Subaru Forester was first sold in Australia in 1997 as a smallish station wagon, before
growing in size to became an SUV. It has reasonable ground clearance that’s okay for
moderate off-road driving in the bush. You will also see some on the beach, though it’s
best not to take it onto soft sand.
In this Used Car Checkout we cover the Subaru Forester from February 2008 with the
introduction of the third generation. The fourth Forester generation arrived in February
2013. This time the shape was more serious SUV in style.
A mild facelift in February 2016 saw upgrades to the infotainment system as well as
revised rear seats. The latter in answer to customer comments that older kids in the back
seats needed better seat support.
Good interior room is a big advantage of Forester’s squared-off styling. The front seats
have plenty of legroom, width and headroom. The rear seat can take three people without
too much of a hassle, though it’s better if they are children, rather than adults.
There’s a large luggage area and to suit buyers in its home country of Japan it can four
golf bags can fit back there. Aussies like it for that as well.
There are numerous handy storage areas throughout the cabin.
On road handling is pretty good for a vehicle in this class, but keep in mind the Forester is
a relatively high riding SUV, not a sports sedan, so don’t hammer it too hard at bends. (But
see our notes on the tS, our favourite model, later in this review.)
Off-road it’s significantly better than so many others in its class because it has good
ground clearance and reasonable approach/departure angles. But remember it’s an SUV
not a 4WD or you might get stuck on harsh unsealed roads.
Power for the standard Forester models comes from a 2.5-litre flat-four petrol engine in
either naturally-aspirated or turbocharged variants. There’s a strong emphasis on torque
as Subaru owners have always appreciated practical vehicles.
There’s also a non-turbo 2.0-litre petrol engine sold only in the lower cost models, as well
as a 2.0-litre turbo-diesel. Neither of these engines have proven particularly popular, but
are worth a test drive to see what you think.
An excellent enthusiasts’ vehicle is the Forester tS Special Edition introduced in 2016.
Despite the use of a chequered flag on the tS badge, it’s aimed more at the grand touring
(GT) market not fun on track days.
Powered by a turbo-petrol 2.0-litre boxer with 177 kW, the Forester tS features more
dynamic suspension and bigger brakes. Though the engine is a close relation to the WRX
unit it’s in a lower state of tune to make it easy to drive in day-to-day running.
Foresters with manual gearboxes sold in reasonably numbers, but CVT automatics are
more likely to hold their value better in the long run.
Servicing and spare parts are generally reasonably priced though we have heard a few
complaints about high prices on some less common parts.
Insurance premiums are generally moderate for the standard Foresters, but check on
prices on the high-performance models if you’re classed as a young or inexperienced
driver as you may have to pay considerably more. Also ask about what excesses will be
charged if you do make a claim.
A good amateur mechanic should have no trouble doing most jobs. It’s always wise to
have a workshop manual at your elbow before beginning work. Please leave the safety-
related items to experts.
June 2018 saw the gen-five Subaru Forester reach our shores. It’s sold only with a 2.5
petrol engine and the continuously variable transmission (CVT) automatic.
The latest Subaru Forester arrived in Oz in August 2021 with a moderate facelift, some
chassis tweaks and a tech upgrade.
t’s too early to review this as a used car. But keep in mind that quite a few older Foresters
may have been traded in on the new one. This can lead to dealers having many trade-ins
and this can result in their yards being over crowded – so dealers might sell at lower than
average prices to clear the stock.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Look over the complete body for signs of crash repairs. The easiest to see are poorly
matching paint colours and slight ripples in the panels.
Older engines often have that typical flat-four ‘dak-dak’ beat when they get a lot of
kilometres on them. If it seems too bad the engine may be due for a major overhaul.
Newer ones are more refined, but it’s still smart to have them fully checked.
Be wary of a Forester GT or XT that has too much turbocharger whine or excessive lag.
On a turbocharged model, check the clutch isn’t slipping – this usually shows up on fast
upchanges. Subaru makes the clutch a sacrificial component so that it fails first to protect
other transmission parts.
Check underneath in case the Forester has been seriously used in off-road conditions.
The front and rear bumper corners and their mountings are likely to be the first areas to
Lots of sand in the carpet may mean it’s spent time on the beach. If you suspect this, taste
for salt in the wheel wells and under the car.
Check the door sills, the protection plates under mechanical components and the lower
parts of the underbody for signs of damage. Ideally this should be done with the vehicle on
Look at the condition of the seats, carpets and boot in case the Forester has had lots of
muddy or dusty off-road use.
Expect to spend from $4000 to $7000 for a 20018 Subaru Forester XS Luxury; $6000 to
$10,000 for a 2010 XS Premium; $10,000 to $15,000 for a 2011 XT Premium; $12,000 to
$17,000 for a 2013 XT or a 2015 2.0i-L; $16,000 to $23,000 for a 2014 2.0 XT Premium;
$18,000 to $25,000 for a 2016 2.0 D-S; $20,000 to $28,000 for a 2018 2.5i-L; $25,000 to
$34,000 for a 2019 2.5i Premium; and $32,000 to $43,000 for a 2021 Hybrid S.
CAR BUYING TIP
Just because a vehicle is driven by all four wheels does not mean it can go off-road and
this can damage to its underside.
RECALLS: To browse recalls on all vehicles go to the ACCC at: