2019 Subaru Forester Expert Review

Editor's Overview

Subaru has managed to make its new 2019 Forester stronger, roomer and more modern without letting it become ungainly and possibly losing the charm of its predecessors. At the same time, this compact Subaru SUV, so popular with small families and pet owners, backs up its capabilities and all-weather credentials with abundant new safety technology.

You'll Like The 2019 Subaru Forester If...

If you like the utility of a small SUV but want a little more room without having to move up to a larger class of vehicle, the all-wheel-drive 2019 Subaru Forester is for you. Especially if you live in rural areas and like to get 33 mpg on the highway.

You May Not Like The 2019 Subaru Forester If...

If you don’t like the feel of continuously variable transmissions (CVTs), you’re out of luck with the new Forester. It’s available only with Subaru’s CVT, which is improved but still not as good as a conventional automatic. The manual transmission has been dropped for 2019.

What's New

Everything. It all starts with a new chassis and a 2.5-liter engine with direct injection, higher compression and 90-percent new parts. In overall length, the new Forester is up by only 0.6 inches, but the wheelbase has increased by 1.2, which is a boon for back-seat legroom. Also, the Touring model has DriverFocus, which uses facial recognition to sense driver distraction or fatigue.

Interior Features

Even though the 2019 Forester is narrower than competitors such as the Honda CR-V, Nissan Rogue and Toyota RAV4, Subaru has widened the front seating area by 1.2 inches, which enabled the manufacturer to move the front seats nearly an inch farther apart, making the area feel far roomier. Improved materials and a new wraparound dash highlight the 5-seat interior, and the infotainment touch screen (either a 6.5-incher or the preferable 8.0-inch unit) is right where you’d expect it to be -- within easy reach atop the center stack. And thanks to the added wheelbase, the new Forester has significantly better rear-seat legroom. A 6-foot-tall passenger now fits very comfortably behind a 6-foot-tall driver. Impressive.

Exterior Features

Subaru clearly didn’t want to mess with success, so the all-new 2019 Forester doesn’t stray too far visually. And while this new Forester looks much like the previous one, the pleasant update is just enough to let us know that significant improvements have been made beneath the skin. Front, side and rear underguards are standard, as is lower body cladding to protect against mud and rocks. Also, roof rails are standard on all but the base model. The new Sport model is distinguished by its gloss-black exterior trim and orange accents on the black underguards and roof-rail mounts, plus orange interior stitching and other accents.

Driving Impressions

The 2019 Subaru Forester is much quieter than the previous model, and its electric-assist steering, which seems a bit heavy at first, feels normal after a few minutes at the helm. Ride quality is outstanding, and even though the new Forester has 8.7 inches of ground clearance (the same as the outgoing model), body lean in corners is kept well in check. The updated 2.5-liter boxer engine, with 182 horsepower (up from 170), feels adequate if not overwhelming, yet still strong enough to move this 3,500-pound compact SUV up mountain passes without obvious strain. The CVT, updated by Subaru to be lighter and quieter, “downshifts” and “upshifts” like a traditional automatic when the driver is aggressive with the throttle. Subaru has worked to improve Forester brake feel, and this can be felt in the reduction of pedal stroke needed before speed retardation occurs. The Limited model that KBB tested at the Forester’s press preview near Asheville, North Carolina, had a particularly active beeper for lane-keep assist, and it took time to find the shut-off switch (it’s on the headliner, above the rearview mirror). If you’re the sort who takes corners aggressively, a new standard torque-vectoring system automatically applies the brakes to the inside wheels to help the Forester follow its intended path and not push wide. Last: If there’s one area needing improvement, it’s the automatic stop/start system, new for 2019. Although designed to be unobtrusive and save fuel while your Subaru idles at stoplights, the automatic restarts aren’t as smooth as they should be. Fortunately, the system can be shut off, which we did.

Pricing Notes

The 2019 Subaru Forester goes on sale in early October. The base model carries a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of just over $25,000, which includes a destination charge of $975. Next up is the Forester Premium, which gets you X-Mode all-wheel drive, alloy wheels, roof rails, privacy glass and a panoramic sunroof, for about $28,000. The new Forester Sport, with push-button ignition, paddle shifters, LED fog lights, black-out trim, rear USB ports and Dual X-Mode, will set you back about $30,000, while the Limited -- fitted with interior leather, an 8-inch audio screen, a power liftgate, voice-activated dual-zone climate control and a Harman Kardon premium sound system with nine speakers -- is closer to $32,000. The top Forester model is the Touring; for just over $35,000, you get power (and heated) front seats, interior leather, navigation, one-touch folding rear seatbacks and exclusive 18-inch alloy wheels. As always, please check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others are paying in your area.

Notable Equipment

Key standard features on every 2019 Subaru Forester include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, plus EyeSight, the driver-assist safety suite featuring adaptive cruise control, pre-collision braking, pre-collision throttle management, lane-departure warning and lane-keep assist. Also standard: trailer-stability assist, brake hold, automatic climate control, electronic parking brake, automatic power door locks (a first for the Forester) and LED headlights. The 2019 Forester also has active grille shutters in the front bumper (for better fuel economy), plus a rearview-camera washer, which will come in handy if you spend a lot of time on dirt roads.

