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2020 Subaru Forester Review

The 2020 Subaru Forester places in the middle of our compact SUV rankings. It boasts a spacious cabin with lots of user-friendly tech and a robust suite of safety systems, as well as great fuel economy and a comfortable ride. However, it has an awful predicted reliability rating. 

Pros & Cons

  • Spacious seats and cargo area
  • Excellent fuel economy
  • Standard all-wheel drive
  • Quiet, smooth ride
  • Lackluster acceleration
  • Terrible predicted reliability rating

New for 2020

  • Rear seat reminder now standard
  • Lane centering system now available  

Rankings & Awards

The 2020 Subaru Forester's #7 ranking is based on its score within the Compact SUVs category. It was a finalist for our 2020 Best Compact SUV for the Money award and a finalist for our 2020 Best Compact SUV for Families award. Currently the Subaru Forester has a score of 7.8 out of 10, which is based on our evaluation of 26 pieces of research and data elements using various sources.

7.8

Overall

Scorecard

Critics' Rating: 8.8
Performance: 7.3
Interior: 8.2
Safety: 9.8
Reliability:
J.D. Power Ratings Logo

Is the Subaru Forester a Good SUV?

Yes, the Forester is a well-rounded compact SUV. Its cabin is spacious enough to easily carry a family of four or five, and there's lots of room for cargo. With its great combination of quality and value, we named the Forester a finalist for our 2020 Best Compact SUV for the Money award. The Forester was also a finalist for our 2020 Best Compact SUV for Families award because of its solid combination of cargo and passenger space, safety and reliability ratings, positive reviews from automotive journalists, and available family-friendly features.

Parents will be glad to know it has highly rated child seat anchors, wide-opening rear doors, and an extensive set of safety features. Adventurers will appreciate its superb ground clearance and standard all-wheel drive, while welcoming its comfortable, quiet ride on paved roads. Though the Forester doesn't have lighting quick acceleration, its engine power is reasonable for the class.  

Should I Buy the Subaru Forester?

Yes, the Forester is a great crossover to buy. It’s a well-rounded choice that will appeal to a wide variety of households. That said, the compact SUV class has several other agreeable choices worth considering. You'll find a similar mix of spacious seats, lots of cargo space, a serene ride, and good fuel economy with the Honda CR-V. For those that find fault in the Forester's tepid acceleration, we recommend the Mazda CX-5, which is much livelier.

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

Should I Buy a New or Used Subaru Forester?

If keeping your costs in check is one of the more important factors when purchasing a Forester, buying an older model is the way to go. The 2020 receives only a few updates, all of which are safety focused. These include an all-new standard rear-seat reminder and the newly available lane centering system. Otherwise, the 2020 is nearly identical to the 2019 model.

Keep in mind that the Forester was redesigned for 2019, so pre-owned models from this generation may be hard to find. You can also consider models from the previous generation, which spans the 2014 through 2018 model years. These Foresters do not offer the newer technology and nicer interiors of the new model, but they do have an optional turbocharged engine and likely cost less. 

If you're considering an older model, be sure to read our 2018 Forester and 2019 Forester reviews to help make your decision. Also check out our Used Car Deals page to learn about savings and discounts you can find on used cars.

Compare the 2018, 2019, and 2020 Forester »

We Did the Research for You: 26 Reviews Analyzed

Our Subaru Forester review includes far more than just one person's opinion. We collected professional evaluations from more than 25 sources and combined them with concrete data like fuel economy estimates, safety scores, and performance specs to help you make an informed buying decision.

This 2020 Subaru Forester review incorporates applicable research for all models in this generation, which launched for 2019.

Why You Can Trust Us

The Best Cars team – a division of U.S. News & World Report – has been reviewing cars, trucks, and SUVs since 2007. With more than 75 years of combined automotive experience, our editors, writers, and analysts rank a wide variety of new and used cars and issue three annual awards: Best Cars for the Money, Best Cars for Families, and Best Vehicle Brands. To keep our recommendations unbiased, we decline expensive gifts from carmakers, and a third party handles our advertising.

How Much Does the Subaru Forester Cost?

Retail prices for the 2020 Forester range from about $24,500 to $34,600. This range is fairly typical for a compact SUV, though it's worth noting that this Subaru's standard all-wheel-drive system makes it an even better value. With most crossover SUVs, adding AWD increases the price by a few thousand dollars.

Read more about pricing, standard features, and trim levels in our Which Subaru Forester Model Is Right for Me? section below.

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

Subaru Forester Versus the Competition

Which Is Better: Subaru Forester or Toyota RAV4?

Both the Toyota RAV4 and the Subaru Forester are great compact SUVs. Because both were freshly redesigned for 2019, they sport newer technology than some of their competitors. These are two great SUVs, and their side-by-side differences are small. The Toyota easily wins out when it comes to cargo space behind the seats, and it can tow up to 3,500 pounds, which is 2,000 more than the Forester can manage. The Subaru, on the other hand, earns praise for overall cargo space, rear-seat legroom, and price. We recommend choosing the model that best matches your needs. It's worth noting that the RAV4 beat out the Forester to win our 2020 Best Compact SUV for Families award. The Subaru also rates poorly for predicted reliability, while the Toyota's rating is about average. 

Which Is Better: Subaru Forester or Subaru Crosstrek?

The Subaru Crosstrek is the Forester's smaller sibling, and it's a good pick if you want to trim your purchase price by about $2,600. The same engine powers both SUVs, but the Crosstrek doesn't feel any peppier, despite weighing less. The Forester is the better pick if you can afford its higher price. It gives you more legroom, a larger cargo area, and more standard features. 

Compare the Forester, RAV4, and Crosstrek »

Forester Interior

How Many People Does the Forester Seat?

The Forester is a two-row SUV with five seats. Up front, the seats are spacious and have a good view of the road. The back seat is one of the roomiest in the class when it comes to legroom, and the wide-opening rear doors make entry and exit a breeze.

The base model comes with cloth upholstery and manual seat adjustments, but swankier treatments like perforated leather seats, heated seats in both rows, and reclining rear seats are available.

Forester and Child Car Seats

There are two full sets of LATCH car-seat connectors for the Forester's rear outboard seats. The middle seat has a tether anchor and only one lower anchor, but you can borrow a second anchor from the adjacent seat to make a complete set.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Forester's LATCH system the highest rating of Good+. All of the anchors are easy to find and use.

Forester Interior Quality

The Forester may be utility focused, but it doesn't ignore creature comforts. Its cabin is quiet, well-built, and outfitted with quality materials. The top trim levels provide supple leather upholstery.

Forester Cargo Space

The Subaru Forester's 35.4-cubic-foot cargo hold is one of the largest in a vehicle this size. The rear seats fold in a 60/40 split for a class-leading 76.1 cubic feet. A one-touch folding rear seat is optional, as is a height-adjustable power liftgate.

Forester Infotainment, Bluetooth, and Navigation

Instead of building in a lot of bells and whistles that look pretty but aren't reliable, Subaru has created a simpler set of technology features, starting with its intuitive Starlink infotainment interface. It comes standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, two apps that allow you to effortlessly connect your smartphone to use in tandem with the infotainment system.

A 6.5-inch touch screen, four speakers, satellite radio, HD Radio, and a pair of USB ports are also standard. Higher trim levels get a set of charging ports in the rear. Additional infotainment options include an 8-inch touch screen, a Wi-Fi hot spot, Bluetooth hands-free text messaging, a nine-speaker Harman Kardon sound system, and a navigation system.

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

Read more about interior »

Forester Performance

Forester Engine: More Efficient Than Energetic

The Forester comes with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that feels adequate in most driving situations. You may not be burning rubber with this 182-horsepower engine, but you will get great gas mileage. The standard continuously variable automatic transmission is mostly quiet, but it's occasionally is slow to respond. 

Forester Gas Mileage: Excellent

Among nonhybrids, the Forester is one of the most fuel-efficient compact SUVs. It gets 26 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway. This is especially notable when you factor in the standard all-wheel-drive system.

Forester Ride and Handling: Carlike Comfort

This Subaru has a tall stance (its 8.7 inches of ground clearance is one of the highest in the class), but the Forester never feels like a lumbering SUV. Instead, its smooth handling feels more like what you'd get with compact cars like the Subaru Impreza, and the Forester's steering and brakes are responsive. This is the only vehicle in our compact SUV rankings that comes standard with all-wheel drive. Subaru's X-Mode, standard on all trims except the base, optimizes grip for snow or mud and adds hill descent control.

Forester Towing Capacity

A properly equipped Forester can tow up to 1,500 pounds. Trailer stability assist comes standard.

Read more about performance »

Forester Reliability

Is the Subaru Forester Reliable?

The 2020 Subaru Forester has a poor predicted reliability rating of two out of five from J.D. Power.

Subaru Forester Warranty

Subaru covers its SUVs with a three-year/36,000-mile limited warranty and a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Read more about reliability »

How Much Does It Cost to Insure a Subaru Forester?

The cost of insuring a Subaru Forester will depend on a variety of factors, including your deductible, the level of coverage that you want, and the type of insurance that you choose. Your age, gender, location, credit score, and driving record can also have an impact on your insurance rates. Check out our car insurance guide to find the best policy for you.

