (we expect) high resale value, the Forester is almost a bargain.