Notable Options

The base 2019 Subaru Forester is available with 17-inch alloy wheels and roof rails, a package bargain-priced at $600. On the Forester Premium, there’s an available all-weather package and push-button start, plus blind-spot detection, lane-change assist and dual USB ports in the center rear console. The Forester Sport can be ordered with the 8-inch MultiMedia Plus system and a 9-speaker Harman Kardon stereo, while automatic reverse braking is available on the more opulent Limited. The top Forester, the Touring, can be ordered with Black or Saddle Brown perforated interior leather. In-vehicle Wi-Fi is available through your Subaru dealer.

Favorite Features


At 51.3 inches wide, the Forester’s rear cargo opening is huge, 5.3 inches wider than before and a full six inches better than the nearest competitor’s. Golf bags don’t need to be tilted to fit in back. An extra 1.1 extra inches of space between the rear-wheel intrusions also helps.


This new tech, standard on the Forester Touring, uses infrared sensors and facial recognition to identify driver distraction or fatigue. If the driver has looked away from the road for three seconds, DriverFocus will sound a warning and even slow the car to a stop if necessary.

Under the Hood

One engine is available in the new Forester, a 2.5-liter flat-4 that produces 182 horsepower at 5,800 rpm and 176 lb-ft of torque at 4,400 rpm (versus last year’s 170 horsepower at 5,800 rpm and 174 lb-ft of torque at 4,100 rpm). Subaru says 90 percent of its parts are new, and this includes a stronger block and a new direct-injection system. This boxer powerplant mounts to one transmission: a CVT built and developed by Subaru. In Sport and Touring Foresters, the CVT features a manual mode that simulates a 7-speed automatic transmission via shift paddles. On all 2019 Foresters, however, there’s a new SI-Drive system allowing the driver to select between smooth (Intelligent) or crisp (Sport) powertrain performance. EPA fuel economy figures for the 2019 Subaru Forester are 26-mpg city/33-mpg highway/29-mpg combined.

2.5-liter flat-4 (all models)

182 horsepower @ 5,800 rpm

176 lb-ft of torque @ 4,400 rpm

EPA city/highway fuel economy: 26/33 mpg (all models)

Editors' Notes

The Forester has been a big seller for Subaru, accounting for 27 percent of its U.S. sales. Here’s why: This Japan-built SUV artfully blends good interior capacity with a reasonably small overall size, which makes it a super-handy vehicle around town. And if you live in areas with harsh weather, or you occasionally like to explore areas with dirt roads, the Forester also shines, thanks to its 8.7 inches of ground clearance, rugged construction and full-time all-wheel drive. For 2019, the Subaru has completely revamped the Forester, keeping its spirit intact while replacing its chassis with the company’s strong new global platform already put to good use in the popular Crosstrek. Equally significant, some clever packaging moves have made the new 2019 Subaru Forester more spacious inside while still maintaining the vehicle’s compact overall footprint.

Road Test Video Reviews

2019 Subaru Forester Owner Reviews

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2019 Forester is a Disappointment!

2019 Subaru Forester

I’ve been driving the Forester Touring model for 6 months and just went to my Connecticut dealer for the 6000 mile service just last week. Let me first say that the dealer is terrific. The tailgate has been a continuing problem as it doesn’t always open and now opens less than one foot and must be then manually pushed up. I’m told that you must hold the open button for 8+ seconds to force it to open. Dealer ordered a part which hopefully will be fixed by next week. Meanwhile, the hazard light is also not working. Although the engine was reported to be delivering more horsepower, it is noisy and labors until it reaches about 30mph. The 2019 Honda CRV is quieter and peppier. Steering was extraordinarily squirrelly and I asked the service manager to check it out. Apparently the “Vehicle Dynamics Control” system was in “on mode” and interfered with my steering. This feature as well as “Eyesight” is something I could and prefer to do without. What I could use are garage openers as standard equipment. I’m told that I can install a special mirror with garage opener buttons at a cost of several hundred dollars. My previous car was a Toyota Forerunner Limited with factory garage opener buttons that I bought new in 2003 and ran it for over 250,000 miles. I now seriously regret not going with Toyota or Honda.

- Peter Warburton Shih

Subaru Forester Sport for the win overall

2019 Subaru Forester Sport

Overall the vehicle is worth the purchase price. I do find that, even in the sport model, the performance is a bit lacking. If you are not under the perfect conditions you will not really have much power when you put your foot down. I also do not like the CVT and the way it is programmed to feel like an automatic, I think this defeats the purpose to the CVT. As far as features go the vehicle has more than I need, including some that I do not want. The Eyesight suit, while noce for safety, can be rather annoying. They constantly beep and flash warnings at you. Aside from that I think the radio is really good, though the touch screen is a bit sluggish at times. There is plenty of room in all seats, though I wouldn't try fitting three adults in the back for more than a short drive. As a tall, and larger, person the driver's seat is good, though sometimes I find myself resting my leg in an uncomfortable position because the center console is very wide and leaves little room for me. I have yet to run into any mechanical issues, even at a little over 6,000 miles.

- Patrick T

Navigation system is terrible

2019 Subaru Forester

I like everything about the Forester, space features, ride. But I hate the new navigation system, had issues with directions in previous year Forester and Outback, with bad directions BUT the 2019 is not user friendly an just plain bad. Planning a future trip and put in address, which is cumbersome,it finds the destination and after 15 minutes still has not come up with directions, 39% after 15 minutes! What a waste of money!

- Love the Forester. BUT

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