Subaru Forester 4th Generation 2014-2018 (SJ) Review

Everything You Need To Know Before Buying Used Forester 4th Gen

Read in this article:

4th Gen Subaru Forester: What Owners Say

  • The 4th-generation Subaru Forester has a solid, high-quality cabin with enough space for five.
  • The standard CVT transmission helps with fuel efficiency.
  • As a family car, owners are pleased with the 4th gen Forester's safety features and NHTSA rating.
  • The 4th-gen Forester Subaru Forester doesn't have many negative qualities. The most common owner complaint is the lazy acceleration from the 2.5 four-cylinder and CVT combination.
  • It's not as nimble as Subaru's previous lifted station wagons.

Fourth-Generation Subaru Forester Facelift

There was a facelift for the 2017 model year and this model benefited from more safety and driver-assistance features and a subtle restyling of the front end, as well as new taillights and other small revisions.

2017-2018 Forester 4th Gen Facelift Front Changes CarBuzz
2017-2018 Forester 4th Gen Facelift Front Changes

Subaru keeps the overall shape of the Subaru Forester fourth generation's headlights but redesigns the lenses with a more aggressive C-shaped LED daytime-running-light pattern. There is a straight line at the top which now goes all the way to the outer edge of the headlight where the pre-facelift's turn signal used to be before it arcs down; said turn signal is relocated to the inner part of the lens, next to the grille1. The new face also has a slightly different grille that retains its chrome surround but loses the prominent chrome bar running through the Subaru badge, underlined by a black mesh section. The new grille has a dark center bar and slats2. The lower fascia is better suited to off-roading3.

2017-2018 Forester 4th Gen Facelift Rear Changes CarBuzz
2017-2018 Forester 4th Gen Facelift Rear Changes

Far fewer changes have been made to the rear, but the taillights are new. They retain their outline and position, but the lenses are rearranged with the turn signals and backup lights now in the bottom of the cluster instead of the middle. The upper red sections get C-shaped motives to mimic the "C" theme used in front1.

2017-2018 Forester 4th Gen Facelift Side Changes CarBuzz
2017-2018 Forester 4th Gen Facelift Side Changes

The side profile is mostly the same, apart from the rather obvious changes to the taillights1. There are new standard alloy-wheel designs and, in addition to the silver alloys, Subaru adds dual-tone and slightly darker options that work much better with both lighter and darker colors2.

2017-2018 Forester 4th Gen Facelift Interior Changes CarBuzz
2017-2018 Forester 4th Gen Facelift Interior Changes

The interior is mostly carried over, but the steering wheel is restyled, with the horn pad now perfectly round and with a more alloy-look finishing applied on the side spokes; this satin-silver treatment is now also extended to the bottom-center steering-wheel spoke1. A toggle button is added between the center vents to navigate the dashtop information display2. The Touring trim's gauge cluster is upgraded with a much larger and full-color TFT display with a satin-silver brow between the main gauges; these gauges get blue accent rings on the inside and their needles now lie horizontally when at rest3.

Engine, Transmission and Drivetrain

There are two engines available - a naturally aspirated flat-four, and a turbocharged flat-four.

The base engine is Subaru's well-known FB25 2.5-liter flat-four sans turbo, also used in the Crosstrek. In the Crosstrek, it feels fine, but the engine is a bit out of its depth under the hood of a midsize crossover. The second engine is a smaller-capacity FA20F 2.0-liter flat-four but helped along by a turbocharger. Both models use a continuously variable transmission (CVT) sending power to Subaru's symmetrical all-wheel-drive system, though the base 2.5L Forester can be equipped with a six-speed manual transmission. All models come standard with an off-road button called X-Mode. While it can't do the Rubicon Trail, you'd be surprised how far 8.7 inches of ground clearance, smart power distribution, and a wheel-locking electronic nanny will get you. The moans and groans can be slightly disconcerting, but it's all worth it when the Scooby pulls itself over a tricky obstacle.

