As you may recall, I bought a Subaru Forester relatively recently. On the whole, I am liking it a great deal and not feeling much in the way of buyer’s remorse. I probably wouldn’t have gotten it if I lived in a warmer client, but it’s suiting our needs pretty well. We’ll see how adding kids and maybe another dog changes that equation.

Pros:

  • All-Wheel Drive. This was one of the main reasons that I went with the Forester. It’s not just that we’re in snow country, but we’re also in hilly country. I can’t say that having AWD has allowed me to do things I otherwise wouldn’t be able to, but it has allowed me to do so without having to worry about it. I could probably get to Redstone or out to Mocum in my Escort on any given day, but with the Forester I have the peace of mind to know that as long as I can get traction on one or two wheels – any of them – I don’t have to worry about getting stuck.
    • Price Point. There were other vehicles that offered AWD. But in addition to the Forester being part of a line that takes it more seriously, it was one of the least expensive. To get AWD and the other things I wanted (towing capacity, for instance), Toyota and Honda pushed you towards the more expensive models. With the Forester, I was able to get the base model. Even if I’d had to get the middle-tier, it was still significantly cheaper than most of the alternatives.
    • Dealership. They’ve been great. My dealings with the Ford and Toyota dealerships have been lackluster. The fact that I am under warranty helps, but for the fact that Ford was making money off me when I wanted them to do this or that. Meanwhile, the dealership is giving me things they are not obliged to. I don’t know how universal this is, but the Redstone dealership has been great.
    • Size & Overall “Feel”. Being a “small car guy”, I was worried about driving a bigger car. I wanted the cargo capacity and we will hopefully be needing something family-friendly over the next year or so, but I wondered what the tradeoff was. Turns out that there isn’t any. I feel just about as comfortable driving this as any of the other cars. It doesn’t have the feel of unwieldiness I was concerned about. It’s not as maneuverable as the Escort, but that’s likely a physical impossible. What it lacks there, it makes up for in terms of visibility and allowing me to sit completely upright.
    • Three DC Connectors. Well, connectors in general. There are three DC connectors, one in the front, one in the storage compartment in the middle of the seats, and one in the back. Having my power-splitter almost feels like overkill. I also like that they have a DC connector and auxiliary jack in the middle storage compartment, making the plugging in of my smartphone (and placing of it in the cupholder) very convenient.
    • Cheap to insure. I was expecting that to bite harder than it did. It’s about the same cost to insure as the Camry, despite the Toyota being 15 years old and only worth a few thousand dollars in an accident. The Escort was notably cheaper than both, though.

    Cons:

    • Transmission/MPG. On this, I was warned. Its posted mileage is 27/21, though for us it’s really more like 24/18. It’s attributable to the mountains as much as anything. The gains I should be making on the Interstate are lost due the constant ups and downs. This is aided by the lackluster transmission (only 4-speeds) that causes huge spikes in RPMs and drops in mileage. I seem to be averaging around 22mph. That could be much worse, but I suspect it would be better with a CVT.
    • Stereo. On this, too, I was warned. It was less than a couple of days before I informed the dealership that I wanted an upgrade. The speaker setup in the Escort and Camry are both better, despite each being over a decade old and having a cracked base speaker (requiring me to shift sound output away from that speaker). After hearing about it, I was thinking it was something that I might want to replace at some point, but it became pretty urgent pretty quickly. Also, the video display is really weak. It doesn’t read ID3 tags for MP3 files and the file name doesn’t scroll so you only get the first several letters. We’ve upgraded the speaker setup, which is enough for now, but will probably upgrade the player later.
    • Keys. It has a separate dongle for the power locks and no option to upgrade to put it in the key itself. The dealership loaned me a Legacy when they were upgrading the sound system, and it had the single unit with both keys and power locks. I asked if I could buy one for the Forester, but it’s not even available. It would make sitting down on my keys a lot easier if it were. I don’t know what I’m going to do when we replace the Camry and I have two of those things in my pocket, if her replacement car also doesn’t have the two-in-one.
    • Susceptibility to wind. While I do like the size overall, Arapaho is windy and the Forester’s size causes it to catch that wind in a way that the Escort didn’t. It’s unavoidable and simple physics, but kind of a pain in the rear on a windy day. A couple times I thought that the alignment was off. Turned out it was just the wind blowing the car.

    Category: Road

    About the Author


    8 Responses to Pros & Cons of the Subaru Forester

    1. Peter says:

      You are quite right about Foresters and mileage. Now that I drive so much for work I really have begun to appreciate just how mediocre my 2006’s mileage is.

    2. trumwill says:

      I was sort of thinking that mileage would matter less since I mostly drive around town. And it does. But it takes a psychological toll on longer trips (“Do I really want to go to Alexandria if it’s going to cost me $30 to get there?”). I love the fact that the Forester keeps track of my mileage for me (on the dash), but it’s dispiriting.

      By the way, I have you (among others) to thank for the head’s up on mileage. You mentioned it once or twice and that prevented me from getting my hopes up.

      On the other hand, I wanted AWD. There aren’t many good mileage options with AWD that don’t cost an arm and a leg. I could have gotten a Legacy (or an Outback, with slightly better reported mileage), but the former didn’t meet size requirements and the latter came with too high a price tag.

    3. David Alexander says:

      In contrast, since I have no need to tow, if I was buying a Subaru*, I’d opt for a Impreza and tell my future kids to suck it** and sit in the back. OTOH, if I really had to tow, there’s always the Town Car that sits in the garage.

      *I wish Mazda offered AWD. Sadly, small crossovers have killed any desire to offer AWD in anything that isn’t a luxury sedan.

      **I somehow manage to get three kids, one of which is overweight to sit in the back of the Saturn…

    4. trumwill says:

      Amazingly, the Impreza registers worse mileage than the Forester (by a smidgeon). Pretty ridiculous given the differences in size (the larger Legacy registers better mileage). The Impreza WRX, which I assume you’re referring to, gets even worse mileage, though with a turbo engine you sort of expect it.

    5. David Alexander says:

      the Impreza registers worse mileage than the Forester

      That’s because for all intents and purposes, the Forester is an Impreza on stilts. The previous generations were shared with the Impreza while the current generation is a weird hybrid of the Japanese Impreza wagon and the US Impreza sedan. IIRC, both use the same engines as well in the previous and current generations so I’m really not surprised at the similar fuel economy in both cars. Given that the Mazda 3’s 2.5L with 165 hp has been tested to achieve 22/29 with a 5-speed transmission, the Subaru isn’t that bad given that it comes with AWD.

      The Impreza WRX, which I assume you’re referring to, gets even worse mileage

      Admittedly, I was referring to the original Impreza, but it would be nice to have a WRX-spec model even though they’re not as good as they used to be.

    6. Kirk says:

      I didn’t understand your comment about keys. As for a CVT tranny, aren’t those a bad bet? I’ve heard bad things about them.

    7. trumwill says:

      David, yeah, but as a lighter and less bulky car, shouldn’t the Impreza get at least a little better mileage? The Legacy and Outback are very similar, but the Legacy gets better mileage.

    8. trumwill says:

      Kirk, most new cars today come with a key and a separate item for electric unlocking (like this. The Legacy and Outback offer them both on the same device, like this.

      Maybe you’re right about the CVT. It’s not something I really looked into because it seemed like going without it was a way to save money. Maybe I made the right choice by default.

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