2017 Subaru Forester

Starting MSRP: $22,595 - $34,295

Estimated MPG: 22 city / 28 hwy

2017 Subaru Forester Review

Offering standard all-wheel drive and great safety ratings, the 2017 Subaru Forester continues to be a practical choice for a number of compact SUV buyers. A roomy interior and good cargo space make the Forester a compelling pick for parents in the snowbelt, while weekend warriors who seek off-road adventures will appreciate its generous ground clearance on mountain trails and fire roads.

By Jim Sharifi
Last Updated 12/06/2016

The Subaru Forester seats five and comes standard with all-wheel drive. A four-cylinder engine and a six-speed manual transmission are standard, while a continuously variable transmission (CVT) and a more powerful turbocharged four-cylinder engine are available.

Subaru offers the Forester in 2.5i, 2.5i Premium, 2.5i Limited, 2.5i Touring, 2.0XT Premium and 2.0XT Touring trims.

A number of updates debut for 2017, including revised front-end styling with a new grille, bumper treatment and headlights. A quicker steering ratio improves this compact SUV’s responsiveness for 2017, while revisions to the powertrain bring better fuel economy to 2.5i models with the CVT. Improved sound deadening measures help keep the cabin quieter, with changes that include new door seals, thicker windows and a revised windshield. There are also newly available driver assistance features, including reverse automatic braking, automatic high beams and adaptive headlights.

Exterior

Exterior
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While its exterior design is somewhat unassuming, the Forester distinguishes itself with a tall and boxy shape that’s a slight departure from the current norm in the compact crossover segment. It’s a rugged and utilitarian look, with a large greenhouse and an impressive 8.7 inches of ground clearance.

A hexagonal grille is the centerpiece of the front fascia, and it's accented by standard halogen headlights and available fog lights. There are also optional LED headlights that respond to steering inputs by swiveling to project better illumination in turns. A side view reveals standard 17-inch steel wheels, which can be upgraded to 17- or 18-inch alloy wheels. A rear spoiler, power liftgate and heated sideview mirrors are also offered. Forester 2.0XT models like our test vehicle also benefit from exterior enhancements that include a dual exhaust system and a unique front fascia.

Interior

Interior
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The Forester’s cabin provides an open and roomy feeling, even by compact SUV standards. A tall roof and large windows help deliver that sense of spaciousness, and they combine with a high seating position to provide exceptional outward visibility. The Forester is also really easy to get in and out of, as wide doors open to reveal two spacious rows of seating with ample head- and legroom.

The Forester’s cabin materials are acceptable for the class, but perhaps not quite as premium as what you’ll find in competitors like the Mazda CX-5. There’s no shortage of hard plastic surfaces, but the materials used are nicely textured and impart a sense of durability that many buyers may appreciate.

Cargo capacity is impressive for the class, with 34.4 cubic feet of space behind the rear row. Folding the second row opens up a maximum of 74.7 cubic feet, which is slightly more than the 2017 Ford Escape and Toyota RAV4 offer.

The base Forester comes standard with a tilt-and-telescoping steering column, cloth upholstery and a 60/40-split folding rear seat. Available upgrades include a power-adjustable driver’s seat, leather upholstery, heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, reclining rear seats, dual-zone automatic climate control and one-touch folding rear seats.

Performance

Performance
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As tested, our Forester 2.0XT Touring delivered a pleasing balance of controlled handling and ride comfort. There was also ample power, thanks to the turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that comes in 2.0XT models. That engine is mated to a CVT and delivers 250 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, which is more than sufficient for highway passing and merging. The Forester 2.0XT also has Sport and Sport Sharp drive modes, which are easily accessed with steering wheel-mounted controls to provide more power and improved responsiveness from the CVT.

Many buyers will likely be well-suited by Forester models with the base, horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine. It’s a 2.5-liter unit that delivers 170 horsepower and 174 pound-feet of torque. All-wheel drive and a six-speed manual transmission are standard in the base model and a CVT is available.

The base Forester gets an EPA-estimated 22/28 mpg city/highway with the manual transmission, while opting for the CVT results in an impressive 26/32 mpg. Choose a model like our test Forester with the turbo-four and you’ll get an EPA rating of 23/27 mpg.

Technology

Technology
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While smartphone mirroring technologies like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto aren’t offered, the base Forester is well-equipped for the class. Its standard tech features include Bluetooth, a USB port, smartphone app integration, HD Radio, a four-speaker sound system and Subaru’s Starlink infotainment system with a 6.2-inch touch-screen display. Navigation, keyless entry/ignition, a Harman Kardon audio system and an upgraded version of Starlink with a 7-inch screen are available.

Our test Forester came with navigation and the larger 7-inch display. In general, Starlink makes it easy to access phone, audio and navigation settings with straightforward menus and quick responses to user inputs. Pairing a smartphone is an easy task, and the system allows full control of smartphone apps like Pandora Internet Radio. Many settings are also quickly accessed with redundant controls on the steering wheel, and the center stack maintains two large knobs for primary audio functions.

Safety

Safety
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The 2017 Forester comes standard with a rearview camera, daytime running lights and an anti-theft system. Subaru’s EyeSight system is available on all but the base model, adding features that include adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist and forward collision warning with autonomous braking. Reverse automatic braking, automatic high beams and blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert are also offered.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gave the 2017 Forester a top five-star rating for its overall performance in crash tests.

Models equipped with EyeSight earn a top Superior rating for front crash prevention from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

Cost-Effectiveness

Cost-Effectiveness
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The 2017 Forester 2.5i starts at $22,595 plus an $875 destination charge. We suspect that many buyers will want to skip the manual transmission and opt for the CVT, which adds $1,000 to the bottom line in the base model.

Our test Forester 2.0XT Touring carried an MSRP of $36,765 after destination, and included a $1,595 option package that brought in navigation, Subaru’s EyeSight system and reverse automatic braking.

While we appreciated the extra power that the 2.0XT’s turbocharged engine provides, we think many shoppers will find the most value with the Forester 2.5i Premium. With a starting price of $25,495, that model brings in an expansive moonroof, alloy wheels, automatic climate control and the upgraded version of Starlink with a 7-inch display. Add in the CVT ($500 on the Premium trim) and the EyeSight package ($1,695), and the Forester 2.5i Premium should carry a suggested price of around $28,600.

Overall

Overall
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Subaru continues to offer a very solid product in the 2017 Forester. It provides a particularly roomy cabin, along with good fuel economy and a capable all-wheel-drive system as standard equipment. Strong safety ratings and a competitive price also stand out as high points for this compact SUV. Overall, we think that the 2017 Subaru Outback is a little more refined – both in interior quality and driving dynamics – but the Forester’s impressive utility and sure-footed all-wheel-drive grip should continue to suit a wide range of buyers.