2.5-liter Flat-Four Naturally Aspirated DOHC FB25
170 hp | 174 lb-ft
170 hp
174 lb-ft
CVT automatic / six-speed manual

Subaru's 2.5-liter FB25 flat-four engine is as reliable as the sun, and it works beautifully when mated to a manual transmission or traditional torque-converter automatic. However, the CVT does feel like it sucks the life out of the engine. The solution is to go for the six-speed manual, but it's only standard fitment on the rental-spec entry-level model. We know Subaru can make a CVT gearbox work, but an engine preferably needs lots of torque at low revolutions in order to make it feel effortless. This naturally aspirated engine's peak torque only arrives at 4,000 rpm, so you have to deal with the drone. It gets even worse when you load an already relatively hefty car full of people and luggage.

On the flip side, the Subaru comes with impressive EPA-estimated fuel consumption figures. And it is by far the most popular choice amongst buyers, as the vast majority of used models are equipped with the 2.5 engine. The engine is mostly trouble-free, but it does have a reputation for being a bit of an oil drinker, so you'll have to keep an eye on the oil level between services. It is also prone to oil leaks as it ages.

2.0-liter Flat-Four Turbocharged DOHC FA20F
250 hp | 258 lb-ft
250 hp
258 lb-ft
CVT automatic

The CVT drone is less prominent in the turbocharged model, thanks to maximum torque being available from just 2,000 rpm. Still, it's not a performance car. This particular model is aimed at customers who need more power at altitude. There are two problems with this particular engine. It comes at a premium, and the EPA-estimated figures aren't as good as the NA model's figures. Because it employs direct fuel injection, it is also prone to carbon build-up on the backs of the intake valves, which can cause poor running and power loss, as well as many of the same oil leaks the FB engine suffers from.

2014-2018 Subaru Forester 4th Generation Real MPG

This section really shows you the difference between EPA ratings and real-world figures. According to the EPA, the 2.5 flat-four mated to a CVT should be the most frugal model, yet the real-world figures show the manual can do even better when driven carefully. The gas tank's size is 15.9 gallons, so you should get a reasonable range out of each of the models.

EPA MPG (city/highway/combined)Real-World Combined MPG*
2.5 Manual AWD22/28/2425.7-29.7
2.5 CVT AWD26/32/2825.9-29.1
2.0 Turbo CVT AWD23/27/2522-25.7

* Real-world mpg and MPGe figures are provided by the EPA. Once a car has been on sale for a significant period of time, the EPA gets real-world figures directly from the customer base. These figures are then provided on the EPA website. Real-world figures are not available for certain models due to a lack of sales, or not enough people partaking in this after-sales survey.


All 2014 models come standard with all-wheel drive, ABS brakes, traction and stability control, seven airbags (including a driver's knee airbag), and brake assist. In terms of driver-assistance features, a backup camera is standard on all but the base trim, while a collision-mitigation system, lane-departure warning, adaptive cruise control, and xenon headlights are on the options list - and available on the Touring trim only. From 2015, the backup camera is standard across the board and the EyeSight driver-assistance features become optionally available on all trims except the base 2.5i, so you'll have to check whether these have been specified.

For 2016, the Starlink Safety Plus and Security Plus system is standard from Premium trim and up, and adds remote door unlocking, stolen-vehicle recovery, and a vehicle-location service. The 2017 facelift adds lane-departure intervention and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert to the optional EyeSight driver-assistance suite, while reverse automatic braking and adaptive LED headlights with auto high beams become newly available for the first time. Adaptive LED headlights are standard on the 2017 Touring. Only for the last model year - 2018 - is EyeSight standard equipment, and only on the Touring trims. This includes automatic high beams and automatic reverse braking.

US NHTSA Crash Test Result (2018)

Overall Rating:
Frontal Barrier Crash Rating:
Side Crash Rating:
Rollover Rating:

4th Generation Subaru Forester Trims

The four basic trim levels are base 2.5i, available with the entry-level naturally aspirated engine only, Premium (available with both engines), Limited (2.5i only), and Touring (both engines). Cars equipped with the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine gain "XT" monikers and a bit of extra equipment, as well as upgraded brakes and sportier suspension. Trim levels follow on each other with each succeeding trim level fitted with everything the preceding trim has, unless otherwise noted.

2016 Foresters all had access to an optional auto-dimming interior rear-view mirror. Along with the 2017 facelift, the entire range benefited from improved sound insulation and a quicker steering ratio, while the EyeSight driver-assistance suite gained additional features at the same time. Also, XTs received shift paddles and selectable driving modes.

