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MSRP: $24,295 - 34,295




Critics' Rating: 8.8
Performance: 7.3
Interior: 8.1
Safety: 9.8
J.D. Power Ratings Logo

2019 Subaru Forester Review

The 2019 Subaru Forester brings a lot to the table, including a comfortable ride, user-friendly features, and plenty of cargo space. It earns one of the top spots in our compact SUV rankings.

Pros & Cons

  • Standard all-wheel drive
  • Good fuel economy estimates
  • Composed ride and handling
  • Good safety scores
  • Lackluster engine

Is the Subaru Forester a Good SUV?

Yes, the Subaru Forester is a good 2-row compact SUV. It rides smoothly, and unlike many rivals, the Forester comes standard with all-wheel drive. Inside, this Subaru looks good and incorporates premium materials throughout the cabin. There's plenty of cargo space, and the infotainment system is easy to use. There are plenty of standard driver assistance features as well.

In fact, we named the Forester our 2019 Best Compact SUV for Families because of its superior combination of cargo and passenger space, safety and reliability ratings, positive reviews from automotive journalists, and available family-friendly features.

Should I Buy the Subaru Forester?

One of the Forester's main drawbacks is its uninspiring engine. But if you aren't looking for the most engaging performance, then the Forester is a small crossover with plenty of upside. That said, this is a highly competitive class with several good choices. The sporty Mazda CX-5 is one of the most agile crossover SUVs in the class, and the 2019 model gains a turbocharged engine option. The Honda CR-V consistently ranks near the top of the class, in part because of its cavernous cargo hold and refined cabin. Neither the CR-V nor the CX-5 has standard all-wheel drive, though it's optional in both.

Compare the Forester, CX-5, and CR-V »

Should I Buy a New or Used Subaru Forester?

Subaru redesigned the Forester for the 2019 model year. The new Forester has more passenger room and nicer cabin materials than the previous generation. It also has more standard features, including Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and several active safety features. Despite the changes, the fifth-generation Forester’s MSRP ($24,295) is only slightly higher than the 2018 Forester’s. The 2019 model gets a slight bump in horsepower, but the turbocharged engine option is no longer available. The lack of this option is felt as this SUV struggles to provide the quick bursts of power needed for easy passing on the highway. 

While you’d miss out on the benefits of the new Forester, you could save money by shopping for a previous-generation model. Subaru did not make any major changes to the 2018 Forester, but the 2017 model gained updated exterior styling, more available safety features, and retuned steering. It also received increased sound insulation, making it the then-quietest Forester ever built.

Read our reviews of the 2017 and 2018 Subaru Forester for more information. If you decide an older model is right for you, visit our Used Car Deals page to learn about savings and discounts on used vehicles.

Compare the 2017, 2018, and 2019 Forester »

We Did the Research for You: 28 Reviews Analyzed

To make our car rankings and reviews as consumer-oriented as possible, we do not rely on our personal opinions. Instead, we analyze hard data such as crash test results and reliability ratings, as well as the opinions of the automotive press.

Why You Can Trust Us

U.S. News & World Report has been reviewing cars, trucks, and SUVs since 2007, and our Best Cars team has more than 75 years of combined automotive industry experience. We care about cars, but we care more about providing useful consumer advice. To ensure our impartiality, an independent party handles our advertising, and our editorial team doesn’t accept expensive gifts from automakers.

How Much Does the Subaru Forester Cost?

With a starting MSRP of $24,295, the redesigned Forester is in line with the pricing of many class rivals. However, many competitors charge a few thousand dollars for all-wheel drive, which comes standard with this Subaru.

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 Toyota RAV4?

Like the Forester, the Toyota RAV4 was redesigned for the 2019 model year. Both new models feature a longer wheelbase and several standard safety features. This fifth-generation RAV4 features a lot of cargo space, as well as drive modes for traveling beyond the beaten path. It also offers some features the Forester does not – such as wireless device charging – and it's available as a hybrid. However, the RAV4 is expected to be a little more expensive than the Subaru. Choosing between these two vehicles comes down to your personal preference.

Which Is Better: Subaru Forester or Nissan Rogue?

The Nissan Rogue has a lot in common with the Subaru Forester. Both have underpowered engines, similar fuel economy estimates and cargo space, and many standard safety features. Both also have generous rear-seat legroom, though the Subaru has a little more. Despite the similarities, however, there’s little reason to buy the Rogue over the Forester. Not only is the base Forester about $500 cheaper than the Rogue, but it also has standard all-wheel drive (which costs extra with the Rogue).

