2020 Subaru Forester

2020 Subaru Forester Review: A Sense Of Adventure

With the popularity of the compact crossover SUV at an all-time high, Subaru's Forester carries its legacy of being a top-seller proudly. With over two million units sold in the US, the Forester's penchant for fuel-efficiency, a spacious cabin, and exceptional safety allow it to compete in a tough segment against the likes of the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, and Mazda CX-5. With a 182-horsepower naturally-aspirated 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and CVT automatic transmission powering the signature all-wheel drive of the Forester, it's not the most exciting crossover around, though. It is, however, loaded with safety and imbued with a sense of ruggedness that has been lost by the swathes of softroaders filling up the sales charts. You don't buy the Forester for performance or for the sense of luxury most aspire to. You buy the Forester for the sense of adventure nothing else can provide.

Read in this review:

2020 Subaru Forester Changes: 🚙What’s the difference vs 2019 Forester?

Even though Subaru introduced the all-new, fifth-generation Forester for the 2019 model year, there are still a small number of upgrades worth mentioning for the 2020 model year. First of all, the license plates on all models have been fitted with LED illumination lamps, the standard-fit adaptive cruise control system has been upgraded with a new lane-centering function, and a lane departure prevention feature replaces the lane-keep assist function. The tire-pressure monitor now displays the pressure for every tire individually, and a rear-seat reminder system has also been installed in every model. For the Premium trim, the once optional All-Weather Package has been made standard, and, to finish things off, the Touring trim now comes outfitted with a LED tailgate light and LED cargo-area and dome lights with off-delay.

Pros and Cons

  • Go-anywhere ability
  • Spacious cabin
  • Standard all-wheel drivetrain
  • Exceptional safety ratings
  • Great fuel economy figures
  • Torrid four-cylinder engine
  • Polished, but boring CVT
  • Run-of-the-mill styling
  • Cabin materials lack the quality of rivals

Best Deals on Forester

2020 Subaru Forester Trims

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
2.5i
2.5-liter Flat 4 Gas
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
All-Wheel Drive
$24,495
2.5i Premium
2.5-liter Flat 4 Gas
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
All-Wheel Drive
$27,395
2.5i Sport
2.5-liter Flat 4 Gas
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
All-Wheel Drive
$28,995
2.5i Limited
2.5-liter Flat 4 Gas
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
All-Wheel Drive
$31,095
2.5i Touring
2.5-liter Flat 4 Gas
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
All-Wheel Drive
$34,595

Forester Crossover SUV Exterior

In a sea of boring crossovers and sport-utility vehicles, the Forester does little to stand out. The design language is typically Subaru, but that's not exactly a good thing, with nondescript elements that could fit any number of androgenous crossover-type vehicles in the blink of an eye. All models are outfitted with LED headlights as standard, with the Limited and Touring models featuring steering responsive functionality; the Sport and Touring trims also get LED foglights. All but the base model are fitted with a panoramic power moonroof and a high-mounted roof spoiler. Standard on all trims, but optional to the entry-spec model, are raised roof rails, too. The Sport model alone features a unique grille and orange exterior accenting.17-inch steel wheels prop up the base Forester with the Premium featuring alloys instead, the Sport, Limited, and Touring all ride atop 18-inch alloys varying in style.

2020 Subaru Forester Front View Subaru
2020 Subaru Forester Rear View Subaru
2020 Subaru Forester Front Angle View Subaru
See All 2020 Subaru Forester Exterior Photos

Dimensions

At 182.1 inches in length, the Subaru Forester crossover SUV is a little longer than the average compact ute, with dimensions for rivals like the Honda CR-V and Mazda CX-5 coming in at 180.6 inches and 179.1 inches respectively. Its width is standard at 71.5 inches excluding wing mirrors. All models ride a little higher than the competition as well, with a ground clearance of 8.7 inches and a height of 68.1 inches. Its wheelbase of 105.1 inches sets its right between the CR-V and CX-5. Curb weights for the Forester range from 3,449 pounds to 3,588 lbs, placing it firmly within the class average range.

