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2016 Subaru Forester: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader July 2015

The 2016 Subaru Forester may not be the most stylish or sophisticated compact SUV, but there is no denying its appeal. What the Forester lacks in the looks department, it more than makes up for in every other area that counts. Looking for an affordable price? The 2016 Subaru Forester starts around $23,000, nicely equipped. Looking for good fuel economy? The Forester's highway figures are near the top of its class. Want the option of a manual transmission or powerful turbocharged model? The Forester offers both (although, sadly, not together). Plus, the Forester comes standard with one of the best all-wheel-drive systems on the road.

The 2016 Forester is also strong in the areas of interior comfort and noise levels, available equipment and overall ride and handling. The turbocharged XT model boasts significantly more power than the base 2.5i trims, plus upgrades to its frame, suspension, brakes and steering make for a more enjoyable driving machine. Finally, Subaru bolsters the Forester's already impressive safety credentials by offering the EyeSight driver-assist system on many trims.

What's New for 2016?

The 2016 Forester receives a revised center stack and new audio units. Standard Starlink audio integration allows users to stream smartphone apps, such as iHeartRadio and Pandora. Models equipped with EyeSight also receive steering-responsive fog light activation.

What We Like

Excellent fuel economy; child-seat-friendly back seat; true off-road ability; reasonable price; powerful turbo model; high-tech safety options; available manual transmission

What We Don't

No manual transmission on the turbo model; 2.0XT Premium can't be equipped with EyeSight or navigation; pricier trims not as well equipped as similarly priced competitors

How Much?

$23,245-$37,000

Fuel Economy

The standard engine for the 2016 Subaru Forester is a 2.5-liter boxer 4-cylinder that produces 170 horsepower and 174 lb-ft of torque. With the continuously variable (CVT) automatic transmission, the 2.5 earns an Environmental Protection Agency-estimated 24 miles per gallon in the city and 32 mpg on the highway, fuel economy that rivals or bests the figures posted by some of the Forester's front-wheel-drive rivals. A 6-speed manual is standard on base and Premium models and comes with a less sophisticated all-wheel-drive system that offers slightly lower fuel economy figures of 22 mpg city/29 mpg hwy.

The XT brings a direct-injection 2.0-liter turbocharged engine that produces 250 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. The added horsepower doesn't detract from fuel economy either, which comes in at 22 mpg city/28 mpg hwy on regular gas (premium gasoline is recommended but not required).

Standard Features & Options

The 2016 Subaru Forester comes in two models and four trims, which include 2.5i, 2.5i Premium, 2.5i Limited, 2.5i Touring, 2.0XT Premium and 2.0XT Touring.

The 2.5i ($23,245) includes a 6-speed manual transmission, a rearview camera, air conditioning, cruise control, Bluetooth, a tilt-telescopic steering wheel, power windows, power mirrors, power door locks, remote keyless entry, a 60/40-split folding rear seat, a rear wiper/washer and a 6.2-in single-touch gesture display audio unit with AM/FM/HD radio/single CD/satellite/Bluetooth streaming. Options for the base include a CVT automatic and an alloy-wheel package.

The 2.5i Premium ($26,145) adds a power moonroof, 7-in touchscreen audio with multi-touch gesture control, Starlink multimedia including Bluetooth SMS text messaging and dual USB ports, 17-in alloy wheels, a 10-way power driver's seat with power lumbar support, reclining rear seats, rear privacy glass and the All-Weather Package (AWP) that adds heated side mirrors, heated front seats and windshield wiper de-icers. CVT-equipped models make the AWP optional, but unlike the manual models, it can be equipped with a navigation radio and EyeSight.

The 2.5i Limited ($29,645) adds X-Mode with hill-descent control, leather seating, automatic climate control, the All-Weather Package, fog lights, auto headlights, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and a power rear tailgate. Options include navigation and EyeSight.

The 2.5i Touring ($31,645) adds HID headlights, 440-watt Harman Kardon audio, 1-touch folding rear seats, keyless access and start, dual-zone automatic climate control, integrated side-mirror turn signals, PIN code access and polished 18-in wheels. Options include navigation and EyeSight.

The 2.0XT Premium ($30,045) brings a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine, sport suspension, 18-in wheels, a high-torque CVT automatic with SI-DRIVE and dual exhaust pipes. Unlike the 2.5i Premium trim, the XT Premium does not offer the option of EyeSight or navigation.

