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MSRP: $22,795 - 36,090

2018 Subaru Forester Review

The 2018 Subaru Forester is a solid compact SUV that ranks in the top third of its class. Its cabin has a functional design and lots of cargo space. All-wheel drive is standard, and the available turbo-four engine provides plenty of power.

Pros & Cons

  • Excellent cargo capacity
  • Spacious rear seats
  • Good mpg ratings, even with standard all-wheel drive
  • Many available safety features
  • Interior design and build quality trail some rivals'
  • Fewer tech features than rivals

Is the Subaru Forester a Good SUV?

The Subaru Forester is a pretty good SUV. It’s one of few models in the class that features standard all-wheel drive, yet it still achieves good fuel economy. The Forester also boasts excellent cargo space and plenty of rear legroom, both of which are standouts in the compact SUV class.

There are some downsides to the Forester, though. It has plenty of driver assistance features, but it lacks the modern infotainment technology of some rivals. Additionally, other competing crossovers have better handling. Still, the Forester should suffice for most daily driving duties. 

Should I Buy the Subaru Forester?

While the Forester is a decent buy, there are other SUVs to consider. The Honda CR-V is a perennial favorite, boasting a spacious yet comfortable interior. If you're looking for a fun-to-drive SUV, consider the Mazda CX-5. Lastly, if you want to stick with the Subaru brand, the Outback wagon is similar to the Forester (and it has some advantages over it) for only about $3,000 more.

Compare the Forester, CR-V, and Outback »

Should I Buy a New or Used Subaru Forester?

Subaru last redesigned the Forester for the 2014 model year, and there have been few changes in the years since. The most notable updates were a new standard infotainment system for 2016 and the addition of reverse automatic braking as an option for 2017. There were few differences between the 2017 and 2018 models. If you're open to buying a used car, you can likely save some cash by going with an older Forester..

To research some other models in this generation, read our reviews of the 2015, 2016, and 2017 Subaru Forester. If you decide an older model is right for you, check out our Used Car Deals page for the latest deals and incentives on used vehicles.

Compare the 2016, 2017, and 2018 Subaru Forester »

We Did the Research for You: 36 Reviews Analyzed

For our 2018 Subaru Forester full review, we researched three dozen professional evaluations, along with safety scores, reliability data, and fuel economy estimates, to help you make the best new car buying decision possible. This 2018 Subaru Forester review incorporates applicable research for all model years in this generation, which spans the 2014 through 2018 model years.

Why You Can Trust Us

U.S. News & World Report has been ranking and reviewing cars, trucks, and SUVs since 2007, and our editorial team has more than 75 years of combined experience in the auto industry. To ensure our car reviews are unbiased, we don't accept expensive gifts or incentives from car companies, and a third party handles our advertising.

How Much Does the Subaru Forester Cost?

The 2018 Subaru Forester starts at $22,795 (for the base 2.5i). That’s one of the lowest price tags in the class. The savings aren’t dramatic, however; many class rivals have prices under $24,000. Still, keep in mind that most rivals require you to pay extra for all-wheel drive, which is included in every Forester. If you want the Forester’s available turbocharged engine, you’re looking at a minimum price of $29,495 for the 2.0XT Premium. The highest trim is the 2.0XT Touring, which starts at $36,090.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local Subaru dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our Subaru deals page.

Subaru Forester Versus the Competition

Which Is Better: Subaru Forester or Honda CR-V?

Both the Subaru Forester and the Honda CR-V have two rows of comfortable, spacious seats. Each SUV has plenty of standard features, though the Forrester has a standard touch-screen display. These rivals are among the class leaders in cargo capacity, but the CR-V edges the Forester by a hair. Both SUVs have modest base engine power, and they earn the same fuel economy estimates.

The Forester's cabin lacks the upscale styling and quality of the CR-V, but that's to be expected with the Subaru’s lower MSRP. Despite the Forester’s lower price tag, it comes standard with all-wheel drive. You'd have to pay even more to get that in the CR-V. Still, like many other compact SUVs, the Forester has a hard time beating the CR-V in our rankings. 

Which Is Better: Subaru Forester or Subaru Outback?