  • Length 182.1 in
  • Wheelbase 105.1 in
  • Height 67.5 in
  • Max Width 71.5 in
  • Front Width 61.6 in
  • Rear Width 61.8 in

Exterior Colors

There are a total of nine cost-inclusive exterior colors are available for the Forester lineup, with availability dependant on the model. Standard options include Crystal Black Silica, Magnetite Gray Metallic, Crystal White Pearl, and Ice Silver Metallic. In lieu of Horizon Blue Pearl, which is available for most models, the Sport gets a Dark Blue Pearl, this is the option we'd recommend for it as it contrasts nicely with the exterior orange accents it sports. The base Forester can also be hued in Jasper Green Metallic. Exclusively available for the Limited and Touring are Crimson Red Pearl and Sepia Bronze Metallic. For those models, we'd suggest the Crimson Red Pearl, for the remaining models, the Horizon Blue Pearl is a suitable pick.

  • Crystal Black Silica
  • Crystal White Pearl
  • Horizon Blue Pearl
  • Ice Silver Metallic
  • Jasper Green Metallic
  • Magnetite Gray Metallic
  • Crimson Red Pearl
  • Sepia Bronze Metallic
  • Dark Blue Pearl

Subaru Forester SUV Performance

Last year, Subaru completely overhauled the Forester, equipping it with an updated 2.5-liter Boxer four-cylinder engine, featuring direct-injection for improved power and fuel-efficiency. This refined flat-four comes solely equipped to a Lineartronic continuously variable transmission, which feeds the engine's outputs of 182 hp and 176 lb-ft to the Forester's permanent all-wheel-drivetrain. While outright performance is no strong suit of the Forester's, what its powertrain delivers should just be adequate for most shoppers. Acceleration from 0 to 60 mph commences in the mid-eight-second range, according to independent tests, which is quite a bit slower than the competition. While the Honda CR-V completes the sprint in a quicker 7.4 seconds, the Kia Sportage completes it in a slightly more impressive 6.7 seconds with its turbo engine. For true capability, however, shoppers should consider the Mazda CX-5, the turbocharged variations of which complete the task in a fun six seconds flat. The Mazda CX-5 seems to offer superior capability overall, while the Subaru Foresters max tow rating is capped at 1,500 lbs, which is average for the class as a whole, the CX-5 can lug a max capacity of 2,000 lbs.

2020 Subaru Forester Front View Driving Subaru
2020 Subaru Forester Rear View Driving Subaru
2020 Subaru Forester Engine Subaru

Engine and Transmission

Overall, performance from the Forester's powertrain is perfectly fine for cruising around town and getting from A to B on an everyday basis. In comparison with many of its rivals, however, it is more-so on the sluggish side. Unfortunately, while a more powerful turbocharged engine is typically offered within the lineup of most competitors, the Forester's 2.5-liter flat-four is its sole mill. Cooperation between the engine and the CVT is good though, the engine's peak outputs of 182 hp and 176 lb-ft are utilized intuitively by the CVT as it stays within the mill's powerband throughout. Moreover, there's no prominent rubberiness that's usually found in this type of transmission; it's set up to simulate seven gears and a manual shifting mode is offered within the Sport and Touring models. With a 0-60 mph acceleration time of 8.5 seconds, pulling away from a standstill is expectedly gradual, as is accelerating up to top speeds for highway merging. Overtaking slower vehicles on the highway is not too much of a chore, but may require some planning. While performance from the Forester's powertrain is adequate, the 2.4-liter turbocharged engine that the Subaru Outback XT is equipped with would be a nice to have option, nonetheless.