Compare the Forester, RAV4, and Rogue »

Forester Interior

How Many People Does the Forester Seat?

The 2-row Subaru Forester seats up to five people on standard cloth upholstery. Leather upholstery, heated front and rear seats, and a heated and leather-wrapped steering wheel are available. A 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat and an eight-way power-adjustable passenger seat are also offered. If you are looking for a 3-row SUV, take a look at the all-new 2019 Subaru Ascent, which we review separately.

With its lengthened wheelbase, the new Forester has a little more legroom than previous models. The cabin is spacious, and the doors have wide openings that allow easy access.

Forester and Child Car Seats

The Forester has two full sets of LATCH car-seat connectors for the rear outboard seats, as well as an additional tether anchor for the rear middle seat. The middle seat has the ability to borrow a lower anchor from an adjoining seat. The whole setup earns the highest rating of Good+ from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. 

Forester Interior Quality

The Subaru Forester SUV has a nice interior with some high-quality materials and soft-touch plastics. Upper trims could even be called luxurious.

Forester Cargo Space

The Forester has 35.4 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats and a maximum 76.1 cubic feet with the rear seats folded down. That’s above average for the class, exceeding both the Ford Escape and Honda CR-V in total cargo space.

Forester Infotainment, Bluetooth, and Navigation

The Subaru Forester features the StarLink infotainment system with a 6.5-inch touch screen, two USB ports, Bluetooth, a four-speaker sound system, satellite radio, HD Radio, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration. A Wi-Fi hot spot, a six-speaker stereo, a nine-speaker Harman Kardon sound system, and a larger 8-inch touch screen with a built-in navigation system are available.

The intuitive infotainment system features clean graphics, and the touch screen responds quickly to inputs. Large buttons and knobs for controlling climate and audio functions are clearly marked and easy to reach, though some secondary functions can be a bit confounding at first. Standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are a plus.

For more information, read What Is Apple CarPlay? and What Is Android Auto? 

Read more about interior »

Forester Performance

Forester Engine: No Turbo

All Forester models have a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 182 horsepower. It's mated to a continuously variable transmission (a type of automatic). This is the only powertrain offered for this SUV: Neither the previously available turbocharged engine nor the previously standard manual transmission is available.

While this flat-four engine is fine for cruising around town, it’s noticeably sluggish when trying to accelerate for highway passing or merging. Many competitors deliver better acceleration, feel more energetic, or offer a turbocharged engine option.

Forester Gas Mileage: Impressive

The 2019 Forester earns an EPA-estimated 26 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway. Those figures are pretty good for the class, putting this Subaru on par with the Nissan Rogue and Chevrolet Equinox. However, the Forester looks even more impressive once you consider its standard all-wheel drive, which typically lowers fuel economy estimates.

Forester Ride and Handling: Poised and Comfortable

This Subaru has a comfortable and well-mannered ride. It feels grounded, exhibiting minimal body lean through turns. At the same time, it glides over rough patches of pavement without disrupting passengers. Its lively steering helps it feel agile when cornering. It’s not as sporty as the Mazda CX-5, but the Forester has a decent ride quality. All-wheel drive is standard, which is rare for the class. Most rivals only offer AWD as a few-thousand-dollar add-on.

Subaru’s SI-Drive enables two modes of engine regulation and throttle control: Intelligent and Sport. There’s also an available X-Mode that works to provide greater traction on various types of terrain. The Forester has 8.7 inches of ground clearance.

Read more about performance »

Forester Reliability

Is the Subaru Forester Reliable?

The 2019 Subaru Forester has a slightly above-average predicted reliability rating of 3.5 out of five from J.D. Power. 

Subaru Forester Warranty

Subaru backs the Forester with a three-year/36,000-mile limited warranty and a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty. Most compact SUVs have similar warranty terms.

Read more about reliability »

Forester Safety

Forester Crash Test Results

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety named the 2019 Forester a Top Safety Pick, giving it the highest rating of Good in six crash tests and the second-highest rating of Acceptable for how well the headlights illuminate the road ahead. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave it a five-star overall rating, with five out of five stars in front and side crash tests and four stars in rollover tests.

