- Better styling
- Carlike dynamics
- Constant all-wheel drive
- Outdated four-speed auto
- No manual option on XT turbocharged model
- Unappealing cabin plastics
The 2010 Subaru Forester may not be as powerful or well-equipped as its rivals, but it really shines in its more carlike dynamics and superior handling.
Derived in part from the Subaru Impreza, the Forester blends a useful, cargo-friendly body with the automaker’s symmetrical all-wheel-drive system. The Subaru Forester helped pioneer the crossover segment when it was launched back in 1998. The original model was essentially a taller, more rugged wagon that combined carlike handling with a pseudo-SUV body.
Last year the Forester saw a complete redesign, and the new Forester is a bit larger and more sophisticated in appearance. The 2010 Subaru Forester has a familiar wagonlike shape, but it's no longer as tall and boxy—it's sleeker from the outside. Inside, the Forester inherits a swoopier design from the larger Tribeca, with an upright dash that flows smoothly around to the doors, yet the center stack of controls is quite upright and straightforward.
Overall, the Forester's styling leaves a lot to be desired, but in terms of handling and dynamics, it's hard to beat. Handling is one of the Forester’s strong points. With the standard 170-horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, you'll find reasonably quick acceleration with the five-speed manual transmission, but it's hampered slightly by the wide ratios of the four-speed automatic. XT variants get a turbocharged four-cylinder with 224 horsepower and 226 pound-feet of torque, but with only the four-speed auto, it's not as enjoyable as it could be.
The 2010 Forester has a roomy interior that's actually good enough for four full-size adults, with the capability to fit three across in back in a pinch. The backseat folds flat, and the Forester has a lower cargo floor than some of the other vehicles in this class, lending a roomier feel and easier loading. Yet the Forester has 8.7 inches of ground clearance—especially useful for negotiating deep snow or climbing up a modest trail to a camping spot. All the while, the Forester feels much more refined than previous models, yet road noise can be obtrusive on some surfaces, and it's certainly not quiet. Also, the Forester's interior materials and trims—especially the unremarkable dash plastics—are a weakness.
Safety is another area where the 2010 Subaru Forester really shines, however. After all, the vehicle has scored top marks in federal government testing. Additionally, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gives the Forester its best rating of "good" in its frontal-offset and side-impact crash tests. On top of that, the vehicle comes with a long list of standard safety features, including anti-lock brakes with brake assist, traction and stability control, front seat side airbags, and front and rear side curtain airbags.
The 2010 Subaru Forester comes very well-equipped with comfort features, and even the base 2.5X gets standard cruise control, full power accessories, air conditioning, automatic headlights, keyless entry, a tilt steering column, a trip computer, and a four-speaker stereo with CD player and auxiliary audio jack. If you’re willing to spend, the options list isn't surprising, but it doesn't lack any major items either. Available are a 10-way adjustable power driver’s seat, steering-wheel audio controls, and a touchscreen navigation system with Bluetooth connectivity.