Subaru went to lengths to keep the current Forester at about the same overall length--it's a compact vehicle, after all, and the larger Outback exists for buyers that need even more space. To net more usable space, Subaru moved the seat positions, the roof pillars, and resculpted the interior trim to create the look and reality of a more spacious vehicle.
By the numbers, the Forester now rides on a 103.9-inch wheelbase, and is 180.9 inches long. It has 8.7 inches of ground clearance, almost 40 inches of rear-seat head room, 34.4 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats (when no sunroof is present), and 74.7 cubic feet behind the front seats, when the second-row seats are folded down.
From the driver seat, the Forester feels completely different from the previous model, and especially from some other vehicles it might be compared with: Escape, Tucson, even Rogue. The re-engineering has reoriented interior space in useful ways. The dash sits almost five inches further forward from the seats, which themselves provide a slightly higher driving position and more elbow room. The seats are more adjustable and the Forester's sills and shoulder line are lower in comparison. The perception of space is unsurpassed in this class.
The front seats themselves lack enough bolstering on the short, flat bottom cushion, and bigger drivers will make constant contact with the Forester's center console and door panels, both lacking some soft touch points. In XT (turbo) models it's especially lacking, as there's no sport-seat option. The commanding view is worth those minor trade-offs.
In the second row, repositioned rear seats allow an inch greater distance between the front and rear seats—that’s more rear legroom—and rear seatback folding that’s close to fully flat with a one-touch mechanism. There’s 12 percent more cargo space, too. The repositioned back seats are easier to get into than in the previous version, and they're more comfortable, with a subtle contouring that should help comfort on longer trips. All but the base model get three-position recline for the (60/40-split) rear seatbacks.
All models now get a fold-down center armrest, and solid-looking cupholders have been moved forward from the back of the center console. In turn, the center console now longer extends as far back, to give the center occupant a little more space. With the center driveshaft tunnel lowered by an inch, there's a little more foot space, too.
There’s also a much greater sense of detailing and refinement inside the new Forester. Materials—everything from upholsteries to door trim—are a solid step up from before, and Subaru has added more insulation both to the door panels and to the area just ahead of the instrument panel—altogether making a big difference in keeping the cabin quieter on rough surfaces, though wind noise and tire thrum at highway speeds still are a constant presence.