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2018 Subaru Forester Review

The 2018 Subaru Forester ranks in the middle of the compact SUV class. It has well-rounded performance and a spacious interior, but some rivals have nicer cabins or better safety and predicted reliability ratings.

Pros & Cons

  • Excellent cargo capacity
  • Spacious rear seats
  • Many available safety features
  • Good mpg ratings
  • Interior design and build quality trail some rivals
  • Fewer tech features than rivals

Rankings & Research

The 2018 Subaru Forester's #8 ranking is based on its score within the 2018 Affordable Compact SUVs category. Currently the Subaru Forester has a score of 8.2 out of 10, which is based on our evaluation of 33 pieces of research and data elements using various sources.




Critics' Rating: 9.1
Performance: 8.2
Interior: 8.2
Total Cost of Ownership: 8.7
Safety: 9.3
J.D. Power Ratings Logo

2018 Subaru Forester Overview

Is the 2018 Subaru Forester a Good SUV?

The 2018 Subaru Forester is a good compact SUV. It has a lot of passenger space and cargo room, two competent engine choices, and a comfortable ride. However, many of its rivals outmatch it in one way or another.

The Forester has several strengths:

  • Ample cargo space
  • Two rows of roomy, comfortable seats
  • Standard all-wheel drive
  • Commendable engine power
  • Balanced ride and handling

Though, it also has some weaknesses:

  • So-so interior quality
  • Short list of standard features
  • High average list prices
  • Less athletic than rivals
  • Subpar safety and predicted reliability ratings for the class
Why You Can Trust Us

We’ve researched 37 Subaru Forester reviews, as well as hard data points like reliability scores and cost of ownership estimates, to help you make the best car-buying decision possible.

U.S. News & World Report has been ranking cars since 2007, and our team has decades of automotive industry experience combined. While we’re passionate about cars, we’re even more committed to providing helpful consumer advice. To ensure our reviews remain impartial, we refuse expensive gifts and trips from car companies, and an outside team handles the advertising on our site.

How Much Is the 2018 Subaru Forester?

There are more than 800 listings for the 2018 Subaru Forester on our site, with an average list price of about $26,200. That's several thousand dollars higher than the class average. Prices range from around $21,900 to around $33,000 and vary depending on the vehicle’s condition, mileage, features, and location.

See the Best Used Car Deals »

How Much Does the 2018 Subaru Forester Cost to Own?

The 2018 Subaru Forester’s five-year costs for gas, insurance, repairs, and maintenance are projected to be about $23,400, or about $4,680 per year. That’s a little above average for a compact SUV.

Is It Better to Buy a Used or New Subaru Forester?

Subaru fully redesigned the Forester for 2019. The new generation has a little more cargo space and rear-seat legroom. Cabin materials are nicer, and modern features like Android Auto and Apple CarPlay make their debut in the Forester. Newly standard features include automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, and lane keep assist. A Wi-Fi hot spot and larger 8-inch touch screen are newly optional in the Forester.

The 2019 Forester has an excellent combination of cargo and passenger space, safety and reliability ratings, positive reviews from automotive journalists, and available family-friendly features in the class. That’s why we named the it our 2019 Best Compact SUV for Families.

One downside to the redesign is that Subaru axed the previously available turbocharged engine, which is much stronger than the base engine from either model year. The 2018 Forester hasn't depreciated much, with list prices anywhere from around $22,000 to $33,000. Unless you want the stronger engine, you may want to spend a bit more to get the newer Forester and its lengthier list of standard features.

Read about the new Subaru Forester »

The 2018 Forester is part of a generation that began with the 2014 model year. There were few notable changes over the years. An infotainment system became standard in the 2016 Forester, and the 2017 Forester was the first model in the generation to offer adaptive headlights and reverse automatic braking as options. Older models in this generation are very similar to the 2018, and they typically cost less.

Compare the 2017, 2018, and 2019 Forester »

See the Best New Car Deals »

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How Reliable Is the 2018 Subaru Forester?

J.D. Power gives the 2018 Forester a predicted reliability rating of three out of five, which is about average.

Read more about Forester reliability »

2018 Subaru Forester Recalls

As of this writing, there is one recall for the 2018 Subaru Forester:

  • A label containing information about wheel size, tire size, or inflation pressure may be incorrect

See more information on Subaru Forester safety recalls »

Which Used Subaru Forester Trim Is Right for Me?

The 2018 Subaru Forester comes in four main trims: base, Premium, Limited, and Touring. Each trim comes standard with the four-cylinder engine, and the two higher trims have the option of either the standard or turbocharged engine. Those who do a lot of driving will probably want a model with the more capable turbocharged engine, but these models typically cost more.

