2012 Subaru Forester Review

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2017
The Car Connection
2017
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

John Voelcker John Voelcker Senior Editor

The 2012 Subaru Forester is tough, all-weather-capable, and one of the best-handling compact crossovers--plus, a blast to drive in XT turbo form--but an old-tech automatic transmission and econo-caliber interior remain letdowns.

The 2012 Subaru Forester is a tall, boxy crossover wagon, carrying a rugged-looking, utility-like body over somewhat sturdier passenger-car underpinnings. To us, the Forester strikes a nearly ideal balance for Snow Belt small families—with an almost incredibly roomy interior, carlike handling, standard all-weather all-wheel drive (with good ground clearance), and exterior dimensions that make it just small enough for compact-only spaces.

The Forester hasn't changed all that much since 2009, when it received a complete redesign and gained a somewhat larger body, with slightly more rounded cues compared to its much-loved, more overtly boxy predecessor. In some respects, the Forester is the present-day Volvo 240 wagon—unabashedly utilitarian, with its squared-off corners and tall glass, yet a bit more sophisticated. The Forester is a little plain inside, but its rugged fabrics and easy-wipe surfaces will be a good fit for the understated, outdoorsy crowd.

Last year the Forester got an all-new base engine that produces the same max power as the unit it replaced—though it's a little more responsive, and should have lower maintenance. With the base five-speed manual transmission, performance is quick enough, but the wide ratios of the four-speed automatic remain one of the Forester's most significant drawbacks. XT variants get a little bit of WRX flavor, with a turbocharged four-cylinder with 224 horsepower and 226 pound-feet of torque; they move quickly but are again let down with the four-speed auto. 

Across the Forester lineup, handling remains its strength; it's by far the best-balanced, most dynamically proficient crossover, and the rather low seating position and low center of mass helps instill a stable feel on twisty roads and tight corners. Yet those who need to take on deep snow or a deep two-track to a camping spot will appreciate the 8.7 inches of ground clearance.

If you haven't been inside a Forester before, there's likely far more space than you would have anticipated. The front seating position is at a nice height (though the seats feel short and flat), while you can fit three across in back in a pinch. For 2012, all Forester models get height adjustment for the passenger seat as well as the driver's seat. 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. Ride quality is mostly quite soft, yet road noise can be obtrusive on some surfaces, and it's certainly not quiet.

The Forester has a mixed reputation for safety. While its all-wheel drive system, combined with an excellent stability control system, make it very surefooted on snowy or wet roads, its achieved just three-star federal results for side impact. On the other hand, it's again an IIHS Top Safety Pick for 2012.

With either engine, top Touring models are distinguished by their HID headlamps, bright roof rails, dual-zone climate control, one-touch folding rear seatbacks, and electroluminescent instruments. Last year, the Forester got new audio systems, with integrated Bluetooth hands-free functions and an auxiliary jack, plus Bluetooth audio streaming, iPod controls, a USB port, and Sirius Satellite Radio compatibility. A TomTom navigation package—with a portable unit that can detach from the base—remains offered as a lower-priced option when paired with the All Weather Package, but the available nav system on Limited and Touring models now has a 6.1-inch display, voice-activated controls, iTunes tagging, and text-messaging capability.

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February 16, 2017
2017 Subaru Forester 2.5i Touring CVT

Awesome SUV !

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Awesome small SUV ! The 2017 Forester has been refined, and is super quiet ! This is my first Subaru, and I am very impressed with the handling, the quiet cabin, and all the safety features. My Touring model... + More »
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July 3, 2016
2016 Subaru Forester 4-Door CVT 2.0XT Premium

Love at first sight.

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My first Subaru. While the MPG is low the 250hp makes it worth it. Very large moonroof. Backup camera is useful. Visibility is great. Quiet cabin.
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March 10, 2016
2016 Subaru Forester 4-Door Manual 2.5i Premium PZEV

Very Likable Vehicle

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This is my first Subaru. I was convinced to give them a try by their winter driving reputation; their top rating on Consumer Reports; and the fact I could tow this manual Forester flat behind my RV... + More »
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March 6, 2016
2016 Subaru Forester 4-Door CVT 2.0XT Touring

Great in Winter Driving!

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I have owned Foresters since 2003 and I can't say that the latest Forester is a total improvement. Yes, it's a bigger taller vehicle which can easily accommodate 5 passengers with lots of legroom (front and... + More »
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February 21, 2016
2016 Subaru Forester 4-Door CVT 2.5i Limited PZEV

I LOVE It!!

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I love my new 2016 Subaru 2.5i Limited Forester. It comes with alot of standard things on this model that I have come to fall in love with over the month that I have had it. It has heated seats, a panoramic... + More »
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January 7, 2016
For 2016 Subaru Forester

Poor heating system.

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The heating is not appropriate for cold weather. Driving in -18 Celcius the driver and passenger winds were frosting up and rear windows were completely frosted over. Driving with heating on the defrost/foot... + More »
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November 10, 2015
2016 Subaru Forester 4-Door CVT 2.5i Touring PZEV

Comfort, Style & Reliability

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After years of struggling with the cargo challenges (ie dogs and groceries) in my incredibly well designed and wicked quick VW turbo Super Beetle convertible I added the 2016 Forester to my fleet. No fluff and... + More »
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October 22, 2015
2016 Subaru Forester 4-Door CVT 2.0XT Premium

Great Car!

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We were going to buy a Jeep Cherokee but right before we went to finalize deal, we read about transmission issues and changed to the Subaru Forester. We are so happy we did. Great little SUV! Drives like a 6... + More »
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October 10, 2015
2016 Subaru Forester 4-Door CVT 2.5i Limited PZEV

Good test drive! I 'll buy it!

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I test drove the 2016 Forester today. I was very happy with the comfort of the vehicle. The ride was very nice, did not feel all the damage of the roads that I drove on. Steering/handling as very comfortable... + More »
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July 27, 2015
For 2016 Subaru Forester

Downsize was a MAJOR upgrade.....

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We traded in our 2004 Ford Expedition Eddie Bauer for our 2016 Forester. Our household is getting smaller (kids growing up and moving out) so the need for the massive tank was getting smaller as well. Even... + More »
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