2010 Subaru Forester Review

Consumer Reviews
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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
November 14, 2009

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.

TheCarConnection.com has read through a number of competitive reviews to bring you a survey of the best as part of our coverage of the 2010 Subaru Forester. Additionally, our editorial team has brought firsthand driving impressions of the Forester, presented in a Bottom Line assessment of how it matches up with other crossover vehicles.

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.

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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.

7

2010 Subaru Forester

Styling

While the Forester’s styling has improved greatly over the past couple of years, it’s still very boxy and utilitarian when compared to the competition.

Most reviewers are pleased with the 2010 Subaru Forester’s generous legroom, but the crossover’s styling can't escape some criticism from nearly all the road testers.

Last year’s introduction of the then all-new Subaru Forester saw the boxy crossover grow substantially in size over its predecessor, benefiting passengers with increased cabin space all around. Automobile Magazine points out that the newer body is 3 inches longer than the previous version, with a wheelbase that’s 3.6 inches longer, which goes to improving rear-seat room. Despite the chance to revamp the Forester’s style, it barely nudges its way “from mutant station wagon to mainstream compact crossover.”

“The old model's boxy charm has been toned down,” Cars.com notes, and its “creased headlights and stacked bumper looked a bit busy.” Edmunds.com agrees, and says that while the “front end of the new Forester isn't beautiful,” the look is “a bit more upscale and sophisticated than its predecessors.”

Some reviewers, on the other hand, find the styling to be very appealing. Popular Mechanics thinks the 2010 Subaru Forester “is the most handsome and stylish Subaru in years,” while Motor Trend goes so far as to predict that “it'll even catch the eye of the opposite sex in the room.” It’s a little ironic that these enthusiast publications find more to praise in its style than the mainstream car reviewers on the Web—more, even, than they praise the high-performance Subaru Impreza WRX.

Inside, the Forester’s interior is a myriad of modern shapes and textures, most of which have a quality and upmarket feel to them. However, you should like the look of metallic plastic, warns Jalopnik: “the brushed aluminum-look interior details come off as far more flash than rugged.”

TheCarConnection.com feels that the Forester’s styling, while a big leap forward in refinement for Subaru, is still too dull when compared to its rivals. This is especially true when you look at the wild style changes apparent on the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, and Saturn Vue; certainly, a flashy shape is becoming a selling point in the small crossover class.

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8

2010 Subaru Forester

Performance

Compared to the competition, the 2010 Subaru Forester handles most like a car, but its outdated four-speed automatic transmission is a letdown.  

Most reviewers are pleased by the 2010 Subaru Forester’s carlike dynamics and strong acceleration when equipped with the five-speed manual transmission, but wonder why Subaru still sticks with just four gears for the automatic.

Two engines are available in the Forester: a 170 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque 2.5-liter four-cylinder "boxer" and a 224-horsepower, 226-pound-feet-of-torque, turbocharged version of the same 2.5-liter unit, Edmunds notes. The base engine’s fine, Car and Driver reports, “but the turbo makes highway driving much more fun and merging into traffic less dramatic.” Popular Mechanics points out that the turbo engine is the “very same motor Subaru installs in the high-performance [Subaru Impreza] WRX sedan and five-door hot rods.”

With the base engine comes a choice of a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic. The archaic four-speed automatic brings out objections across the board, from enthusiast magazines and consumer car sites alike. “Why still just four speeds in the automatic?” Car and Driver asks. It’s “a bit outdated” in a time of seven-speed automatics, Popular Mechanics agrees. The manual transmission has more fans; “the clutch has a light touch and long take-up,” Cars.com says.

As for fuel economy, the base version rates 20/26 mpg, while the turbocharged XT returns 19/24 mpg, according to official EPA ratings for the 2010 Subaru Forester.

Most agree that the vehicle features grippy handling, earning much praise from car-magazine testers and consumer reviewers alike, and its standard all-wheel drive makes the difference. Road & Track thinks it has “more of a carlike feel than the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4.” Motor Trend gets a little more poetic when it says the 2010 Subaru Forester “wafts you along like a glass of expensive champagne on butler-carried tray.” Cars.com chimes in with appreciation for how its “all-wheel-drive system delivers unflappable grip accelerating out of a turn.”