  • Engine
    2.5-liter Flat 4 Gas
  • Transmission
    Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
  • Drivetrain
    AWD

Handling and Driving Impressions

In terms of handling, the Forester actually performs pretty impressively for a vehicle without any sporting intentions. Subaru really works a lot of magic into the overall construction of the Forester, from its naturally aspirated flat-four, which benefits handling by placing the SUV's center of gravity low in the chassis, to the standard symmetrical AWD system which is simply a marvel within the industry, it switches torque between the front and rear axles, and also to either side, helping to improve stability when accelerating out of corners. Its steering responses are precise and the weighting light, making it relatively easy to maneuver around tight spots, considering its size. Its brakes are responsive too and easy to modulate during everyday driving, with stopping power being adequate and the SUV remaining composed throughout. The Forester is distinguished in terms of comfort too - its ride is refined and compliant, its AWD system, suspension, and 8.7-inch ground clearance are a benefit over rough terrain, whether it be terrible unkempt tar roads or rugged dirt roads.

We'd be remiss not to mention the Forester's driver-assist features - the adaptive cruise control and steering assist systems, in particular, feel intuitive and are never overly abrupt, and even the lane change alert system is responsive and smooth in its responses.

Forester Gas Mileage

It's perhaps in fuel-efficiency where the Forester competes most favorably, especially as a stock-standard all-wheel-drive crossover. While the engine's displacement of 2.5 liters is relatively hefty, the CVT does well to balance performance out. With this setup, the EPA records gas mileage returns of 26/33/29 mpg city/highway/combined from the Forester. The Honda CR-V, when in AWD guise, proves only a little more efficient in city conditions, with overall returns of 27/32/29 mpg. The Mazda CX-5 performs less efficiently even with its FWD system in play at only 25/31/28 mpg or 24/30/26 mpg in AWD guise.

A 16.6-gallon gas tank sustains the Forester's powertrain - when topped up, the Forester should manage a cruising range of around 481 miles before needing a refuel.

  • Fuel Tank Capacity
    16.6 Gallons
  • Fuel Economy
    City/Hwy: 26/33 mpg
* 2020 Subaru Forester 2.5i

Subaru Forester Crossover SUV Interior

Subaru really upped its game with the 2019 redesign of the Forester, availing the model with a vastly improved cabin, exuding an impression of modernity and artistry, and boasting mostly high-quality cabin constituents and soft-touch materials at all the key touchpoints. There's simulated stitching on the dash and door panels that effectively bring up the overall level of fit, feel, and finish, and the design is very practical and ergonomic too, the driver is positioned with great outward visibility and with all the controls easily in reach. If not initially, then the ten-way power-adjustable driver's seat, featured in all but the base model, should make finding an optimal position effortless. All but the base model also feature front seat heating, ventilation is not available at all though.

2020 Subaru Forester Dashboard Subaru
2020 Subaru Forester Infotainment System Subaru
2020 Subaru Forester Driver Seat Subaru
See All 2020 Subaru Forester Interior Photos

Seating and Interior Space

As a compact, the Forester is equipped to seat a maximum of only five passengers, while there's oodles of headroom and legroom offered throughout the cabin, even for six-footers in the rear, the center rear seat can naturally be a little tight at the shoulders. There are hard-touch plastic step-in pads at the base of the rear outboard seats, and while they assist in making ingress and egress easier by widening the slip in angle, they're actually there for easier access to the roof rails, an ingenious application by Subaru. Entry and exit to and from the front seats are otherwise as effortless. While headroom is plentiful regardless, the standard-fit power moonroof in all but the base model simply adds more and along with the large windows, makes for a truly airy feel.

  • Seating capacity
    5-seater
  • Front Leg Room 43.3 in
  • Front Head Room 41.2 in
  • Rear Leg Room 39.4 in
  • Rear Head Room 39.6 in

Interior Colors and Materials

The leather-wrapped steering wheel, in all but the base Forester, is nicely designed and is complemented with silver accenting which brings the silver accented dash and door panels together. Some pieces on the dash do feature gloss black paneling but are not susceptible to scuff marks. The seats in the base and Premium models are upholstered in basic cloth - in the base model they're featured only in gray and in the Premium, they're hued either in gray or black, depending on the exterior color choice. The Sport model gets dual-tone gray sport cloth upholstered seats with orange accent stitching, while the Limited is outfitted with leather seating appointments available in either black or gray. This is the same for the Touring, although the gray leather is switched out for a Saddle Brown option instead.

