By Sami Haj-Assaad
Subarus are popping up everywhere. Last year was the brand’s best year in the U.S. in terms of sales, and there’s no hint that Subaru is slowing down anytime soon.
The Forester is one of Subaru’s most successful products and is now reaching its 20th birthday with some important changes to its formula.
Of course, this spike in popularity is well deserved and it all starts with how the Forester drives and how practical it is. A crossover should combine the driving style and feeling of a car with the size and practicality of an SUV, and the Forester embodies this category so well. Unlike traditional SUVs, it’s very easy to drive without a lot of body roll or bounciness. And unlike traditional cars, the Forester is very practical and has a ton of space.
Space and Practicality
There is more than 30 cubic feet of storage behind the rear seats and when you drop those seats, you get almost 70 cubic feet. Adding to the versatility is split folding seats that can be stowed easily with handy buttons in the cargo area.
The tailgate in this Limited model is also powered, but it doesn’t seem to lift very high, meaning that if you’re a bit taller, you risk getting a head injury every time you’re packing the trunk up.
While the boxy nature of the car makes it very helpful when stacking large items in the trunk, the cabin needs more practicality in terms of places to put your stuff because the cubby and bottle holders are a bit small. Additionally, the center storage area could be a bit bigger so busy families could stash larger items like iPads in there.
But don’t take that the wrong way — this car has a fantastic interior, and it’s a solid place to spend your time. The leather seats in this test vehicle are done up in a pretty upscale brown shade that is really eye-catching. The Forester also features more sound deadening and thicker windows, so it’s not as loud as it used to be.
ALSO SEE: 2017 Honda CR-V vs 2017 Subaru Forester
The seats aren’t the most supportive, but they’re soft and comfy. Fit and finish are good, especially with the nice HVAC controls in the center stack. There are a few screens in the cabin that do a decent job of giving the driver information they need, but one frustrating element in the car is the infotainment system. It’s slow and clunky to use, which is frustrating because recently updated Subarus like the Impreza arrived with a new infotainment system that includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which would be a great addition to this car.
The interior can come with some great touches like heated seats, a heated steering wheel, push-button start, panoramic sunroof, and even reclining rear seats. The upgraded Harmon/Kardon sound system is a great option as well.
A Great Powertrain
Despite the added sound deadening, you will notice the groans from this 2.5-liter flat-four-cylinder engine. With just 170 horsepower and 174 lb-ft of torque, this car doesn’t pack a lot of punch, especially in comparison with some of the turbocharged entries in its segment, but the throttle feel and way the continuously variable transmission reacts helps this car feel surprisingly active. Power delivery is very linear and smooth but when passing, you’ll definitely fill the cabin with that unique tractor-like boxer soundtrack.
If you’re hungry for more power, you can get an XT model, which uses a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine, but those can get a bit pricey.
ALSO SEE: 2018 Subaru Crosstrek Review
The CVT tiptoes a line of fuel efficiency and responsiveness really well. While other CVTs tend to be terrible to drive, this one is very responsive, almost feeling jumpy before you get used to it. It also provides some decent fuel economy, allowing this all-wheel-drive crossover to get a combined 28 mpg. A six-speed manual is even available offered on some models, earning a combined 24 mpg.
Top Safety Marks
Driving the Forester is easy. It has a nice steering feel that tricks you into thinking you’re driving something smaller and more agile. It can be a bit touchy, however, with highway driving sometimes requiring a few too many inputs to keep it riding straight, but fortunately, this test model packs a bunch of driver assistance features to keep you from inadvertently trespassing into another lane. This is enabled by a camera array found at the top of the windshield, called EyeSight. It also allows for forward collision warning with automatic braking and adaptive cruise control.
In addition to those features, the Forester packs some other safety and driver convenience features like blind spot monitoring, and an automatic braking function for when you’re backing up, which will help in busy parking lots.
There’s also adaptive headlights, which combined with everything else this car offers, helps earn this CUV top marks in IIHS safety tests. It earns the coveted Top Safety Pick Plus ranking and is also noted for its superior crash avoidance technology.
Styling and Price
If there’s one final point to bring up with the Forester, it’s with how it looks. Boxy and conservative, some people will call this car unimaginative, but I don’t think it’s unattractive. Its exterior design isn’t afraid of portraying the car for what it is, a practical compact crossover.
Starting at just $23,470 with destination ($27,670 in Canada), our model comes in at $33,765. Canadians will pay $38,970 for this model, and all considered, it’s a very well equipped and practical car for the money.
The Verdict: 2017 Subaru Forester Review
The secret is out and it’s true that Subaru has a fantastic competitor to the likes of the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V. The Forester is easy to like — it has everything you want in a car and an SUV. It drives well, is extremely practical, and offers all of that at an attractive price.
Engine: 2.5L Flat-four
Output: 170 hp, 174 lb-ft of torque
Fuel Economy MPG (city/hwy/comb.): 26/32/28
Fuel Economy (l/100kms): 9.2/7.4/8.4
Cargo Space (Seats up): 31.5
Cargo Space (Seats down): 68.5
Starting Price (USD): $23,470
Starting Price (CAD): $27,670
As Tested Price (USD): $33,765
As Tested Price (CAD): $38,970
Natural aspirated engine needs some power