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2010 Subaru Forester

Comfort & Quality

The 2010 Subaru Forester is hit and miss in this respect, with a spacious interior, a rather good ride, and great build quality but unimpressive materials.

The 2010 Forester has a roomy interior that's 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.

Cars.com points out the upgraded finishes in the cabin, calling the interior quality “good, if occasionally inconsistent...If you like silver plastic, your day has come.” But they complain about the “large floor hump [that] crowds foot room,” while “the CR-V and RAV4 have virtually flat floors.”

Taking a closer look at its interior, most reviewers are happy with the amount of space. “Front-seat passengers enjoy plenty of leg- and headroom,” Edmunds.com reports, while “the rear seat has far more legroom as well, and the doors open to nearly 75 degrees.” Popular Mechanics disagrees with that number, saying that “the rear doors finally open a full 90 degrees.” They also note that a redesigned rear suspension setup “allows for a flatter cargo area” that can haul 4,590 granola bars—which TheCarConnection.com’s editors witnessed in person at a recent press event.  “A side benefit from that new rear suspension is a smoother, more controlled ride,” Car and Driver adds.

One feature that most would miss brings one of the vehicle’s biggest benefits. First seen on the 2009 model, the 2010 Subaru Forester also gets side windows with their own frames. While this may appear insignificant, Road & Track observes that the 2010 Subaru Forester is “much quieter inside, thanks in part to door windows that now have their own outer frames.” Cars.com says, “It's not as quiet as a Honda CR-V, but it's a distinct improvement over the previous Forester,” while Automobile Magazine agrees that “the car seems a lot quieter on the freeway.”

Another plus: 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.

Review continues below
10

2010 Subaru Forester

Safety

The 2010 Subaru Forester is one of the safest vehicles in its class.  

Safety is another area where the 2010 Subaru Forester really shines. After all, the vehicle scores top marks in federal government testing. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gives the Forester its best rating of "good" in frontal-offset and side-impact crash tests, along with rear protection, and it earns five stars from the federal government for frontal and side protection.

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.

Edmunds reports that the Forester 2.5XT comes to a stop from 60 mph in 125 feet, which is a very good distance for this segment. Motor Trend adds that the Forester is outfitted with sensors that trigger the curtain airbags if the vehicle is involved in a rollover. Cars.com also notes that all five seating positions have “adequately high head restraints."

Additionally, Cars.com praises the Forester’s new four-wheel disc brakes, an upgrade over the front disc/rear drum arrangement in the previous-generation model. The anti-lock feature on the Forester’s brakes “shows its face only when skids become imminent—a welcome change from some of the more trigger-happy systems out there.”

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7

2010 Subaru Forester

Features

The 2010 Subaru Forester is a little Spartan on the base models, but most commonly desired features are on offer at the top of the range.

The 2010 Subaru Forester comes rather 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.

At this price, Cars.com notes, the 2010 Subaru Forester includes plenty of standard gear. On the list are air conditioning, cruise control, a CD player with an MP3 input jack, and remote keyless entry “with Subaru's dated, flimsy keyfob.”

For audio equipment, the Forester antes up a standard CD player. Jalopnik notes it’s one of the rare vehicles to offer “either XM or Sirius” satellite radio, and the “upmarket option pumps 80 watts through six speakers and can accommodate six CDs in-dash.”

Turbo XT models start from $26,495 and can be priced at nearly $30,000, though this performance model is limited to the outdated four-speed automatic. It’s not until you get to the upscale models that you can order the optional navigation system.

MotherProof draws attention to the panoramic power sunroof. "The Forester, which is loaded with large windows, felt even more open and airy when we had the sunroof open," the reviewer says.

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.

Review continues below
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April 18, 2015
For 2010 Subaru Forester

Our first Subaru and will not be our last

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We have the Forester XT. This car has done over 60,000 trouble free, very tough miles. Not a rattle or a squeak. Its off road capability is really surprising. Utility is really good. Engine performance and... + More »
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