Don't Miss

2016 Subaru Forester

2016 Forester

Base Price: $22,395
Price as Tested: $27,690

An affordable price, terrific fuel economy and standard all-wheel drive should be enough to attract any shopper of small crossovers to the 2016 Subaru Forester, but its story doesn’t end there. Lots of cargo room, a peppy powerplant and comfortable cabin further sweeten the pot.

2016 Forester_2To be honest, the Forester probably doesn’t wow much of anyone. You could easily walk right past one in a crowded parking lot and never notice it. It doesn’t turn heads nor inspire poetry. With its badging removed, could you pick it out of a small-crossover lineup? “It’s the one with four wheels and a windshield. Yeah, that one…no, wait, that one over there…um, maybe that one on the end?”

A crossover doesn’t need to be showy to be more than competent. Although its looks may be less than notable, there is a lot about Forester that is memorable; not the least of which is its value story. You can get into a Forester for the enticingly low price of $22,395. That not only gets you AWD and hill-start assist, but such basic convenience and comfort goodies as full power accessories, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, backup camera, cruise control, Bluetooth connectivity, 6.2-inch color touchscreen and a four-speaker audio system with USB port.

Inside, Forester’s cabin may not deliver the high-end feel of some other crossovers, but it does feature gobs of room. It has more rear-seat legroom and cargo space – whether measured behind the first-row or behind the second-row seats – than the honking-big $65,000 Land Rover Range Rover Sport that’s significantly wider, longer, taller and less urban friendly! My-oh-my.

Of Forester’s six grades, all but the top two trims come standard with a 170-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine. A 250-horsepower 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine motivates the 2.0XT and 2.0XT Touring trims. At the bottom of Forester’s pecking order are the 2.5i and 2.5i Premium grades. These come standard with a six-speed manual transmission. Adding the CVT to either boosts the bottom line by $1,000. The four higher trim levels get the CVT as standard equipment.

Fuel economy with any available combination of engine and transmission is pretty-darn good. Remember these government 2016 Forester_3estimates are for a crossover with standard AWD. With the 2.5L and manual tranny, the mileage is 22 mpg city, 29 highway and 25 combined. When mating with the CVT, that same engine delivers and estimated 24 mpg city, 32 highway and 27 combined. Opting for the extra punch of the turbo 2.0L is still an impressive 23 mpg city, 28 highway and 25 combined.

My test Forester was a 2.5i Premium with the optional CVT. I liked it for its utility, quiet comfort and smooth ride.

Forester is more of a blue-collar performer. It gets the job done, but isn’t engineered for spirited sprints through the mountain twisties. Forester is sort of the Heath Miller of smaller crossovers. It accelerates briskly enough for most drivers’ needs, even with the 2.5L, but won’t throw you back into your seat. It stops with authority and is relatively easy to park in tight downtown parking spots. Moreover, Forester earned top safety marks from the government, as well as the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Subaru extends the exterior’s fairly nondescript styling to the interior. It’s function over form. There are no superfluous swoops or angles. There’s not much in the way of gingerbread either: no piano black or wood trim, faux or otherwise. It’s just straightforward utility. All of the controls are where expected and simple to use. I really appreciated that three large knobs ran the climate-control system, and the audio system had knobs to adjust volume and stations. Gauges are large and easy to see. In my 2.5i Premium-grade tester, as well as all higher trims, a 7-inch touchscreen replaces the 2.5i’s 6.2-inch one. Every trim level receives a version of Subaru’s Starlink telematics system with smart-phone integration, including Aha, Pandora and weather. In the 2.5i Premium, like my test car, Starlink includes an audio system upgrade to six speakers, satellite radio capability, dual USB ports and SMS text messaging.

2016 Forester_4Supportive and comfortable, the front seats are wide, offering more than adequate side bolstering. In addition to providing a healthy portion of legroom, the backseat is raised, providing better visibility. Headroom isn’t an issue either, even for taller occupants.

In addition to the CVT, my test Subaru had $1,895 in options, including heated front seats/outboard mirrors/windshield wipers, pre-collision braking, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, adaptive fog lights and navigation system.

If what you need is a smaller crossover, delivering better-than-average fuel economy that’s capable of carrying lots of cargo through mud and snow, Subaru’s Forester fills the bill.