Forester Trunk and Cargo Space

Crossovers are meant to offer the practicality and versatility of an SUV while also remaining as easy to maneuver around the urban landscape as a traditional sedan. The Forester does this exceptionally, with 31.1 cubes of cargo room in the cargo hatch and 28.9 with the moonroof in place. With this, there's almost as much cargo room offered in the Forester as what's found in Subaru's own Outback which presents 32.5 cubes. The Forester's trunk will easily put away enough camping gear for a family of four or five on a casual weekend away. If larger items need to be hauled, the rear seats can be folded down in a 60/40 configuration, opening up cargo room to a lofty 76.1 cubes, or 70.9 cubes with the moonroof fitted.

In-cabin stowage solutions are just as impressive; up front, there are large bottle holders in the doors with room for items, there are two cupholders in the center console, a large center armrest cubby, a couple of small-item console storage bins, and a sizeable glove box. Moving the rear seats sees large door pockets with room for bottles, dual seatback map pockets on both front seats, and two center armrest cupholders.

2020 Subaru Forester Maximum Cargo Space Subaru
2020 Subaru Forester Rear Passenger Seats Subaru
2020 Subaru Forester Trunk Space Subaru

Forester Infotainment and Features

Features

Subaru comprehensively outfits every Forester and even at the base level, there's a standard keyless entry system, tilt-and-telescoping steering column, six-way manually-adjustable driver's seat, and single-zone automatic climate control. In the way of driver-assist tech, there's a rearview camera and Subaru's full Eyesight suite of driver-assist technology which includes adaptive cruise control, pre-collision braking, lane departure, and sway warning and lane keep assist. Advancing to the Premium sees the addition of a leather-wrapped steering wheel, ten-way power-adjustable driver's seat, heated front seats, and reclining rear seatbacks. The Sport is upgraded with keyless access with push-button start, a 6.3-inch color multifunction display, and with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters. Dual-zone automatic climate control, a power rear liftgate, and high-beam assist come in at the Limited along with blind spot detection with lane change assist and rear cross-traffic alert. In the Touring, owners get to enjoy a heated steering wheel, two-position memory settings, ten-way power-adjustable front passenger seat, heated rear outboard seats, one-touch folding rear back seats, a DriverFocus distraction mitigation system, and reverse automatic braking.

Infotainment

Every Forester comes installed with Subaru's StarLink infotainment system, a highly intuitive and user-friendly interface offering high-quality images and comprehensive functionality. The base, Premium, and Sport models come fitted with a 6.5-inch high-resolution LCD touchscreen - it's relatively small by today's standards, but can be swapped out for a larger eight-inch touchscreen on the Sport, which the Limited and Touring models come with as standard. An AM/FM/CD player with MP3 playback functionality is stock, the base model features a four-speaker sound system, from there, all models get six-speakers, barring the Touring which is fitted with a premium nine-speaker Harman Kardon surround-sound audio system. Functionality is the same across the board, which includes Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, Pandora, and Aha smartphone app integration, STARLINK cloud-based applications including Yelp, iHeartRadio, and Magellan navigation, as well as Bluetooth audio streaming and hands-free phone connectivity. There's also HD Radio and SiriusXM all-access satellite radio and Travellink.

Subaru Forester Problems and Reliability

Though there have been no recalls commissioned for the 2020 Forester, there are a significant number of driver complaints listed with the NHTSA, many pertaining to an issue whereby the windshield seemed prone to cracks and chips. Additionally, the 2019 model was subject to two major recalls, the first issue had to do with the malfunction of the power steering assist and the second to the PCV valve which would potentially separate. Fortunately, these seem to have been resolved. J.D. Power gave the Forester a Great Quality and Reliability rating of 77 out of 100, and Subaru covers the new Forester with a basic three-year/36,000-mile warranty and a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty in the USA.