There was only one special-edition Forester:

  • 2018 Premium Black Edition. This limited-run package was based on the Premium trim and comes with all the Premium's standard features in addition to black-out treatment for its 18-inch alloy wheels, exterior trim, and grille. The upholstery is black cloth. The Black Edition also gets some extra equipment, notably the All-Weather package (heated front seats and mirrors), X-Mode enhanced off-road driving mode, hill-descent control, fog lights, and adaptive LED headlights with automatic high beams.
2.5-liter flat-four
Six-speed manual/CVT automatic

Subaru's base Forester is simply named after the engine size. The 2014 model is equipped with 17-inch steel wheels and standard features include air-conditioning, cruise control, power windows and door locks, and a manually tilting/telescoping steering column. The infotainment system is very basic, but it features a CD player, four speakers, and an auxiliary audio jack. It can connect to a Bluetooth device and play tunes via a USB/iPod interface. The 2016 2.5i gets a 6.2-inch infotainment touchscreen display running the Starlink technology software incorporating smartphone app integration and HD Radio.

Premium and XT Premium
2.5-liter flat-four / 2.0-liter flat-four turbo
Six-speed manual/CVT automatic

The 2014 Premium gets a set of 17-inch alloy rims and adds roof rails, rear privacy glass, and a panoramic sunroof. Additional standard features are eight-way power adjustment for the driver's seat with power lumbar adjustment, fold-down rear armrests, and a six-speaker sound system with HD Radio. A rear-view camera is present and its display is integrated into a small multifunction screen on top of the center console, which also displays off-road and other helpful information. From this trim, the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine is available. To set it apart from the 2.5 model, Subaru also adds 18-inch alloys, a steering wheel clad in leather, and a subtle roof spoiler. All turbocharged models used the 'XT' nomenclature.

Premium options include a 6.1-inch touchscreen navigation system and heated front seats. For 2016, the Premium trim and upwards receive a seven-inch infotainment touchscreen with the 2016 2.5i's features, in addition to voice commands, satellite radio, and dual USB ports. The 2017 2.5i Premium with the manual transmission gets the All-Weather Package with its heated front seats and side mirrors as standard, but it's optional on the CVT, so you'll have to check whether that box has been ticked on the automatic model. The 2017 XT Premium is not eligible for the EyeSight suite though.

2.5-liter flat-four
CVT automatic

Over the Premium, the 2014 Limited adds chrome exterior trim, an LCD display in the instrument cluster, automatic climate control, leather upholstery, reclining rear seatbacks, a power liftgate, a cargo tray, fog lights, the All-Weather Package, and automatic headlights. The XTs with the turbocharged engine under the hood come with 18-inch alloys, a leather-trimmed steering wheel, and a roof spoiler. Specifying the EyeSight driver-assistance suite on the 2017 Limited added extra features worth looking out for, namely navigation and the upgraded audio system.

Touring and XT Touring
2.5-liter flat-four / 2.0-liter flat-four turbo
CVT automatic

The 2014 Touring trim adds to the Limited's equipment dual-zone climate control, an upgraded gauge cluster, one-touch power-folding rear seatbacks, navigation, a memory setting and auto-close feature for the power liftgate, and a premium eight-speaker sound system. Like the other models available with the 2.0-liter turbo, the Touring XT gains a roof spoiler, larger alloys, sportier suspension, upgraded brakes, and a leather steering wheel. From 2015, the 2.5-liter Touring has the 18-inch alloys as standard and both Touring trims gain keyless entry and start. The 2017 Touring gains adaptive LED headlights and turn signals in the side mirrors, while the 2.5i Touring gets the XT's 18-inch alloys. For 2018, the EyeSight driver-assistance suite, along with automatic reverse braking and automatic high beams, are standard on the Touring.