The 2.5i Limited model is a good value. It comes equipped with the base engine, leather upholstery, heated front seats, and features from lower trims like a 7-inch touch screen, a power-adjustable driver's seat, a moonroof, and satellite radio. You can also find Limited models with Subaru's EyeSight package of driver assistance features.

  • Subaru Forester 2.5i: The standard 2018 Forester comes with a 6.2-inch touch-screen infotainment system, a four-speaker stereo, Bluetooth, a USB port, HD Radio, and a rearview camera.
  • Subaru Forester 2.5i Premium: The Forester Premium builds on the base trim with a 10-way power-adjustable driver's seat, automatic climate control, a six-speaker stereo, a 7-inch touch screen, voice recognition, satellite radio, an additional USB port, and a moonroof. Some models may have heated front seats, heated outside mirrors, a power liftgate, and navigation. The EyeSight suite of driver assistance features is also available. This package includes forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control, a head-up display, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, and automatic high beams.
  • Subaru Forester 2.5i Limited: The Forester Limited adds genuine leather upholstery, heated front seats, heated outside mirrors, a power liftgate, and a reclining rear seat. Some Limited models may have navigation, an eight-speaker Harman Kardon premium sound system, and the EyeSight package, which also comes with adaptive headlights and reverse automatic emergency braking in this trim.
  • Subaru Forester 2.5i Touring: The 2018 Forester Touring comes standard with all EyeSight active safety features, as well as navigation, a Harman Kardon premium sound system, a heated steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control, proximity keyless entry, push-button start, and a one-touch folding rear seat.
  • Subaru Forester 2.0XT Premium: The Forester 2.0XT Premium has the same features as the 2.5i Premium, but adds a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, heated front seats, heated sideview mirrors, a sport-tuned suspension, and a manual shift mode with paddle shifters.
  • Subaru Forester 2.0XT Touring: The Forester 2.0XT Touring has a similar equipment list to the regular Touring model, but it adds Active Torque Vectoring steering.

See 2018 Subaru Forester trims and specs »

What Does Subaru's Certified Pre-Owned Warranty Cover?

Subaru offers a certified pre-owned program for vehicles five years old or less and with fewer than 80,000 miles. Eligibility is determined by the vehicle’s initial sale date. For its certified pre-owned vehicles, Subaru extends the original new-car powertrain warranty to seven years from the original sale date or 100,000 miles. Subaru provides no additional coverage for CPO vehicles, so buyers receive the remainder of the original three-year/36,000-mile new-car warranty. However, buyers can purchase additional coverage. Every CPO Subaru must pass a 152-point inspection. Additional benefits like owner loyalty discounts, a one-year Starlink Safety Plus trial subscription, towing, and roadside assistance may be available, so read the Subaru warranty page carefully.

Subaru’s CPO program isn’t particularly robust, according to our analysis. Among affordable automakers, Toyota, Mazda, Honda, and many others have better programs.

See the best CPO programs »

How Safe Is the Forester?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the 2018 Forester an overall rating of five out of five stars, with five stars in the side crash test and four stars in the frontal crash and rollover tests.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety named the Forester a Top Safety Pick, the agency’s highest award. The IIHS also gave it the highest rating of Good in five crash tests, but only the second-lowest rating of Marginal in the passenger-side small overlap test. The Forester also received the best rating of Superior for the performance of its front crash prevention features and the second-highest score of Acceptable for how well the headlights illuminate the road.

Standard advanced safety features:

  • rearview camera

Available advanced safety features:

  • forward collision warning
  • automatic emergency braking
  • lane departure warning
  • lane keep assist
  • adaptive cruise control
  • head-up display
  • blind spot monitoring
  • rear cross traffic alert
  • automatic high beams
  • adaptive headlights
  • reverse automatic emergency braking

See Forester safety scores »

2018 Subaru Forester Versus the Competition

Which Is Better: 2018 Subaru Forester or 2018 Subaru Outback?

The 2018 Subaru Outback is a wagon that has a lot of the same appeal as the Forester. These all-wheel-drive Subarus have comparable cargo capacities and a similar features lists. However, the Outback comes standard with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and it has a roomier rear seat. The Outback's base engine feels weaker than the Forester's, especially when the SUV is loaded down with lots of people and gear. The Outback’s available six-cylinder engine gives it more towing power than the Forester. You'll probably find higher list prices for the Outback, but it has lower five-year predicted ownership costs. Both Subarus are decent choices, so it comes down to how much you can spend and your personal preference.

Which Is Better: 2018 Subaru Forester or 2018 Honda CR-V?

The 2018 Honda CR-V is a slightly better compact SUV than the Forester. The CR-V lacks standard all-wheel drive, but that's one of its few downsides. The Honda is one of the few models in the class to offer more cargo space than the Forester, and both have roomy second rows. Each has a decently powered base engine and a more enthusiastic turbocharged option, but neither will really excite you with its handling. The CR-V has a nicer interior, a higher crash test score, and lower operating expenses. With comparable prices across the board, you're better off with the CR-V. Though, the Forester is a better pick if you need all-wheel drive.

Compare the Forester, Outback, and CR-V »

2018 Forester Performance

How Does the 2018 Subaru Forester Drive?

The 2018 Subaru Forester comes with one of two engine choices: a standard four-cylinder and a turbocharged four-cylinder. The base powertrain has enough gusto for daily driving, and it's the only option if you want a six-speed manual transmission. Many models come equipped with the available continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). The Forester is also available with a turbocharged four-cylinder engine that delivers more authoritative acceleration. It only comes with the CVT, though some models may have a six-speed or eight-speed manual shift option with this transmission.

Standard all-wheel drive gives the Forester good road grip, and it can even handle some light off-roading. On the pavement, this SUV drives like a smaller car, with controlled body motions and a comfortable ride. It's not as athletic as some rivals, though.

  • Base engine: 170-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder
  • Available engine: 250-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder
  • Drivetrain: all-wheel drive
  • Transmission: standard six-speed manual, available continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT)
Does the 2018 Subaru Forester Get Good Gas Mileage?

The 2018 Forester gets good fuel economy for a compact SUV. The lowest numbers come with the non-turbo base engine and manual transmission, and the base engine with CVT is the most efficient.

  • 2.5-liter four-cylinder, six-speed manual: 22/28 mpg city/ highway
  • 2.5-liter four-cylinder, CVT: 26/32 mpg
  • 2.0-liter turbo-four, CVT: 23/27 mpg

Interestingly, despite its better fuel economy estimates, the average driver will spend about $550 more per year in fuel costs driving the turbocharged Forester compared to a model with the base engine and CVT. That’s because the turbo version requires premium gas.

2018 Subaru Forester Towing Capacity

The Forester can tow up to 1,500 pounds when properly equipped.

Read more about Forester performance »

2018 Forester Interior

How Many People Does the 2018 Forester Seat?

The 2018 Forester seats five people in two rows. Both rows of seats are comfortable and have ample legroom. The front seats provide a commanding view of the road and good outward visibility all around.

Standard seating features:

  • cloth upholstery

Available seating features:

  • 10-way power-adjustable driver's seat
  • heated front seats
  • synthetic leather seat bolsters
  • genuine leather upholstery
  • reclining second-row
  • leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob
  • heated steering wheel
How Many Car Seats Fit in the 2018 Subaru Forester?

The 2018 Forester has two complete sets of LATCH car-seat connectors on the rear outboard seats and an upper tether on the rear middle seat. The middle seat can also borrow lower anchors from either side, but doing so prevents that side from using its own lower anchors. 

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the system an overall rating of Acceptable (second-highest score) for ease of use. Though the lower anchors are located deep in the seats, attaching the car-seat straps is easy once you find the anchors. The tether anchors are located halfway down the backs of the seats, and they're clearly marked and distinct from other hardware.

2018 Subaru Forester Features

The Forester's standard infotainment system has a 6.2-inch touch screen. It’s easy to use, but you're better off with a model that has the upgraded 7-inch display. The larger touch screen has sharper graphics and responds to common smartphonelike commands like swiping and pinching to zoom. The Forester lacks Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, which are found in some rivals.

  • Standard infotainment features: a 6.2-inch touch-screen, a four-speaker stereo, Bluetooth, a USB port, HD Radio
  • Available infotainment features: a 7-inch touch screen, a six-speaker stereo, voice recognition, satellite radio, an additional USB port, navigation, an eight-speaker Harman Kardon premium sound system
  • Other available features: dual-zone automatic climate control, a moonroof, proximity keyless entry, push-button start

See 2018 Subaru Forester specs »

Read more about Forester interior »

2018 Subaru Forester Dimensions

Subaru Forester Cargo Space

The 2018 Forester’s maximum cargo capacity is among the highest in the compact SUV class. There’s 34.4 cubic feet of space behind the back seat and 74.7 cubic feet with the second row folded down. Models with the available moonroof have 31.5 cubic feet with the back seats up and 68.5 cubic feet with them folded down. A power liftgate is available.

These cargo dimensions are for comparative purposes. There is no substitute for visually examining the storage area in any car you’re considering.

2018 Subaru Forester Length and Weight
  • Length: 15 feet, 2 inches
  • Curb weight: 3,322 to 3,717 pounds

Where Was the 2018 Subaru Forester Built?

Subaru built the Forester in Japan.

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Honda CR-V 2018 2018 Honda CR-V

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