The Subaru Outback is a wagon that shares many favorable traits with its SUV cousin. They both come standard with all-wheel drive and offer a similar list of standard and available features. The longer and wider Outback boasts a little more rear-passenger room. Both vehicles have similarly large cargo capacities. Each Subaru offers two engines and comparable power, but the Outback's optional six-cylinder allows it to tow up to 2,700 pounds. The Forester can only handle 1,500 pounds. The Outback’s starting price is a few thousand higher than the Forester’s, but if your wallet can handle it, you’re better off with the Outback. Still, the Forester is a solid choice if you're set on a Subaru but want to spend less. 

Compare the Forester, CR-V, and Outback »

Forester Interior

How Many People Does the Forester Seat?

The Forester seats five people. Both rows of seats have good support. The front seats provide good visibility, and the rear seats have plenty of legroom.

Forester and Car Seats

There are two full sets of LATCH car-seat connectors in the Subaru Forester, but the system isn't that easy to use. The lower anchors are set deep in the seat and are hard to maneuver around. The tether anchors can be confused with other hardware, so double-check when securing a car seat.

Forester Interior Quality

The Forester won't wow anyone with its cabin design, which is simpler – some would say blander as well – than rival cabins. The materials quality is a mix of soft-touch materials and hard plastics.

Forester Cargo Space

Cargo space is one of the Forester's best attributes. With the rear seats up, it has more than 34 cubic feet of space, which is enough room for more than two dozen carry-on bags or outdoor sporting equipment like camping gear. With the rear seats down, this Subaru provides nearly 75 cubic feet of cargo room, which is enough space to transport even some furniture.

Forester Infotainment, Bluetooth, and Navigation

Standard features in the Forester include a four-speaker stereo, a USB port, Bluetooth, and the Starlink infotainment system with a 6.2-inch touch screen. Available features include dual-zone automatic climate control, navigation, an eight-speaker Harman Kardon audio system, and an upgraded infotainment system with a 7-inch touch screen.

The Forester's infotainment system works well, but the upgraded system is the way to go. Not only is the screen larger, but it also has better graphics and responds to smartphone-style gestures. Some class rivals offer more advanced infotainment features than the Forester, including things like Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and a Wi-Fi hot spot.

For more information, read What Is Apple CarPlay? and What Is Android Auto? Then, see the Best Cars With Apple CarPlay and Best Cars With Android Auto.

Read more about interior »

Forester Performance

Forester Engine: Take Your Base

The Forester offers two engines: a 170-horsepower four-cylinder base engine (called a flat-four) and a 250-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder. The turbo-four delivers stronger acceleration and climbs hills more easily. Still, the base engine has plenty of power for day-to-day driving, and it will be just fine for most buyers. A six-speed manual transmission is standard, and a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) is optional. 

Forester Gas Mileage: Strong MPG Ratings

Despite having standard all-wheel drive, the Forester gets good fuel economy. With the base engine, this Subaru gets 26 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway.

The CVT-equipped turbocharged engine has more power, but it's also thirstier. It gets just 23/27 mpg city/highway. And unlike the base engine, the turbo-four requires premium gasoline. Add it up, and the larger engine will cost you about $450 more per year in gas money than the base engine.

Forester Ride and Handling: Comfortable and Carlike

The Forester comes standard with all-wheel drive so it has excellent road grip; it's even capable of holding its own off the pavement. But most drivers are concerned with its on-road manners, which are just fine too. The Forester feels more like a car than an SUV, and the ride is smooth over most road surfaces. The only drawback is that some class rivals are more athletic.

Read more about performance »

Forester Reliability

Is the Subaru Forester Reliable?

The 2018 Subaru Forester earns a predicted reliability rating of three out of five from J.D. Power. That's an average score for the industry.

Subaru Forester Warranty

The 2018 Subaru Forester comes with a three-year/36,000-mile limited warranty and a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty. Most other compact SUVs have similar warranties. However, the Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage are each backed by a five-year/60,000-mile limited warranty and a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Read more about reliability »

Forester Safety

Forester Crash Test Results

The 2018 Subaru Forester earns a five-star overall crash test rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It received five stars in the side crash test and four stars in the frontal crash and rollover tests. At the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Forester scored Good in all five crash tests. It was named a 2018 IIHS Top Safety Pick. 

Forester Safety Features

A rearview camera comes standard. Plenty of active safety features are available through the EyeSight safety system, including automatic high-beam assist, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, rear automatic braking, rear cross traffic alert, and pre-collision braking.

Read more about safety »

Which Subaru Forester Model Is Right for Me?

There are four main Forester trim levels: base, Premium, Limited, and Touring. The Premium and Touring trims are the only two that are also available with the turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Make sure you really need the extra power before you upgrade; the 2.0XT Premium and Touring cost a few thousand dollars more than the same trims with the base engine.

The base trim doesn’t offer much beyond the standard features, and you’re probably best to look past it. Ditto for the Premium. The two trims that offer the most features are the Limited and Touring. If you don’t care about the EyeSight system, the Limited is the trim for you. If you do want it, go with the Touring. It comes standard with almost every feature the Forester offers, and it doesn’t cost much more than getting the Premium and adding EyeSight.

Subaru Forester 2.5i

The 2.5i is the Forester’s base trim, and it has a price tag of $22,795. The 2.5i doesn’t offer much beyond the standard features, though you can get an automatic transmission (CVT) for an additional $1,000.

Subaru Forester 2.5i Premium

The 2.5i Premium is on sale starting at $25,695. In addition to the 2.5i’s features, the 2.5i Premium comes with a panoramic moonroof, a power-adjustable driver’s seat, and reclining rear seatbacks. The CVT costs $500. Available features include heated front seats and the EyeSight safety system.

Subaru Forester 2.5i Limited

The 2.5i Limited has a starting price of $29,395. It comes with a CVT, leather upholstery, heated front seats, and a power liftgate. A couple packages are available that add features such as navigation, the EyeSight system, and a Harman Kardon audio system.

Subaru Forester 2.5i Touring

The 2.5i Touring starts at $33,090. The Touring comes standard with pretty much every feature you can get in a Forester, including the EyeSight system, power-folding rear seats, and a heated steering wheel.

Subaru Forester 2.0XT

The 2.0XT Premium and 2.0XT Touring are largely similar to the 2.5i Premium and Touring, but the 2.0XT models feature a 250-horsepower, turbocharged engine. The 2.0XT Premium has a starting price of $29,495, while the 2.0XT Touring starts at $36,090.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local Subaru dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our Subaru deals page.

See 2018 Subaru Forester specs and trims »

The Final Call

The 2018 Subaru Forester is a good SUV that provides roomy rear seats and plenty of cargo space in a fuel-efficient package. It also comes standard with all-wheel drive, unlike many competitors. Still, several class rivals have more upscale interiors and offer more infotainment features, and some are also more fun to drive.

There’s nothing wrong with buying a Forester, but you might find that another compact SUV (like the Honda CR-V) or another Subaru (like the Outback) fits what you’re looking for just a little bit better. Shopping around never hurts.

Don’t just take our word for it. Check out comments from some of the reviews that drive our rankings and analysis.

  • "The 2018 Subaru Forester is one of over a dozen compact-crossover SUVs vying for your attention, but it's the only one with standard all-wheel drive. That trait has long made Subarus the favored vehicles of cold-weather states, while the Forester's ample ground clearance and ability to venture off-pavement have made it popular with the adventure-minded. Those abilities set it apart from rivals like the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4, but they're not the only compelling reasons for the Forester. It can be outfitted with a robust suite of safety and driving aids, a turbocharged engine and, on lower models, it's among the last of its kind to offer a manual transmission. With its remarkable resale value, the Forester further stands out from the pack." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "Do you need a crossover that can handle whatever life throws at it? The 2017 Subaru Forester delivers with standard all-wheel drive, a roomy interior and plenty of ground clearance for off-road excursions. You can even add a turbocharged engine, or stick with the base engine for better fuel economy." -- Edmunds (2017)
  • "The 2016 Subaru Forester may not be the most stylish or sophisticated compact SUV, but there is no denying its appeal. What the Forester lacks in the looks department, it more than makes up for in every other area that counts." -- Autotrader (2016)

Buying

Expert Advice

Last Updated: July 27, 2018

Falling Sales: To date in 2018, Forester sales are 9.9 percent lower than they were to this point in 2017. While it’s still a steady, top-seller for Subaru, Forester sales still lag well behind class leaders like the Nissan Rogue, Honda CR-V, and Toyota RAV4, which are each outselling the Subaru by a ratio of over 2 to 1.

Research more buying advice »
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