2014 Subaru Forester
Base price: $22,820
As tested: $28,820
MPG: 23 city/28 highway
- Standard all-wheel drive
- Roomy interior with ample cargo space
- Improved exterior styling
- Dowdy interior
- No hybrid or diesel variants
By Jim Prueter
Introduced in 1997, Forester is one of those cult-like vehicles, the first crossover that could negotiate a snowy mountain pass, ferry a kayak, and tote all the gear for your Everest expedition without harming the environment like an oversized emission-spewing SUV. Although the name recalls images of a snowbound log cabin and down-filled ski jackets, the vehicle is equally qualified to plow through desert washes and climb rocky hillsides.
Now, more than a decade later, with its fourth generation Forester, Subaru is maintaining the model’s rugged appeal with a redesign that brings extensive changes to the exterior and interior.
Appearance-wise, this Forester is longer and wider; it also sits higher than the previous model. The lines are smoother for improved aerodynamics, yet it retains its distinctive appearance. Thankfully, the hideous hood scoop from previous generations is gone.
Inside, there’s more room, visibility is excellent, and all materials and detailing have been upgraded. Still, the interior styling is cheerless, almost gloomy. For a vehicle that’s otherwise extremely capable, it’s a huge weakness for the Forester.
On the positive side, the Forester is fun to drive and, as you’d expect, can handle with aplomb everything you can throw at it. Although the base model carries over the 170-horsepower four-cylinder engine from the previous edition, this year’s model offers an optional 250-horsepower turbocharged engine (of course, you’ll make some fuel economy sacrifices in the name of power).
For a vehicle that began with such high eco-conscious credibility, fuel economy is one way the Forester has fallen behind its competitors. With only a 25-mpg combined rating, you have to wonder why Subaru hasn’t introduced more fuel-efficient alternatives like a high-efficiency diesel option or a hybrid Forester.
The redesigned 2014 Forester corrected many of the shortcomings of the previous model and the standard all-wheel drive makes this model a perennial hit with the active-lifestyle crowd. For the average consumer, however, other vehicles in the highly competitive compact crossover class are as appealing and capable.
Jim Prueter, an automotive writer based in Phoenix, has provided reviews and advice about cars, driving, safety, and transportation for more than 20 years.