Read Jason Cammisa's comments on driving the 2009 Subaru Forester.
This was a complete base model for $19k, and it's a lot of car for that money. So I might have felt compelled to listen to the Indigo Girls while driving, but that's all good... I briefly touched 30 mpg in normal (okay, not "normal" for me - but slow-paced) driving, which is pretty impressive. Then again, there's not much testosterone dripping out from under the hood - and the flat-four isn't as smooth as I remember it being in other Subarus. If you're patient, you can be very smooth driving the Forester, though it doesn't communicate much with the driver - and I suspect that's just fine with its customers, most of whom probably won't opt for the manual anyway.
In terms of interior materials and fit and finish, the Forester is a big step up from the previous model - and it's a nice place to spend time. The enormous sunroof is pretty awesome, and stays reasonably quiet at moderate speeds. At highway speeds, there's a lot of wind noise around the A-pillars, but I guess this is a pretty upright vehicle. Behind the wheel, it gives you that same sense of competent indifference that you get from the Impreza, which is nice. Vehicular Valium is never a bad thing-especially when you're already chill from listening to the Girls.