4th Gen Forester Features

2.5iPremiumPremium Black EditionLimitedTouring
Back-Up CameraSSSSS
Bluetooth ConnectionSSSSS
Leather SeatsaN/AN/AN/ASS
Apple CarPlayN/ASSSS
Keyless EntryN/ASSSS
Keyless StartN/ASSSS
Alloy WheelsN/ASSSS

Interior, Trim And Practicality

Subaru Forester 4th Gen Interior Overview Subaru
Subaru Forester 4th Gen Interior Overview

The Forester is such an easy crossover to live with. To start, it's the perfect height from the ground - not too tall to make it difficult to get into, and just tall enough so you can see the road ahead perfectly. All Foresters also come with roof rails as standard, and there are loads of accessories available from both Subaru and third-party suppliers. With all the seats in place, the Forester has 31.5-34.4 cubic inches of cargo capacity, depending on the trim. The second row folds completely flat, creating 68.5-74.4 cubes. That's more than enough for a family of five. You could pack at least a week's worth of luggage in the trunk. The interior quality is typical of Subaru, which takes a similar approach to Toyota. The layout may not be interesting or trendy, but it's ergonomically superior and will last a lifetime. All of the major controls are easy to reach and use, but the touchscreen infotainment system can be dimwitted at times. Unfortunately, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto were never made available on the Subaru Forester fourth generation.

INTERIOR TRIM2.5iPremiumPremium Black EditionLimitedTouring
Black/gray clothSSN/AN/AN/A
Black clothN/AN/ASN/AN/A
Black/gray perforated leatherN/AN/AN/ASN/A
Black/brown perforated leatherN/AN/AN/AN/AS

2014-2018 Subaru Forester 4th Gen Maintenance and Cost

Fourth-Gen Subaru Forester Basic Service

The Forester has unusually short oil-change intervals of 6,000 miles, which should be reduced even further to 3,000 miles under strenuous use, including prolonged idling, sub-zero temperatures, and dusty conditions. Even so, the FB25 engine may need an oil top-up before the next lube service. Always keep an eye on the oil level and never let it drop to the minimum mark on the dipstick. The basic lube service shouldn't cost more than $200 at a Subaru dealership or around $130 at an independent shop. The brake fluid should be changed every 36,000 miles. A major service like the one at 60,000 miles typically costs around $1,200 at Subaru or $850 at an independent shop.

Subaru recommends that the CVT fluid should be replaced every 60,000 miles, be we'd halve that distance to 30,000 miles; we always recommend this for CVTs as this greatly prolongs their service life. Subaru CVTs are extremely expensive to replace if they fail, to the tune of $9,000. The spark plugs should be replaced every 60,000 miles and the air filter every 30,000 miles under normal operating conditions.

Engine Oil Change Including Filter

FB25 2.5-liter naturally aspirated flat-four

Oil capacity: 4.8L (5.1 quarts)

Recommended oil type: 0W-20

How often to change: 6,000 miles

Average Price: Around $70

FA20F 2.0-liter turbocharged flat-four

Oil capacity: 5.1L (5.4 quarts)

Recommended oil type: 5W-30

How often to change: 6,000 miles

Average Price: Around $70


FB25 2.5-liter naturally aspirated flat-four

Part Number: 22401AA781

Replacement: Every 60,000 miles

Average Price: $105 for four

FA20F 2.0-liter turbocharged flat-four

Part Number: 22401AA830

Replacement: Every 60,000 miles

Average Price: $109 for four

Air Filter

FB25 2.5-liter naturally aspirated flat-four

Part Number: 16546AA12A

Replacement: Every 30,000 miles

Average Price: $25

FA20F 2.0-liter turbocharged flat-four

Part Number: 16546AA10A

Replacement: Every 30,000 miles

Average Price: $24


All models

Size: Group 35

Part number: N/A

Replacement: Every 3 to 5 years

Average Price: $210

4th Generation Subaru Forester Tires

Subaru recommends highway all-season tires. Here is every model's tire size:

2.5i, 2.5i Premium, 2.5i Limited, 2014-2016 2.5i Touring
Tire size:
$716-$825 per set
XT Premium, XT Touring, 2017-2018 2.5i Touring, 2018 Premium Black Edition
Tire size:
$782-$815 per set

Check Before You Buy

Technical Service Bulletins according to the NHTSA. Check service book for:

There aren't many 2014-2018 Subaru Forester recalls, as this crossover seems to be well put together, for the most part. 2014 to 2016 models had a brake-light switch recall. While there were no brake problems, the brake lights may not illuminate, but this was only part of the problem. Technically, it was also an ignition and transmission recall, even though it was not labeled as such. The brake light switch could have possibly been exposed to contaminants, causing failure of the brake lights and preventing the keyless ignition from starting the engine. It also stops models equipped with the CVT transmission from inadvertently shifting out of Park. 2015 to 2018 models were subject to an airbag recall, due to a malfunctioning occupant detection system. Roughly 18,000 2015 to 2016 2.0-liter models were recalled for a possibly cracked turbocharger intake duct, which can cause stalling problems. This was the only serious engine recall. 2018 models were recalled for a possibly faulty fuel pump that may fail and cause the engine to stall while driving, as well as incorrect tire information on the certification label.

These are the error codes you'll most likely encounter when shopping for a 4th-generation Subaru Forester:

  • Code P0171 is shown when an oxygen sensor detects a lack of oxygen in the exhaust system.
  • Code P0700 points to transmission control module failure.
  • Code P0300 is the error code for an engine misfire.
  • Code P0500 points to a faulty vehicle speed sensor.
  • Code P0107 indicates that the reading from the MAP (manifold absolute pressure sensor) sensor is lower than usual.
  • Code P0455 is the error code for a leak in the EVAP system. Code P0420 is related and points to a catalytic converter not working properly.
  • Code P0971 indicates a high voltage on the pressure control solenoid.
  • Code P0018 shows there is a problem with the crankshaft and camshaft alignment.

4th Generation Subaru Forester Common Problems

FB25 2.5-liter Engine Problems

The FB engine replaced the EJ engine from 2010 and one of its design features is that the engine's double overhead camshafts are now driven by a chain and no longer the EJ's belt. The big front chain cover is prone to oil leaks though, and so are the valve-cover gaskets and upper oil pan. The cam-carrier seals can leak oil too and they are potentially very expensive to fix, requiring a lot of labor and potentially pushing the bill past $3,000. Minor oil leaks are not a massive problem, as long as you keep an eye on the oil level and as long as the oil doesn't leak excessively or onto hot engine parts such as the exhaust, which could pose a fire risk.

Excessive oil consumption affects an estimated 5% of all FB25 engines and it seems to be a clearance problem, with the only permanent fix being replacing pistons and/or piston rings, and even entire cylinder blocks. It's not a deal-breaker and only becomes a problem if oil consumption is excessive, that is from around 0.75 quarts of oil every 1,000 miles. Depending on the severity of the problem, Subaru has assisted some owners with repairs - but don't bet on it. Check the oil level because a low oil level may indicate either lax maintenance or excessive oil consumption. The problem is especially bad if smoke is emitted from the exhaust. Oil consumption can be minimized by driving sedately, using low revs and small throttle openings while the engine is cold to minimize piston-ring blow-by in engines with excessive ring clearances. The earlier years are worse affected, namely 2014 and 2015.

Mileage: Most oil leaks rear their heads from around 100,000 miles. Excessive oil consumption can happen at any mileage and is engine-dependent.

Cost: As much as $3,000 or even more for invasive oil-leak repairs and at least $1,000-$1,500 for cam-carrier seals. Oil consumption may require new pistons and rings or even a new engine, so your bill will likely start at a minimum of $2,000 and increase to over $4,000 depending on the extent of the repairs. It will also cost you extra in top-up oil between services.

How to spot: Oil leaks will leave visible trails on the engine and on the floor and emit a burning-oil smell from under the hood, as well as some smoke as the oil burns off. Excessive oil consumption might show up in low oil levels and overheating, and it could foul the spark plugs, leading to rough running and misfiring. The worst cases emit tailpipe smoke.

FA20F 2.0-liter Turbocharged Engine Problems

The FA engine was developed off the FB engine and shares a similar architecture, complete with chain drive for the double overhead camshafts. However, it features direct fuel injection. Due to only employing direct injection, the FA20F is prone to carbon build-up on the intake valves due to oil droplets from the positive crankcase ventilation (PCV) system getting stuck to the valves and hardening. It often only becomes a big problem from around 100,000 miles but may start to occur from 60,000 miles. Symptoms include power loss, rough running, misfires, and hesitance. Cleaning the valves via walnut blasting is the only fix and this should be done at least every 100,000 miles. No parts are necessary, but the labor can be expensive.

