Overview

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Overview (Final Score: A)

The long-favorite Subaru Forester has been completely revamped for the 2019 model year. It's now a bit larger, has Subaru's EyeSight safety system as standard, and more interior room. Unchanged is the always-on all-wheel drive Subaru is known for and the well-vetted 2.5-liter engine that powers the Forester.

The 2019 Forester continues with the model's aim towards compact crossover buyers who need a little more than just a glorified hatchback as their daily. The Forester is roomy, capable, versatile, and efficient.

Debuting on the new Forester is a new DriverFocus system from Subaru, optioned on the Touring trim level. This system uses a head-tracking feature to sense if the driver is becoming distracted or drowsy and alerts them to that. Its facial recognition software not only (mostly) accurately detects when a driver is drowsy (versus just making an expression) or not paying attention to the road (versus giving the kid side-eye) also gets to know which driver is which. Multiple drivers in the 2019 Subaru Forester Touring can thus have things set to their preference based on the last time they were behind the wheel and the facial recognition saw them. Creepy? Maybe. Neat? For sure.

The 2019 Subaru Forester is a five-seat compact crossover that comes in five trims. All trim levels use the same 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and continuously variable transmission. All-wheel drive is standard as well.

What We Love About the 2019 Subaru Forester:


  • Excellent new interior design

  • Strong reliability and fuel efficiency components

  • Good value with excellent daily drive qualities


What We Don't Love About the 2019 Subaru Forester:


  • Exterior is a little boring

  • Not much "sport" in the Sport package

  • Reliability expectation based on brand


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Exterior View (8/10)

The 2019 Forester is, to be blunt, a bit too blend-in with its exterior. Nothing about the new crossover really stands out as either good or bad, giving it a sort of "meh" overall appearance. The Forester isn't ugly, but it's not eye-grabbing either. It just sort of is.

The front fascia of the new Forester is angled slightly to apex at the bumper, with the grille leaning back a bit towards the hood and the lower intake and skid plate angling in from below. Headlamps are swept back into the fender to match that while edges along the hood hint at fenders and maybe something happening in the engine compartment.

Bulky front fenders give way to flat bodywork that contains massive amounts of greenhouse, with a low beltline and tapered roof line above. Minimized pillars open the greenhouse further while the rear fenders flex outward to add muscle. The Forester's high ground clearance and large wheel wells finish the theme.

The 2019 Forester has an everyday, but capable appeal to its exterior that feels.. Well, it feels safe. Perhaps that's what buyers in the ever-growing compact crossover market are hoping for, as a replacement for the sedans they are abandoning now.

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Interior Comfort, Quality, Ergonomics (9/10)

Where the 2019 Subaru Forester really nails it is in its interior. Like most new Subaru models, ergonomics and intelligent design are keys to success for this model. The Forester sports a roomy, open cabin that somehow minimizes road noise despite its large windows.

Comfort in the Forester is good, especially when compared to contemporaries and previous-generation Forester models. The 2019 Forester has lots of legroom for the front row and second row seats. Headroom is also good, especially up front, with adults having good seating in both front seats and both outboard rear seats. The center seat is a bit cramped by comparison, as would be expected from this class.

Controls and driver visibility are good as well, with the Forester having a good driving position and and intuitive layout. The upper display screen above the infotainment is useful, sometimes, but largely academic outside of its clock display.

Cargo in the 2019 Subaru Forester is well done with 35.4 cubic feet of space behind the second row and 76.1 cubes when that row is folded. The seats fold almost flat, but not quite, and the panoramic sunroof option lowers cargo space more, impinging on the ceiling height. There are a lot of bins, trays, etc. throughout the cabin for small item storage and grocery hooks and the like are found in the cargo area as well.

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Technology (9/10)

Standard in the Subaru Forester, starting with the base model, is a 6.5-inch infotainment touchscreen with Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto integration. This display upgrades to add a WiFi hotspot option in the Premium trim and goes to an 8-inch display in the Limited trim and above. The larger screen is available as an option in the Sport trim, but not the Premium or base trims.

Infotainment in the 2019 Subaru Forester is well done with an easy-to-use menu system and fast responses. It's not as advanced as some very techno-focused offerings on the road, but it's not useless and crippled either. It's just about right in terms of functionality for most users in the Forester's segment. The infotainment in this Subaru is more on par with expectations for most buyers, we feel, than are the more advanced options found elsewhere and it's one of the easier to understand to boot.

Fuel Economy (9/10)

Fuel economy in the 2019 Forester is surprisingly good. The Forester is EPA-rated at 26 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway. Those are good numbers for the compact crossover class when AWD is considered. Most others are not that good.