Warranty

  • Basic:
    3 Years \ 36,000 Miles
  • Drivetrain:
    5 Years \ 60,000 Miles
  • Corrosion:
    5 Years \ Unlimited Miles
  • Roadside Assistance:
    3 Years \ 36,000 Miles

Forester Safety Ratings

With every Forester coming comprehensively equipped with driver-assist tech and active safety features as standard, it's no surprise that the new Subaru Forester has been reviewed as one of the safest cars on the road. After the 2020 Subaru Forester's review by the NHTSA, it received a consummate overall rating of five stars out of five, and the IIHS selected the Forester as a 2020 Top Safety Pick + based on six top-notch crash test scores and advanced collision avoidance measures.

US NHTSA crash test result

  • Overall Rating
  • Frontal Barrier Crash Rating
  • Side Crash Rating
  • Rollover Rating

Key Safety Features

Subaru's standard safety measures are exceptional, a sensible approach considering the Forester's nature as a family-oriented commuter. This year, every Forester comes equipped with seven advanced airbags, including a driver's side knee airbag. Complementing those active measures are Subaru's Eyesight driver-assist technologies which include adaptive cruise control, pre-collision braking, lane departure, and sway warning and lane keep assist. The Limited model comes additionally fitted with blind spot detection with lane change assist and rear cross-traffic alert. Those are further bolstered in the Touring with a DriverFocus distraction mitigation system and reverse automatic braking.

Verdict: 🏁Is the 2020 Subaru Forester a good car?

Subaru has done a fine job in reengineering the Forester to be competitive against some of the best nameplates in the business, pairing frugal fuel economy with high levels of spaciousness and practicality and a ruggedness only the RAV4 can compete with. But the engine - while light on juice - lacks the power and towing capability needed to be considered a class leader, while the interior falls behind those of the CR-V and Mazda CX-5 from a luxury perspective. It's not exactly a memorable crossover, but it is one that's likely to stand the test of time, and for the buyers looking for something competent, light on gas, rugged enough to go anywhere, and spacious enough to take the kids, dog, and bikes along with you on the journey.

🚘What's the Price of the 2020 Subaru Forester?

Pricing for the 2020 Subaru Forester is relatively average for the segment. The base Forester model comes in at an MSRP of $24,495, that's similar pricing to the Honda CR-V. Offering a few more creature-comforts over the base model is the Premium, which carries a sticker price of $27,395, while the Sport, with its paddle shifters and sportier styling cues, is priced at $28,995. The well-equipped Limited comes in at a price of $31,095, and finally, the top-of-the-line Touring will ask $34,595. All Subaru Forester prices exclude a destination and delivery charge of $1,010 as well as any tax, registration, or licensing fees.

2020 Subaru Forester Models

There are five Subaru Forester models that comprise the 2020 lineup; the base Forester, Premium, Sport, Limited, and Touring. All are equipped with the same powertrain, namely a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, CVT automatic, and permanent all-wheel-drivetrain.

The base Forester rides atop 17-inch steel wheels and features LED headlights as standard. A keyless entry system allows access to the cabin where there's a tilt-and-telescoping steering column, six-way manually-adjustable driver's seat, and single-zone automatic climate control. Standard driver-assists include a rearview camera and Subaru's Eyesight technologies. A 6.5-inch touchscreen, AM/FM/CD-compatible stereo, and four-speaker sound system cover infotainment with the full functionality of Subaru's StarLink system.

17-inch alloy wheels prop up the Premium, which also features a power panoramic moonroof and high-mounted spoiler. Here, there's a leather-wrapped steering wheel, ten-way power-adjustable driver's seat, heated front seats, and reclining rear seatbacks. The infotainment system is upgraded with a six-speaker sound system.

Along with 18-inch alloy wheels and some bespoke exterior and interior styling, the Sport also gets advanced keyless access with push-button start, steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters, and a 6.3-inch color multifunction display.

A steering responsive LED headlight system is featured as of the Limited, which is also given high-beam assist, dual-zone automatic climate control, and a power rear liftgate. Blind spot detection with lane change assist and rear cross-traffic alert are also added.

In the Touring, there's a heated steering wheel, two-position driver memory settings, ten-way power-adjustable front passenger seat, heated rear outboard seats, one-touch folding rear back seats, a DriverFocus distraction mitigation system and reverse automatic braking. It also gets navigation and a nine-speaker Harman Kardon surround-sound audio system.