Forester Safety

Forester Crash Test Results

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the 2020 Forester an overall safety rating of five out of five stars. Identical scores were assigned in the frontal and side crash tests, while the rollover category received four stars.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the 2020 Forester the highest rating of Good in all six crash tests performed. This SUV also received the highest rating of Superior for the effectiveness of its standard front crash prevention features. The Forester's standard headlights earned a rating of Acceptable for how well they illuminate the road ahead, while the headlights in higher trims received the highest rating of Good.

Forester Safety Features

Standard safety features include a rear seat reminder and a rearview camera. The standard EyeSight Driver Assist Technology is an advanced safety suite containing adaptive cruise control, pre-collision braking, pre-collision throttle management, lane departure and sway warning, lead vehicle start alert, and lane departure prevention.

Optional safety features include blind spot monitoring, lane change assist, rear cross traffic alert, automatic high-beam headlights, and reverse automatic braking. The Touring trim's standard DriverFocus system monitors the driver for signs of distraction or fatigue.

Read more about safety »

Forester Dimensions and Weight

The 2020 Forester is 15.2 feet long. Its curb weight ranges from 3,449 to 3,589 pounds.

Where Is the 2020 Subaru Forester Built?

Subaru builds the 2020 Forester in Japan.

Which Subaru Forester Model Is Right for Me?

There are five trim levels for the 2020 Forester: base, Premium, Sport, Limited, and Touring. All models come with a 2.5-liter engine, a CVT (a type of automatic transmission), and all-wheel drive.

One or two packages are available on most trims, offering items such as blind spot monitoring, a power liftgate, and a navigation system. If you want leather upholstery, heated seats, or other amenities, you have to advance to a higher trim level.

We recommend the Premium trim if you want a good value. Its boasts cabin amenities such as heated front seats, a power-adjustable driver's seat, and reclining rear seats.

Subaru Forester

The base trim ($24,495) comes with an infotainment system that features a 6.5-inch touch screen, two USB ports, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, satellite radio, HD Radio, and four speakers. The base trim also has cloth seats, automatic climate control, a rearview camera, and 17-inch steel wheels.

The standard EyeSight Driver Assist Technology suite of features includes adaptive cruise control, pre-collision braking, pre-collision throttle management, lane departure and sway warning, lead vehicle start alert, and lane departure prevention.

Subaru Forester Premium

The Premium trim ($27,395) adds a panoramic moonroof, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a six-speaker stereo, and a Wi-Fi hot spot. It also pampers travelers with a 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, heated front seats, and reclining rear seats. This trim also comes with 17-inch alloy wheels and X-Mode with hill descent control.

Subaru Forester Sport

The Sport model ($28,995) spices things up with orange accents and trim-exclusive styling elements. It is one of only two trim levels that has paddle shifters and a manual mode for its automatic transmission. Additional standard features include LED fog lights, 18-inch alloy wheels, proximity keyless entry, Bluetooth hands-free text messaging, two rear-seat USB ports, and automatic high-beam headlights.

Subaru Forester Limited

The Limited ($31,095) builds off the Premium trim, adding perforated leather-trimmed seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, an 8-inch infotainment touch screen, voice controls, Bluetooth hands-free text messaging, and two rear-seat USB ports. Other notable standard features include proximity keyless entry, a power liftgate, fog lights, automatic high beams, blind spot monitoring, lane change assist, and rear cross traffic alert.

Subaru Forester Touring

The range-topping Touring trim ($34,595) builds on the Limited model with an eight-way power-adjustable front-passenger seat, heated rear seats, a one-touch folding rear seatback, and a heated steering wheel. It also has an upgraded infotainment system that features a nine-speaker Harman Kardon sound system, a navigation system, and an 8-inch touch screen. Additional standard safety features include reverse automatic braking and the DriverFocus Distraction Mitigation system.

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

See 2020 Subaru Forester specs and trims »

The Final Call

The 2020 Forester is one of the prize jewels of the Subaru family because it packs so much into its small frame. Parents, kids, and even dogs will appreciate its roomy seats, large cargo hold, and convenient back-seat access. This compact SUV also earns praise for its smooth, quiet ride and excellent fuel economy. It doesn't accelerate as quickly as some rivals, but that's not a big deal for many shoppers. However, you may take issue with its low predicted reliability rating.   

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

  • "Get into a 2020 Subaru Forester and take it for a drive. It will quickly become apparent why the Forester has been one of Subaru's most popular vehicles year after year." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "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 (2019)
  • "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 (2019)

Buying

Expert Advice

Last Updated: February 6, 2020

Rising Sales: Shoppers took interest in the redesigned Forester last year; sales climbed 5 percent in 2019 compared to 2018. The Forester wrapped up 2019 in the middle of the compact SUV segment sales race.

Research more buying advice »
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