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2018 vs. 2019 Subaru Forester: What’s the Difference?

  • The Subaru Forester compact SUV is all-new for 2019.

  • Notable updates to the new generation include more interior space, a nicer interior, and more standard features.

  • The turbocharged engine option has been dropped for the 2019 model.

You have a ton of options when it comes to compact crossovers. It’s been one of the fastest growing segments over the last few years and one that stands out as something a little different from the more mainstream offerings is the Subaru Forester. Every Subaru has some distinct charm that its competitors can’t imitate and part of that charm is standard all-wheel drive on every trim of most of its lineup, including the Forester. That’s just part of what makes it a little more off-road-ready than most of its front-wheel-drive rivals.

The Forester is all-new for 2019 so let’s take a look at what’s new.

2018 Subaru Forester vs. 2019 Subaru Forester exterior


The exterior differences between the 2018 and 2019 Forester might go unnoticed to the untrained eye. Their exterior dimensions are identical and the styling is quite similar between the two. The body of the new model is a little more sculpted with more pronounced character lines throughout and the back is actually pretty different when you compare the two side-by-side with the new model having C-shaped taillights. Overall, we think the new Forester has a bit more of a premium look in line with other newer Subaru designs like the Crosstrek and the Ascent.

2018 Subaru Forester vs. 2019 Subaru Forester interior


The interior changes to the new Forester are a bit more noticeable and significant than the exterior changes. The 2018 model was starting to look a little dated on the inside and the 2019 update has remedied that with things like more premium interior materials and a standard 6.5-in infotainment system which is upgradable to an 8-in unit. See the 2018 Subaru Forester models for sale near you

Despite the exterior dimensions being unchanged, the new Forster is more efficiently packaged making for more interior space for both passengers and cargo. The previous model was already pretty roomy on the inside and now it’s even roomier. Not only does everyone have more room, but the ride is composed and comfortable in a way that might surprise you for an SUV at this price point. See the 2019 Subaru Forester models for sale near you

2018 Subaru Forester vs. 2019 Subaru Forester mechanicals


The 2018 Forester had two engine options and the 2019 model has just one. Both models come standard with AWD on every trim.

2018 Subaru Forester Engines

  • 2.5-liter flat-four; 170 horsepower, 174 lb-ft of torque; 26 miles per gallon in the city and 32 mpg on the highway

  • 2.0-liter turbocharged flat-four; 250 hp, 258 lb-ft of torque; 23 mpg city/27 mpg hwy

2019 Subaru Forester Engine

  • 2.5-liter flat-four engine; 182 hp, 176 lb-ft of torque; 26 mpg city/33 mpg hwy

The good news is, the base engine of the Forester has slightly improved performance and fuel economy with the SUV’s redesign. The bad news is that the available turbocharged engine and the standard manual transmission have been dropped. The turbo engine in the previous Forester made it a lot more fun to drive, but there was also a fuel economy penalty and it added quite a bit to the price. This engine won’t be missed by many, but it was a cool option that we wish was still available.

2018 Subaru Forester vs. 2019 Subaru Forester technology


Technology might be the category where the Forester is most improved with its 2019 redesign. The 2018 model was a little sparse with standard features, but that is no longer the case for the well-appointed 2019 Forester. New standard features in the Forester include Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and the Subaru EyeSight driver-assistance technology suite, which includes a pre-collision braking system, lane-keeping assist, lane-departure warning, and adaptive cruise control. Available safety features on top of all of that include blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-change assist, reverse automatic braking, adaptive headlights, and a new DriverFocus Distraction Mitigation system, which monitors drivers for signs of inattention.

2018 Subaru Forester vs. 2019 Subaru Forester pricing


All of those extra standard features don’t come at a much higher cost compared to the 2018 Forester. The 2019 Forester has a starting MSRP of $24,295 and the 2018 model started at $22,795. We think that the price gap is easily justified by how much more you’re getting in standard equipment making the new model a bargain at the base level. Moving up the model range, the nicest 2019 Forester gets into the mid-$30k range while the top-end 2018 model went into the high-$30k range because of the extra cost of the turbocharged engine.

2018 Subaru Forester vs. 2019 Subaru Forester conclusion 


On its face, the 2019 Forester might not look like that big of an update compared to the 2018 model. However, when you step inside and enjoy the roomy new interior and abundant standard technology, the upgrade becomes much more noticeable. If you want a compact SUV that’s a blast to drive and comes with standard AWD, a turbocharged 2018 Forester could be for you. However, for most shoppers, the 2019 model is the better choice because of its more modern styling inside and out and generous standard features list. Find a 2018 Subaru Forester for sale or Find a 2019 Subaru Forester for sale

Eric Brandt
Eric Brandt
Eric Brandt is an author specializing in Oversteer content, new car reviews, and finding the best car, truck, and SUV deals each month. Born and raised in Wisconsin, Eric can often be found exploring the north woods on his 1983 Honda Gold Wing when the weather allows it. Father of four, husband of one, and unapologetic minivan enthusiast. Eric mastered driving stick by having a 3-cylinder Chevy... Read More about Eric Brandt

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