See All 2020 Subaru Forester Trims and Specs

Additional Packages

Subaru has devised only a handful of optional packages for all but the top-spec Forester, which already comes fully-equipped as standard. For the base Forester, there's a $600 Alloy Wheel Package that equips it with 17-inch alloy wheels and raised roof rails. At a cost of $574, this Subaru Forester can be outfitted with a Rockford Fosgate sound system.

There are two optional packages that for $795 and $1,345 respectively equips the Premium with blind spot detection with rear cross-traffic alert, keyless access with push-button start, and a power rear liftgate on the more expensive option.

Similarly, an optional package containing blind spot detection with rear cross-traffic alert, reverse automatic braking, an eight-inch infotainment touchscreen, Harman Kardon sound system, and a power rear liftgate is available for the Sport at $2,045.

A $1,695 optional package outfits the Limited with a navigation system, Harman Kardon sound system, a heated steering wheel, and reverse automatic braking.

🚗What New 2020 Subaru Forester Model Should I Buy?

To play to both the Forester's unassailable safety standards and competitive affordability, we recommend opting for the Premium model with the Optional Package 2 thrown into the mix. This model, above the base-spec, receives some meaningful feature upgrades including a leather-wrapped steering wheel, ten-way power-adjustable driver's seat, and heated front seats. The Optional Package 2 complements its standard features consignment with keyless access with push-button start, and a power rear liftgate, and its standard EyeSight consignment with blind spot detection with rear cross-traffic alert. With the package included, the Premium's base price does exceed that of the Sport model, but reasonably so considering how much more comprehensively the Premium is equipped at this point.

2020 Subaru Forester Comparisons

Subaru Outback Subaru
Honda CR-V CarBuzz
CompetitorHorsepowerMPGPrice (MSRP)
Subaru Forester182 hp26/33 mpg$24,795
Subaru Outback 182 hp26/33 mpg$26,645
Honda CR-V 190 hp28/34 mpg$25,150

2020 Subaru Forester vs Subaru Outback

The Outback is Subaru's midsize crossover SUV-wagon offering and, as such, it's a little pricier than the Forester, and a little larger too. The Outback comes equipped with the same 2.5-liter Boxer engine with which it's as fuel-efficient with, and just as fast off the line. It does, however, get the option to a vastly more powerful turbo engine which offers a little more pep throughout the drive, at the compromise of fuel-efficiency. The Outback was totally redesigned for the 2020 model year, meaning it boasts a more premium cabin with more contemporary tech and features too, including an 11.6-inch tablet-like touchscreen covering infotainment functions. There's a lot more available for the Outback too, such as heated and ventilated front seats, meaning buyers will have more opportunity to package what they desire. The Outback is more commodious, more practical, and more luxurious overall - it would be a perfect fit for the adventurous family, but if the extra room and greater 2,500-pound max tow capacity aren't needed, then the Forester should suffice.

See Subaru Outback Review

2020 Subaru Forester vs Honda CR-V

Available at around the same price, the Honda CR-V comes standard as an FWD vehicle equipped with a lower displacement but more powerful turbocharged engine, making it exceptionally fuel-efficient with gas mileage figures of 28/34/30 mpg, or 27/32/29 mpg with the AWD system in place. It's a little faster off-the-line than the Forester, too, being the lighter crossover. But the CR-V isn't quite as spacious as the Forester, offering up a little less legroom throughout the cabin. There's more cargo space in the trunk of the CR-V, however, with 39.2 cubes on offer. The Subaru takes the cake for the better infotainment setup and features, especially at the base level, but the CR-V boasts the more contemporary and premium cabin. The Honda CR-V is the better driver's car than the Forester and feels more poised and capable of being driven hard. It wins in this comparison purely for its overall performance dynamics, from its faster acceleration times to its frugality and capability through the bends.

See Honda CR-V Review

Subaru Forester Popular Comparisons

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2020 Subaru Forester Video Reviews

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