The 2.0XT Touring ($34,645) adds all the 2.5i Touring features to the 2.0XT Premium. Navigation and EyeSight are the only optional features.

All models equipped with Starlink can be upgraded with a subscription-based Safety Plus and Security Plus package that includes remote lock/unlock, vehicle locator, stolen vehicle recovery, SOS emergency assistance, collision notification, roadside assistance and monthly vehicle health reports and reminders.

At the high end of the tech scale is Subaru's EyeSight driver-assist system. EyeSight can maintain a safe distance between you and the cars ahead when adaptive cruise control is engaged, or it can help to avoid accidents by slowing the vehicle in the event of an imminent collision, along with giving audible warnings to alert the driver. At speeds under 19 miles per hour, the system can actually bring the car to a stop before rear-ending the car ahead. EyeSight also includes a lane-departure warning system and pedestrian detection.

In addition to the above option packages, Subaru offers a huge number of dealer-installed options including fog lights, remote start, a 115-volt outlet, upgraded speaker kits, rear cargo cover, crossbars for the roof rack and a number of roof-rack accessories for holding skis, bikes, kayaks and cargo-carriers.

Safety

The Forester has been given all the safety features mandated by the federal government, plus added protection in the form of a reinforced passenger compartment frame and a driver-knee airbag. Subaru expects the Forester to earn a 5-star crash test rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and earn top marks in all the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tests, including the new small-overlap offset crash test.

Behind the Wheel

Performance with the 2.5-liter engine is surprisingly strong, with good acceleration and passing power and quiet operation. The Forester rides and drives more like a small car than an SUV blessed with 8.7 inches of ground clearance. Subaru's electric assist power steering is a bit numb in the curves, but not annoyingly so, and the nicely weighted steering wheel makes it easy to keep the Forester tracking straight and true. Most noticeable is the comfortable ride and low interior noise levels.

The XT trim provides a much sportier ride, thanks in part to its stiffer chassis, increased spring rates and bigger brakes. To our delight, we found the XT model's 18-in tires vastly improve handling without diminishing ride comfort or increasing noise levels. The real joy when driving the XT is the rush of power from the turbo engine. If you require superior passing power and jackrabbit sprints, this is the engine you'll want in your Forester. While performance figures are not exactly in the WRX's territory, the XT can dash from zero to 60 mph in just 6.2 seconds.

The Forester's CVT automatic includes a low mode setting for more controlled descents. On Limited and Touring trims, the car features X-Mode with hill-descent control, a system that provides better control in certain driving situations. On the XT trim, the CVT includes a version of the SI-DRIVE system found on the WRX. SI-DRIVE includes three modes: Intelligent (I), Sport (S) and Sport Shift (S#). In Sport and Sport Shift, the CVT can simulate a 6- or 8-speed gearbox for maximum response to throttle input.

Other Cars to Consider

2015 Honda CR-V -- In front-wheel-drive form, the CR-V with its standard automatic has a lower starting price than the Forester and rivals it for resale value and reliability. But the Forester gets better fuel economy, even with its standard all-wheel-drive system, which is much better suited to off-roading.

2015 Hyundai Santa Fe -- The Santa Fe has more powerful engine choices and better high-end features, such as ventilated seats and a heated steering wheel. But the Santa Fe's fuel economy, especially on the all-wheel-drive models, falls far short of the Forester's, and its all-wheel-drive system is only part-time. The Forester's base price is also a few thousand dollars less than the Santa Fe.

2015 Ford Escape -- The Escape costs more when similarly equipped with all-wheel drive and an automatic transmission, is smaller inside and has a lower fuel economy than the Forester's. The Escape does have a more upscale interior, better audio and infotainment features and a more stylish exterior.

Autotrader's Advice

If fuel economy and some modest creature comforts top your shopping list, the 2.5i Premium with CVT, the All-Weather Package and a touchscreen navigation radio would be our pick. On the other hand, if power and performance are paramount, then the turbocharged 2.0XT would be our choice. Inexplicably, Subaru doesn't offer EyeSight or navigation on the 2.0XT Premium trim, which means if you want either you'll have to move up to the 2.0XT Touring. However, once you reach the Touring trim level, be prepared to pay a premium on par with what you'd pay for a similarly equipped Outback.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2016 Subaru Forester: New Car Review - Autotrader