Other than that, the FA20F is pretty reliable in stock form. Beware of modified engines though, because connecting-rod failure can occur in engines where the power has been increased by after-market modifications and using a boost pressure of 22 psi or more. These engines don't use normal oil seals or gaskets, but RTV sealant, which must be applied correctly - and not excessively - when reassembling the engine. This sealant also breaks down at high mileages beyond 100,000 and is responsible for these engines' oil leaks through their upper oil pans, cam-cover gaskets, and cam-carrier seals. The oil-leak problems are similar to the FB25 engines and were discussed in the previous section. 2015-2018 engines that were prone to cracked turbo intake ducts should all have been fixed under warranty. Lastly, an irregular idle can often be fixed with a software upgrade.

Mileage: Excessive carbon build-up usually starts to occur between 60,000 and 100,000 miles. Valve springs failed from new.

Cost: Walnut blasting the intake valves can cost between $400 and $600. Valve springs were replaced under recall.

How to spot: Exessive carbon build-up on the intake valves will cause irregular idling, misfiring, a loss of power, and stumbling.

Suspension Problems

Some 2014 and 2015 Forester models seem to have weak coil springs. Several owners complained about springs breaking at around 60,000 miles. On a test drive, ensure that the vehicle's suspension is quiet and that it runs on an even keel and does not lean to one side or ride low at any of the wheels. The rear coil springs are the most likely to break. Shaking and vibration at higher speeds may indicate worn control arms.

Mileage: Around 34,000-58,000 miles.

Cost: $500 per coil spring and around $1,000-$1,500 to replace the lower control arms.

How to spot: A broken coil spring is easy to spot, even without driving the car. It will look saggy at the end where the coil is broken. You'll also notice handling problems during the test drive, and most likely suspension noise and clunks. A failed control arm will cause shaking and vibration and likely tracking problems at speed.

Transmission Problems

Owners reported several transmission problems, though only a minority of cars required an entire gearbox replacement. According to owners, they experienced intermittent lurches, jumps, surges, and bucks. These all sound like descriptions of a confused, dimwitted gearbox. There are also various reports of a flat spot in the rev range, where nothing really happens. The problem sometimes seems to be weather-related, with the CVT not liking cold weather. Other owners reported a throttle and transmission that were too sensitive, leading to unintended hard acceleration problems. Some of these complaints persisted right up to the 2017 model year and Subaru extended the warranty period on all 2014-2018 Foresters from five years/60,000 miles to ten years/100,000 miles. Check whether any transmission work has been done and contact Subaru to determine whether a vehicle is still eligible for repair work if the transmission exhibits any of the above symptoms.

Mileage: Around 50,000-111,000 miles.

Cost: Around $900-$1,500 to replace the CVT valve body and up to ten times that amount for a transmission replacement.

How to spot: Go for an extended test drive and feel how the transmission responds. If you don't get on with it, it might be worth looking for a manual, or an entirely different car.

Starlink Problems

The Starlink infotainment system is prone to many issues and the problems seem to mainly afflict the later years, with a class-action lawsuit settled in favor of the claimants for 2018 Foresters and various other Subaru models. The generation-three audio and navigation head units can turn on and off uncommanded, the volume can change automatically, and they are prone to display outages, freezing, crashing, loss of functionality, an unresponsive touchscreen, and problems with the navigation system and Bluetooth pairing/connectivity, as well as voice commands.

Mileage: N/A

Cost: Following the lawsuit, you should be able to have your Starlink system restored to full functionality without having to pay, but enquire from Subaru first.

How to spot: Test all of the features of the Starlink system to ensure that it works seamlessly and without any crashes, freezing, or unpredictable responses or behaviors.

Power-Steering Problems

Some power-steering problems afflicting the Forester include rattles, knocks, and clangs coming from the steering system. In some cases, it requires an adjustment of the steering rack's backlash and in other cases, the noises may be due to looseness or play in steering components such as the universal-joint shaft or steering-wheel shaft. Subaru acknowledged the problems in a service bulletin TSB 04-23-18R.

