With good fuel economy, great safety ratings and standard all-wheel drive, the 2016 Subaru Forester is a strong entry in the compact SUV segment. The 2016 Forester also offers impressive cargo space and a new infotainment system as standard equipment.
The 2016 Subaru Forester is a compact SUV that’s available in six trims. A 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine comes with 2.5i, 2.5i Premium, 2.5i Limited and 2.5i Touring models, while 2.0XT Premium and 2.0XT Touring models have a more powerful turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. As with most Subaru models, all-wheel drive is standard across the Forester lineup.
Last redesigned for the 2014 model year, the current Subaru Forester’s exterior styling represents a gradual evolution of the model that preceded it. A tall, boxy shape with expanses of glass and an impressive 8.7 inches of ground clearance make this compact crossover instantly recognizable as a Forester. While the base model may look a little plain, our test Forester 2.0XT brought in a number of exterior styling updates that add significantly to its visual appeal.
The base 2.5i model features exterior highlights that include black side cladding, 17-inch steel wheels and folding sideview mirrors.
Higher trims bring in 17- or 18-inch alloy wheels, heated sideview mirrors, tinted privacy glass, stainless steel tailpipes and a roof spoiler.
The Forester’s high-up seating position and commanding view of the road should appeal to a wide range of SUV buyers. Visibility is outstanding in all directions, thanks in part to tall windows and thin roof pillars. Wide doors make entry and exit easy, and our test Forester’s power-adjustable driver’s seat made it simple to establish a comfortable driving position. Headroom is particularly impressive, despite the expansive retractable moonroof in our test Forester 2.0XT. There’s plenty of passenger space in the backseat too, and the cargo hold offers an impressive 34.4 cubic feet of space with all seats in use.
Lowering the 60-40 split-folding rear seats opens up 74.7 cubic feet of room, which is more than most competing compact SUVs offer. A release button on either side of the cargo hold makes folding the rear seats an easy task too.
Interior materials are primarily hard plastics, but they are nicely textured and look appropriate for the class. Convincing looking faux aluminum trim was present on the dash and door handles of our test Forester, which also included upgrades like dual-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery, heated front seats and a power liftgate.
The base Subaru Forester 2.5i comes with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 170 horsepower. A six-speed manual transmission and all-wheel drive are standard and a CVT is optional. The EPA reports that the base Forester gets 22/29 mpg city/highway with the manual transmission. Choosing the CVT improves those estimates to 24/32 mpg.
The Forester 2.0XT comes with a 250-horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and a standard CVT. This model gets an EPA-estimated 23/28 mpg city/highway.
In years past I have had the opportunity to drive the base Forester 2.5i, which offers good fuel economy and adequate power in most situations. Our test Forester 2.0XT’s turbo-four provides a substantial power boost over the base engine, particularly when the engine is called upon for highway passing and merging. The 2.0XT model also features Sport and Sport Sharp buttons on the steering wheel to make the powertrain even more responsive. Sport mode improves throttle response, while Sport Sharp feels stronger still and offers eight simulated gear ratios that mimic the behavior of a conventional automatic transmission.
The 2016 Forester also impressed us with a comfortable ride and handling that felt secure in most driving situations. The steering is a little numb, and it’s not quite as athletic as crossovers like the Mazda CX-5, but the Forester 2.0XT brings in larger wheels and a sport-tuned suspension that provide a bit more driving fun when compared with the base model. Strong brakes also brought our test Forester to a halt with confidence.
Standard equipment on the 2016 Subaru Forester includes three 12-volt power outlets and Subaru’s Starlink infotainment system, which features Bluetooth and USB connectivity, smartphone app integration and a 6.2-inch touch-screen display. Higher trims bring in an upgraded infotainment system with a larger 7-inch touch screen, navigation, keyless access with push-button start and a Harman Kardon audio system.
Subaru’s Starlink infotainment system is a new feature for 2016, and a major upgrade when compared with the system that was available in earlier Subaru models.
Starlink’s straightforward menus and responsive touch screen make it easy to access audio, phone and navigation settings. Pairing a smartphone is an easy task, and the system allows full control of smartphone apps like Pandora Internet Radio. Our test Forester featured the larger 7-inch touch screen and navigation, which features clear maps and is easy to program. Many audio, vehicle and phone settings are also quickly accessed via redundant controls on the steering wheel.
The 2016 Forester earned five out of five stars for its overall performance in National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) crash tests. The Forester earned top scores of Good in all tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), as well as a top Superior rating for its available front crash prevention system.
The base Forester comes with a suite of air bags, stability control, anti-lock brakes and a rearview camera. An optional EyeSight driver assistance system adds adaptive cruise control, pre-collision braking and lane departure warning.
Starlink Connected Services is also available, which provides maintenance notifications, emergence assistance, automatic collision notification and roadside assistance.
The 2016 Subaru Forester starts at $22,395 plus an $850 destination charge. However, most shoppers will probably want the optional CVT, which adds $1,000 to the bottom line. That puts the price of entry right above $24,000, which is less than the starting prices of an all-wheel drive Honda CR-V or Toyota RAV4.
Our test Forester 2.0XT Touring was about as fully loaded as they come, featuring an MSRP of $36,040 after destination and options like EyeSight and the upgraded Starlink system with navigation.
Many shoppers will probably find the midlevel 2.5i Premium as the most attractive model in the Forester lineup. This trim brings in the upgraded version of Starlink, a moonroof and exterior enhancements like privacy glass and alloy wheels. Subaru’s EyeSight system also becomes available here, which should provide some assurance to safety-minded shoppers. So equipped, a Forester 2.5i Premium with the CVT and Eyesight should have an MSRP of roughly $28,000 after destination.
The 2016 Subaru Forester continues to stand out as one of the more sensible choices in the compact SUV segment. It offers exceptional interior room, good fuel economy and a capable all-wheel drive system as standard equipment. There are also strong safety ratings and the available EyeSight system to consider, as well as the 2.0XT model’s responsive turbocharged engine. While some competitors may offer interiors that feel a bit more premium, the Forester’s well-rounded nature and versatility remain its strongest attributes.