In the real world, our week with the 2019 Subaru Forester proved out those numbers with our average after about 200-plus miles of driving totaling about 29 mpg overall.

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Predicted Reliability, Initial Quality Ratings (9/10)

The Forester is all-new for 2019 and there have not been, as of this writing, any reliability ratings published for the crossover. The Forester itself and the Subaru brand on the whole have a high reputation for dependability, though, and are both ranked among the top five in most vehicle class or manufacturer listings. We expect that will follow through with a high dependability rating for the 2019 Forester when those numbers are published.

Safety (10/10)

Safety in the 2019 Forester starts with the inclusion of the EyeSight advanced safety system as standard in all trim levels of the crossover. This system adds driver aids such as adaptive cruise control and such, but also adds forward collision warning and crash mitigation, lane departure warning, and more. Optional for the Forester, depending on trim level, are blind-spot monitoring and rear braking options as well.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), as of this writing, has not yet published crash test results for the 2019 Subaru Forester. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has, however. The IIHS has given the 2019 Forester top scores of "Good" on all crash tests conducted as well as a "Superior" rating for the Forester's front crash prevention systems.

Performance (8/10)

The 2019 Forester comes standard with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder opposed piston (boxer) engine that outputs 182 horsepower and 176 pound-feet of torque. A continuously variable transmission (CVT), acting as a gearless automatic, is the only transmission option for the Forester. This combination also includes full-time all-wheel drive as standard.

Together, the setup offers good everyday driving feel for the 2019 Subaru Forester. It's not in a hurry to get places, but it doesn't hesitate much either. It's a good middle ground for capability and economy. The Forester's chassis and design are middling when it comes to performance feel and sportiness, also fitting the expected buying market.

The Forester does shine in its capabilities beyond everyday driving, though. Especially when light off-road and inclement weather are present. With a high ground clearance for the class and excellent AWD capability, the Forester earns its place inside Subaru's well-understood reputation for being able to get places others cannot.

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Pricing and Value (9/10)

The 2019 Subaru Forester is not likely to be seen as a high bargain upon initial purchase. Deals and incentives are few and far between with the Subaru brand to start with and the steady-selling Forester gives the company no reason to push sales via incentivization. Instead, the value proposition comes from the higher-than-average resale value that all Subaru models, especially the Forester, have and the excellent dependability expectation that comes with the brand.

Most buyers of the 2019 Forester will likely find the Premium or Sport package fits their needs best. The combination of amenities plus price are nicely balanced for most buyers in the small crossover segments.

Total Score and Competitive Comparison (71/80, 89%)

There is no shortage of competitive options in the compact crossover segment. Most competitive with the 2019 Subaru Forester are the Honda CR-V, the Mazda CX-5, and the Jeep Cherokee. The CR-V is a better daily driver than the Forester, with its lower step-in and peppier drive quality, but it doesn't have the capabilities of the Forester nor is it AWD by default. The CX-5 is a sportier drive than the Forester and has the best interior in the class. Against the Forester, though, it's not quite as AWD capable and is not as fuel efficient either. The Jeep Cherokee offers true Jeep capability and an excellent interior experience, being most competitive with the Forester on all fronts.

The 2019 Subaru Forester offers a very well-balanced and comfortable compact crossover-SUV offering for today's market. It's versatile, efficient, and highly capable.

Trim Style Engine Drive Train MSRP
SUV - AWD
2.5i 4 Cylinder AWD 24295
Premium 2.5i Premium 4 Cylinder AWD 26695
Sport 2.5i Sport 4 Cylinder AWD 28795
Limited 2.5i Limited 4 Cylinder AWD 30795
Touring 2.5i Touring 4 Cylinder AWD 34295

Comparison of 2019 Subaru Forester with Similar Cars

2019 Subaru Forester MSRP Invoice
2019 Subaru Forester $24,295 $22,915
Similar Cars to Consider MSRP Invoice Compare
2019 Ford Escape $24,105 $23,382 2019 Subaru Forester VS 2019 Ford Escape
2019 Chevrolet Equinox $23,800 $23,776 2019 Subaru Forester VS 2019 Chevrolet Equinox
2019 Honda CR-V $24,450 $22,963 2019 Subaru Forester VS 2019 Honda CR-V
2019 GMC Terrain $25,000 $24,975 2019 Subaru Forester VS 2019 GMC Terrain
2019 Mazda CX-5 $24,350 $23,897 2019 Subaru Forester VS 2019 Mazda CX-5

Car Rankings

Interested to see how the 2019 Subaru Forester ranks against similar cars in terms of key attributes? Here are the 2019 Subaru Forester rankings for MPG, horsepower, torque, leg room, head room, shoulder room, hip room and so forth.

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