Forester Safety Features

A rearview camera comes standard in the Forester, as does the Eyesight suite of driver-assist features. Eyesight includes a pre-collision braking system, lane keep assist, lane departure warning, and adaptive cruise control. A few other safety features are available, including blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, lane change assist, reverse automatic braking, adaptive headlights, and Subaru’s new DriverFocus Distraction Mitigation system, which monitors drivers for signs of inattention.

Read more about safety »

Which Subaru Forester Model Is Right for Me?

The 2019 Subaru Forester SUV is available in five trims levels: Forester, Premium, Sport, Limited, and Touring. All trims have a four-cylinder engine, a continuously variable automatic transmission, and all-wheel drive.

The well-equipped base model offers lots of standard tech and safety features. That said, there’s not a huge price gap between trims, so you could step up to the top-of-the-line Touring trim and still save money compared to the high-end trims of many rivals. That’ll get you everything the Forester has to offer, including Subaru’s new DriverFocus safety system and navigation.

Subaru Forester

The base Subaru Forester has an MSRP of $24,295. For that price, you’ll get automatic climate control, cloth seats, 60/40 split-folding rear seats, and the Subaru StarLink infotainment system with a 6.5-inch touch screen, satellite radio, HD Radio, a four-speaker stereo, Bluetooth, two USB ports, and smartphone integration via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. A rearview camera is standard too, as is the EyeSight suite of driver-assist features, which includes forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, and adaptive cruise control.

No packages are offered with the base model, though alloy wheels are available for $600.

Subaru Forester Premium

The Subaru Forester Premium starts at $26,695. In addition to the features listed above, including the alloy wheels, the Premium comes with a panoramic moonroof, a 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, reclining rear seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a six-speaker stereo, a Wi-Fi hot spot, and X-Mode with hill descent control for increased off-road performance.

For $1,845, you can add heated front seats, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, proximity keyless entry, push-button start, and a power liftgate.

Subaru Forester Sport

Retailing for $28,795, Subaru Forester Sport models add fog lights, heated front seats, unique interior and exterior styling, proximity keyless entry, push-button start, and two rear-seat USB ports. It also comes with an upgraded CVT that features a 7-speed manual mode with paddle shifters.

For $2,045, you can outfit this SUV with blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, reverse automatic braking, a power rear liftgate, a nine-speaker Harman Kardon sound system, and a larger, 8-inch touch screen.

Subaru Forester Limited

Starting at $30,795, the Subaru Forester Limited features automatic high beams, adaptive headlights, leather seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, a power liftgate, an 8-inch touch screen, and blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert.

A nine-speaker Harman Kardon sound system, reverse automatic braking, and a navigation system are available for $1,695.

Subaru Forester Touring

The top-of-the-line Forester Touring trim has an MSRP of $34,295. It comes standard with an eight-way power-adjustable front-passenger seat, a heated steering wheel, the DriverFocus Distraction Mitigation system (which monitors drivers for signs of inattention), and all the features listed above. There are no option packages available with this model.

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 2019 Subaru Forester specs and trims »

The Final Call

The redesigned 2019 Subaru Forester is a good compact SUV. It offers a smooth ride and an intuitive infotainment system, high safety scores, and unlike most rivals, it comes standard with all-wheel drive. However, this Subaru doesn’t have a lot of power. Shoppers looking for a more potent engine or livelier acceleration should look elsewhere. If that's not a huge concern for you, however, then the Forester is absolutely worth a look.

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

  • "The 2019 Subaru Forester is an affordable, well-constructed small crossover that doubles down on safety tech and all-weather capabilities. Make sure to put it on your short list if you're in the market." -- Edmunds
  • "Subaru is a brand that knows its vision and its buyers well. The improvements should resonate well, yet again." -- Motor Trend
  • "With the 2019 Forester, Subaru has managed to develop a vehicle that stays true to the brand's core values while also providing the kind of features demanded by today's small SUV buyers. The 2019 Forester is bigger but still small enough to maneuver in tight spaces, loaded with standard safety tech and extremely fuel efficient for an all-wheel drive model. If you can look past the lack of a turbocharged engine, you'll find a Forester that's better in every other way." -- Left Lane News


Expert Advice

Last Updated: October 11, 2019

Rising Sales: Shoppers have taken interest in the redesigned Forester; sales have climbed 7.8 percent this year relative to the same span in 2018. The Forester is currently selling in the middle of the compact SUV segment.

Research more buying advice »
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MSRP: $24,295 - $34,295

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