The big story with the 2014 Subaru Forester is that you get a lot of car for the money. Just $24,320 buys a spacious crossover with plenty of cargo room, all-wheel drive, heated front seats, Bluetooth, and a backup camera. Getting that level of equipment on rival all-wheel-drive crossovers would cost considerably more. While the Forester is hardly a sexy or exciting vehicle, it represents very good value.
The Forester driving experience is also very good. You get ample visibility from large windows and cut-out A-pillars, a responsive flat-four engine that sounds aggressive when pushed, plush seats, and a quiet cabin. The suspension is gentle enough to soak up most bumps, but remains firm enough that the car is still interesting to drive. The Forester is a good all-rounder at a very reasonable price, and merits cross shopping even if it's not on the typical crossover buyer's radar.
Jake Holmes, Associate Web Editor
The Forester is a good car but it doesn't feel much different from its predecessors to me, with uncommunicative steering and a relatively soft suspension. That doesn't much matter; Subaru finds plenty of buyers for the Forester, based on its practicality, all-weather traction, affordability, and dependability.
I got about 23 mpg on the first half of my 300-mile round trip last weekend and managed to get that up to 25 mpg on the return, going about 77-80 mph on the freeway. In addition to the excellent forward visibility that Jake Holmes mentions, the rear visibility is also impressive, as is over-the-shoulder right rear visibility. This is most definitely not the case with most small crossovers. The seats are very comfortable, and the seat heaters are excellent. The back-up camera screen is tiny, but it's better than nothing. This sure is an unattractive vehicle, though. There's not a bit of style or grace to its exterior lines.
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
I'm amazed that no one has yet touched on the most incredible aspect of this particular Forester: its transmission. I hopped in, assuming I'd find Subaru's CVT automatic. Nope. Instead there's a six-speed manual. Considering how gentrified the crossover market has become, it's almost shocking to find one that's still available in North America with a stick and all-wheel drive. On the new 2014 Forester, the stick shift is available on the lower two trim levels with the normally aspirated 2.5-liter four.
This 2.5 Premium model is only one step from the bottom of the Forester price ladder, but as Holmes and DeMatio note, it's fairly well equipped. The USB audio input, Bluetooth phone connectivity, rear-view camera, and color information display are standard equipment, as are heated front cloth seats. Visibility is stellar, and both the materials and the fit and finish seem a step above what we've seen in the 2013 Impreza.
As someone who lives on dirt roads, regularly encounters four-plus inches of snow in the winter, hauls a fair amount of cargo, but also needs an economical daily driver, a compact crossover makes a lot of sense. There are plenty of choices in this segment, but as an unabashed manual fan, the Forester may be one of the few to make my short list.
Evan McCausland, Associate Web Editor