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2020 Subaru Forester Review

The 2020 Subaru Forester is one of our favorite 5-passenger SUVs. Where its rivals offer all-wheel drive as an option, the Forester makes this sure-footed feature part of its standard equipment list. Though the AWD setup adds weight and puts an extra burden on the engine, the Forester still scores some of the highest fuel economy numbers in the segment. Another feature that’s optional on some rival vehicles but standard on the Forester is the driver-assistance suite found in Subaru‘s excellent EyeSight collision avoidance system.

The Forester’s price is the final key to its success. It’s priced on par with the Honda CR-V and the Mazda CX-5, which come standard with front-wheel drive, and it’s less expensive than the entry-level models of the Toyota RAV4 and the Jeep Cherokee. Newly redesigned last year, the Forester lost some of its quirky but lovable features, such as the manual transmission and potent turbocharged XT model. For now, Forester buyers will have to satisfy themselves with more passenger and cargo space, a segment-leading cargo door opening, a strong and quiet platform, good fuel economy and 5-star safety ratings.

What’s New for 2020?

Every Subaru Forester now has a rear-seat reminder system, and lane centering and lane-departure warning have been added to the EyeSight suite of driver assists. The all-weather package is now standard on the Premium trim. See the 2020 Subaru Forester models for sale near you

What We Like

  • Standard EyeSight driver-assist technology
  • Roomy interior
  • Excellent AWD system
  • Quiet interior
  • Good fuel economy

What We Don’t

  • No turbocharged option
  • No manual transmission
  • Lazy acceleration and passing abilities
  • Limited interior color choices

How Much?


Fuel Economy

We’ve already bellyached about the lack of a turbo. What you need to know about the 2.5-liter flat 4-cylinder engine, carried over from the previous-generation Forester, is that it isn’t carried over. Not really — according to Subaru, although the 2.5-liter displacement is unchanged, the mill has been totally reworked and contains roughly 90% new parts. Horsepower is up to 182 hp and torque is slightly elevated at 176 lb-ft. Power is routed to a multiplate transfer clutch via a continuously variable transmission. Artificial gear changes — seven in all — are evident, and there’s a manual mode available on upper trims. Government estimates put fuel economy at 26 miles per gallon in city driving, 33 mpg on the highway and 29 mpg in combined driving.

Standard Features & Options

Subaru offers the 2020 Forester in five trim levels: Base, Premium, Sport, Limited and Touring. Prices reflect a $1,010 destination fee.

Standard in the Base trim ($25,505) are 17-in steel wheels, welcome lighting, a full suite of power accessories, auto-locking doors, a multifunction display, an outside temperature display, remote keyless entry, dual USB ports, a tire-pressure monitor with a display for each tire, seven airbags, trailer-stability assistance, active torque vectoring, auto vehicle hold, rear-seat reminder, three 12-volt outlets, 24-hour roadside assistance for the original new-car limited warranty period, active grille shutters, automatic climate control, an electronic parking brake, automatic LED headlights, a rearview camera, a tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel, the EyeSight driver-assist technology package and a STARLINK infotainment system with a 6.5-in touchscreen, a 4-speaker audio system, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, HD radio, satellite radio and Bluetooth connectivity. Factory options include 17-in alloy wheels and roof rails.

To the Base gear, the Premium trim ($28,405) adds 17-in alloy wheels, roof rails, a 10-way adjustable driver’s seat, a cargo-area cover, hill-descent control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a panoramic power moonroof, a reclining rear seatback, an upgraded STARLINK system with six speakers, Wi-Fi hotspot and X-Mode for AWD system with hill-descent control. The all-weather package with heated front seats and outboard mirrors and a windshield de-icer is now standard. Options include blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, keyless access with push-button start and a power rear hatch with auto close and height memory.

The new Sport trim ($30,005) beefs up the Premium’s content by making keyless access with push-button start standard and adding 18-in alloy wheels, a manual-shift mode, integrated outboard mirror turn signals, high-beam assist, an upgraded multifunction display, orange contrast stitching on the steering wheel and dashboard and black and orange exterior accents. Options include blind spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert, a 9-speaker Harman Kardon audio system, hands-free text messaging and an upgraded STARLINK system with an 8-in touchscreen and voice activation.

