When the Forester was first introduced in 1997, it was pitched as a slightly more ‘SUV-ish’ alternative to their Outback wagon. At that moment in time, the SUV craze was just taking off and Subaru – already entrenched in the minds of customers as an all-wheel drive company – wanted to cash in on the demand. Twenty-five years later, the Forester retains its position in the Subaru lineup and is offered in several different trims.
Including, of course, an entry-level model simply called ‘Forester’. Starting at $29,495 – which is $1,700 cheaper than the Outback – every Forester is powered by a naturally aspirated 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine making 182 horsepower and 176 lb-ft of torque. That power is shuffled to all corners of the vehicle by way of a continuously variable transmission. In other words, spending more on a Forester doesn’t net buyers any extra performance.
Spotting a base trim will require a keen eye, since about the only visual clue separating the least expensive Forester from its next two trims – Convenience and Touring – is largely restricted to the presence of steel wheels instead of alloys. Door handles and heated side mirrors are body colour, black cladding attempts to lend an air of ruggedness, and its LED headlamps respond to the level of steering input by the driver. Subaru does permit one interesting colour at this level, showing up in the form of Horizon Blue Pearl shown here. A key winter feature, the de-icing grid under the front windshield wipers, is notably absent on the entry-level car.
Inside, consumers will find a smaller infotainment touchscreen (measuring 6.5 inches) than other Foresters, but the head unit still packs satellite radio and smartphone integration abilities. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are on board as well. There are only four speakers. Useful USB ports crop up like kudzu, and there are no fewer than three 12V outlets scattered about the cabin. Air conditioning is standard, as it is on most vehicles these days, along with heated front seats and a tilt/telescope steering wheel. The rear hatchback is manually operated. Strangely, the base Forester is the only trim with red illumination; everything else is cast in white light.
What We’d Choose
It’s a considerable $3,600 price walk to the next-tier Convenience trim, though it does add niceties such as power adjustable front seats, an armrest and USB ports for backseat ankle biters, and alloy wheels. All Foresters come with driving aids like lane-keeping and pre-collision assists as part of the EyeSight safety system, but the Convenience adds reverse automatic braking.
If, however, you’re considering the Convenience trim then its just as well to spend an extra $1,800 on the Touring. It’s at this price point that significant features show up for duty such as an 8.0-inch infotainment screen, power liftgate, rear vents for the kiddos, and a heated steering wheel. While its price premium over the base model is significant, it is not much of a stretch from the Convenience trim.