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Subaru Forester SUV (2008 - 2013) review

Read the Subaru Forester 4x4 (2008 - 2013) car review by Auto Trader's motoring experts, covering price, specification, running costs, practicality, safety and how it drives.

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Words by: Auto Trader

Last updated on 26 November 2014 | 0 min read

The Auto Trader expert verdict:


The Subaru Forester is now more of a 4x4 than an estate car, and features an excellent boxer diesel engine, plus lots of equipment. It’ll be reliable too.

Reasons to buy:

  • tickHigh equipment levels
  • tickReliable
  • tickOff-road capability

At a glance:

How good does it look?

When the original Subaru Forester was replaced in 2008, it took a different route than in the past. Whereas the first generation car was more of a four-wheel drive estate, the new Subaru Forester has more 4×4-style attributes than before, thanks to a more upright stance, greater ride height and a commanding driving position.
Expert rating: 3/5

What's the interior like?

The Forester is neatly laid out, with an attractive dashboard design, however, it just lacks the polish that many of its main rivals have. There’s an absence of soft-touch plastics, with hard materials used throughout, making the cabin feel low-rent in comparison to the Kia Sportage and Peugeot 4007. There is a feeling of solidity, however, with a dashboard that is built to last. The audio system is positioned high up in the dashboard and the instruments are clear both during the day and at night.
Expert rating: 2/5

How practical is it?

The amount of room in the boot is one area where the Forester suffers, with the Hyundai ix35, Honda CR-V and Citroen C-Crosser all offering more space. With the seats up, there’s just 450 litres of luggage room, though with the seats folded it opens up to a much more reasonable 1,660 litres. Versatility is helped by one-touch, easy to fold rear seats on XC and XS models, and a rear seat back rest that reclines. Headroom is generous for both front and rear passengers, while legroom is competitive with class rivals. It’s easy to get comfortable in the driver’s seat thanks to an adjustable steering column and on top models, electrically operated seats. Owners will be able to tow a trailer, with all manual versions able to tow 2,000kg, and in automatic guise, 500kg less.
Expert rating: 3/5

What's it like to drive?

There’s plenty of grip thanks to the standard all-wheel drive, but there’s a lot of lean too through the bends though, due to the tall body, and that doesn’t inspire confidence. The steering is slow-witted and lacks feedback while the suspension can become bouncy over bumpier roads. The Forester is best as a long distance cruiser where it settles down nicely, thanks to low road and wind noise. The petrol engine makes a racket as you need to thrash it to make it deliver even reasonable performance, while the boxer diesel engine has a charismatic thrum and is an aural delight.
Expert rating: 2/5

How powerful is it?

There’s a choice of a single 2-litre petrol engine in either manual or automatic guise, together with a 148bhp 2-litre diesel unit. The latter is capable of hitting 116mph flat out, and accelerates to 62mph in 10.4 seconds. The petrol alternative has a top speed of 114mph and a 0-62 time of 11 seconds with the manual gearbox, and 115mph and 12.7 seconds with the automatic gearbox. The diesel engine is the quicker of the two engines and feels considerably sprightlier than the raw figures suggest. The petrol engines are best avoided unless you really must have an automatic gearbox, as they lack punch and aren’t particularly flexible in their operation.
Expert rating: 3/5

How much will it cost me?

The Forester isn’t the cheapest estate car to run, thanks to its heavy four-wheel-drive running gear and its boxer engines that aren’t the most frugal around in petrol form. The 2-litre petrol engine emits 198g/km in manual guise, and 1g/km more when the auto gearbox is specified, which translates into just 33.6mpg. Diesel versions are much more frugal at 44.8mpg for the entry level X model, and 44.1mpg for all other trims. CO2 emissions sit at 167g/km and 170g/km respectively. And there’s a bonus when it comes to insurance, with all groups pretty competitive and used values, when you come to sell on, are top-notch.
Expert rating: 3/5

How reliable is it?

Reliability and Subaru are always found in the same sentence, as their record in this area is very good. The Forester is built to last using solid materials, and the dealers have a good reputation for providing a good quality service.
Expert rating: 4/5

How safe is it?

The Forester has yet to be tested by crash test safety experts, Euro NCAP, however, all other Subaru models that have been tested have either scored four or five stars. This bodes well for the Forester, as it was engineered at around the same time. All models feature driver, passenger, side and head airbags, as well as standard fitment of electronic stability programme. In addition, Subaru fit anti-lock brakes (ABS), electronic brake force distribution (EBD) and brake assist as standard, as well as a seatbelt reminder for the driver. Two ISOFIX child safety seat fasteners are also provided in the rear.
Expert rating: 4/5

How much equipment do I get?

All models, including the entry level X specification come highly equipped, with 16-inch alloy wheels, front fog lights, cruise control, heated seats, air-con, electric windows and a CD player that plays MP3 tracks, as well as the option to plug in a music player thanks to the auxiliary socket. XC models add 17-inch alloy wheels, a six-disc CD player, one-touch folding rear seats, xenon headlights, power folding mirrors and roof rails. Top specification XS NavPlus models also include keyless entry and start, leather upholstery, electric seats, Bluetooth mobile phone connectivity, sat-nav and a rear reversing camera.
Expert rating: 4/5

Why buy?

The Forester used to be the farmer’s friend in first generation guise, and was a winner with anyone living down a muddy country lane. The new car has grown up a little, and as a result has lost some of its character. That said, there’s a little more space, that fantastic boxer diesel engine and a generous amount of standard kit. Factor in top-notch reliability and a decent safety record, and the Forester could become tempting.
Expert rating: 3/5

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