The Limited trim ($32,105) comes with all the Premium options, plus an upgraded STARLINK system with an 8-in touchscreen, hands-free text messaging, dual-zone auto climate system with voice control, integrated outboard mirror turn signals, automatic headlight height adjustment, a leather-wrapped shifter, perforated-leather upholstery and steering-responsive headlights. Options include a heated steering wheel, reverse automatic braking, a TomTom navigation system and a 9-speaker Harman Kardon audio system.

At the top of the grade list is the Touring trim ($35,605), which features all of Limited’s options plus a manual-shift mode with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters, a 10-way power driver’s seat, an 8-way power front passenger seat, memory for outboard mirrors and driver’s seat, DriverFocus technology, LED fog lights and metallic silver finish exterior accents. The only option is black or saddle-brown perforated-leather-trimmed upholstery.


In government crash tests, the 2020 Subaru Forester earned an overall 5-star rating, with top marks in all but the rollover test, in which it earned a 4-star rating. The independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Forester its highest marks in every category and awarded it a Top Safety Pick+ designation.

The Forester comes standard with the usual array of passive safety goodies, such as stability control, traction control and anti-lock brakes. Included among the seven airbags is a driver’s-side knee airbag. Every Forester comes with Subaru’s EyeSight driver-assist technology suite, which includes adaptive cruise control, pre-collision braking, pre-collision throttle management, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist, lane centering and lead vehicle start alert, which notifies an inattentive driver that stopped traffic has started moving again. Blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert is standard on the Limited and the Touring trims and optional on the Premium and the Sport trims. Reverse automatic braking is standard on the Touring trim and optional on the Premium and the Limited trims. DriverFocus safety technology with face recognition is standard on the Touring trim.

Behind the Wheel

Along with the Ascent, the Impreza and the Outback, the 2020 Forester rides on Subaru’s new Global Platform. The platform provides a rigid foundation and the beginning of a firmer skeleton that benefits from a big dose of high-strength steel. On the road, the 2020 Forester feels planted and stable. Subaru tinkered with the suspension, reducing body roll by as much as 50% over the previous 2018 model. Steering response is quicker as well.

The Forester could use a bit more oomph under the hood. Under most circumstances, the crossover holds its own, but in passing or when merging onto an expressway, you’ll probably wish there were more pep in the Forester’s step. Subaru loyalists won’t mind — they’re looking for other things from their AWD crossover, such as its 8.7 inches of ground clearance and its reliable performance in snow, slush and mud. The X-Mode system works well, particularly the descent control. The Sport trim gets an even more aggressive Dual X-Mode that works particularly well in wet, slushy snow. Throw a couple of kayaks or bicycles on the roof rack, and you’re good to head out on a weekend adventure.

In and around town, the 5-passenger cabin is comfy and quiet. Anyone hauling stuff in the back will really appreciate the widest rear hatch opening in the segment, which bests some competitors by more than 8 inches.

Other Cars to Consider

2020 Chevrolet Equinox — Though it has less cargo-carrying capacity than the Forester, this Chevy has one big advantage — it can be fitted with any of three engines, including a diesel.

2020 Honda CR-V — Offering credible cargo space, solid fuel economy and a turbocharged engine, Honda’s CR-V is a wonderfully comfy ride.

2020 Toyota RAV4 — Toyota likes to take credit for launching the crossover segment with its original RAV4. When fitted with the available 4-wheel drive, it is quite capable. It also boasts lots of technology.

2020 Nissan Rogue — A runaway sales hit for Nissan, the Rogue boasts superior front seats and versatile cargo-carrying capacity and offers the ProPilot Assist system, one of the more advanced driver-assist systems in the industry.

Used Subaru Forester XT — A 2014-2018 Forester XT will give you roughly the same interior dimension and off-road capability as the new Forester, as well as much of the same basic safety equipment. But the 250-hp turbocharged engine delivers impressive performance without a significant drop in fuel economy.

Autotrader’s Advice

We would go with the Premium trim and add a few options, such as blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert. You’d still sneak under $30,000, and you’d have everything you need to haul your family or your sporting gear. In other words, it would still be a solid value. Find a Subaru Forester for sale

Our editors are here to make car buying easier. We’ve driven, reviewed and compared thousands of cars. We’ve bought and sold more than our fair share, too. And as part of the sprawling Cox Automotive group of companies, we have exclusive access to a range of valuable data and insights. Whether you’re looking for the best car, the best deal or the best buying advice, you can trust... Read More about Autotrader

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