Mileage: N/A

Cost: N/A

How to spot: Turn the steering from side to side with the vehicle stationary as well as while driving on a smooth surface; do the same over uneven surfaces and speed bumps with the steering pointed straight ahead. If there are any clangs, rattles, or knocks, record the VIN and enquire from Subaru whether you are able to claim repairs from them or not.

Rodents Damaging Soy-Based Wiring Insulation

This has been the bane of various manufacturers, including Honda and Toyota. In the quest to save cost and opt for a more environmentally friendly option, Subaru uses soy-based wiring insulation for the Forester's wiring loom. The problem is that rodents are attracted to it, chewing it and using it as nesting material. Needless to say, this can cause thousands of dollars of damage to the car's wiring and cause an untold number of random Subaru Forester electrical problems. There is no easy way to fix the problem, with suggestions ranging from taping the wiring up with capsaicin tape and treating it with rodent repellent. However, you cannot possibly reach all the wiring, so there will always be a nook or cranny that you couldn't get to where rodents can do their damage. The only solution is to control rodents in the environment where the vehicle is parked. It is also critical to keep an eye out for wiring damage and electrical problems.

Mileage: N/A

Cost: Entirely dependent on the damage caused, but it costs thousands of dollars to replace the wiring harness.

How to spot: Visibly chewed and damaged wiring, random electrical faults, and other signs of rodents, such as droppings.

Less Common Problems and Problem-Free Areas

There were a few owners who complained about battery problems. This led many owners to believe they have ignition problems when it was nothing more than a flat battery. The other less-complained about issue is a headlight problem - that of headlights failing. There are two reasons why this could happen, though there are too few cases to find a proper explanation. The first reason is condensation within the headlight, while the second is high voltage. Some owners reported air conditioning, climate control, heater, and AC problems between 35,000 and 65,000 miles. Some owners simply had to regas the system ($20), while some had to replace the compressor ($1,200) or condenser. The worst year for air-conditioner problems was 2017.

Windshields also seem rather fragile and prone to cracking and it might be worth looking out for, especially since the windshields of Outbacks of the same era have a tendency to crack easily, even while the vehicle is parked. Wheel bearings don't always last well either, so be on the lookout for humming and whining sounds that worsen when going around corners. This should be tested on smooth roads at higher speeds.

That being said, many Forester systems operate perfectly:

Backup-camera and EyeSight problems on the Subaru Forester are rare and in the case of the former, it is often linked to the well-documented Starlink problems while, on the latter, it is usually nothing more than one of the external sensors that have become dirty.

Problems with the power liftgate, gas gauge, and power windows are rare in Subaru Forester models, and these items rarely fail.

There aren't any common Subaru Forester alternator, or starter/starting problems unless they are linked to a weak battery - which can happen from time to time.

Which One To Avoid

The 2014 and 2015 models are the most problematic, followed by 2017. You have both the oil consumption and transmission problems to look out for, so rather avoid these years completely and save yourself the trouble. The base 2.5i looks a bit drab with its steel wheels and missed out on some notable standard features, as well as not being eligible for some optional extras. We'd avoid it in preference for the Premium, at least.

Which One To Buy

The Forester received the fewest complaints during 2016 and 2018. The complaints against these models weren't nearly as serious. We'd go for an XT model, purely because the CVT transmission works so much better with the turbocharged engine's low-down torque. It removes 90% of the incessant droning. The difference in the fuel consumption isn't that big and we'd happily pay the penalty not to have that droning sound as a constant companion. As for trim, we recommend going as high as you can within your budget. The Limited is the most balanced trim, but the Touring has the best interior for extended trips and the most comprehensive standard safety kit, with all of the important EyeSight features being standard on the 2018 model.

4th Gen Subaru Forester Verdict

The 2014-2018 Subaru Forester was not Subaru's best effort. The Japanese company adopted CVT transmissions too soon in our opinion. Most of the problems haunting this car could have been solved by simply mating the engine to a torque converter automatic. Subarus are famously reliable, but the 4th-generation Forester has a few flaws you need to be aware of. If you can avoid them, you'll be getting a decent all-around SUV worthy of the famous badge.

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