• Car Review

Driven: 2022 Subaru Forester Review

By Chris Teague | January 26, 2022

Pros:

  • Standard all-wheel-drive.
  • Plenty of standard safety equipment.
  • Spacious inside and comfortable ride.

Cons:

  • Lacks power.
  • Wilderness model's body cladding is a bit extreme.
  • Lower trims could use more standard equipment.

Vehicle Type: A compact crossover SUV with seating for up to five people.

Price Range: From $26,320 to $36,420 MSRP, including destination fee.

Powertrain: A 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with 182 horsepower and 176 lb-ft of torque, all-wheel-drive, and a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT).


More Photos:

See more 2022 Subaru Forester Photos.


Overview:

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Subaru has typically been the quirky underdog Japanese automaker in the US. And while that's still true today, the company's newest vehicles are more compelling than they've ever been. To capitalize on the overlanding and off-roading trend, Subaru ramped up the ruggedness of some of its vehicles with new Wilderness trims, and the brand still offers standard all-wheel-drive on all but one of its vehicles.

Subaru hasn't been caught napping, either, with new technology inside. As a result, its latest models have mostly caught up with modern rivals. The 2022 Forester follows this trend. In addition, Subaru updated the SUV with more rugged styling and new driver assistance and safety equipment.

Also new for 2022 is the new Wilderness version, billed as the off-road-ready Forester. It features more ground clearance, hardcore body cladding, and black exterior trim. We tested

However, even with the upgrades, the new-and-improved Forester has extreme competition in its segment from the traditional heavy-hitters.

Rivals for the Subaru Forester are the Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Escape, Ford Bronco Sport, GMC Terrain, Jeep Compass, Jeep Cherokee, Kia Sportage, Mazda CX-5, Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Hyundai Tucson, Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross, Nissan Rogue, and Volkswagen Tiguan.

The Forester is aimed at new car buyers that want a vehicle with plenty of space and standard all-wheel-drive — and better-than-average off-road performance — without the bulk of a full-size SUV.


Overall Score: 7.4/10

Safety Features: 8/10

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Every Forester model gets Subaru's EyeSight driver assistance technology package. It includes adaptive cruise control, a pre-collision system, lane departure alerts, a trailer sway warning system, automatic high beam assist, and lane-keep assist.

Available driver-assist technology includes a driver distraction mitigation system, reverse automatic braking, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alerts.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has not yet rated the 2022 Forester. Still, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the 2021 Forester a Top Safety Pick Plus award, its highest honor. As a result, the 2022 model year version should score close to its predecessor.


Value: 7/10

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The Forester starts at around $25,000, but the price will be worth it for many buyers. All-wheel-drive and a full suite of driver assists as standard equipment is a big bonus.

Subaru did a decent job with the Forester's standard equipment list, but the base model feels too basic for its price tag. Still, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility and a useful rear-seat reminder system — to prevent leaving children or pets in a hot car — are standard.

The top Forester Touring gets brown leather upholstery, built-in navigation, a driver distraction mitigation system, 10-way power seats, all-weather protection, heated seats, and more. Subaru charges over $36,000 for this model, though. There are plenty of more compelling options in the Forester's class for that money, some of which offer a fuel-sipping hybrid powertrain.

We did like the pricing on the Forester Wilderness model that we also tested. For a very reasonable $34,000, it had an impressive mix of amenities, capabilities, and comfort.


Tech Features: 7/10

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The base Subaru Forester comes standard with a 6.5-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, SiriusXM satellite radio, HD radio, USB inputs, Bluetooth, four speakers, and automatic climate controls.

Available features include rear USB ports, dual-zone automatic climate control, an 8-inch touchscreen, navigation, six speakers, a Harman/Kardon premium audio system, and a 4G LTE WiFi hotspot.

Subaru's Starlink infotainment system can be clunky and slow at times, and it's frustrating to navigate through multiple menus and selections at a time. That said, the interface offers a good deal of functionality.


Practicality: 9/10

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The Forester offers 41.2 inches of front headroom and 39.6 inches of rear headroom. Legroom measures 43.3 inches up front and 39.4 inches in back. Those are decent figures, but on-paper specs aren't everything. The Forester's tall roof and comfortable seating accommodations make it feel more spacious than its specs suggest, and the 28.9 cubic feet of cargo space is enough for a weekend road trip's worth of gear.

Though it's not fancy, the Forester's interior offers plenty of small-item storage spaces and generous cupholders. Cabin finishes lack pizazz, but the overall effect is quality and craftsmanship.

The Forester has a towing capacity of up to 1,500 pounds when properly equipped. That's plenty for a small boat, trailer, or ATV, and on par for the compact SUV class. Only the Jeep Cherokee is rated to tow significantly more, but consider a larger vehicle if that's a priority.


Styling & Design: 7/10

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It's hard to take a frumpy family vehicle and turn it into a rugged off-roader, but Subaru tried its hardest with the new Forester Wilderness. Vast swaths of plastic body cladding and increased ground clearance add to the Wilderness' off-road cred, but the overall effect can look a little awkward from some angles. For example, the black body cladding makes the Forester's wheel arches look comically large, making the wheels appear comically small.

There's little fanfare in the Forester's cabin, though top trims get far more plush cabins, with leathers and contrasting colors. The effect is more upscale and looks more appropriate for the Forester's price tag, but it still can't match the interiors of some of its rivals, mainly the Mazda CX-5.

Subaru made changes to the Forester for 2022, giving it a more robust headlight shape and a new grille. The SUV also rolls on new wheels, and the Wilderness trim gets blacked-out wheels with black exterior trim. Finally, the mid-range Premium trim offers a good middle ground between the base model and more expensive trims. It adds 17-inch wheels, body-colored mirrors and bumpers, and a rear spoiler.


Driving Experience: 8/10

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The Forester is powered by a 182-horsepower four-cylinder engine paired with a continuously variable transmission. The combination works well together and isn't weak by any means, but it lacks grunt and excitement. That said, there's plenty of power for in-town and highway cruising.

Subaru does CVTs at least as well as most other brands on the market, and it shows here. There's little of the whining and droning that can show up under heavier acceleration, and the powertrain feels pleasantly responsive overall.

The Wilderness model's added ground clearance and beefier off-road tires give it an excellent ride over most road surfaces and make it an absolute beast on loose surfaces like gravel and dirt. In addition, the SUV can tackle surprisingly rugged terrain because its height gives it great approach and departure angles. Even basic Subarus handle snow without issue, but the Wilderness turns a snowy day into a pseudo-rally event.

Subaru's standard all-wheel-drive system gives the Forester excellent all-weather capability, but it also gives them confident traction on curvy roads and during spirited backroad drives. That's not to say this SUV is sporty by any means, but there's a level of predictability that front- or rear-wheel-drive cars can't manage.


Fuel Efficiency: 7/10

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Most 2022 Forester models return EPA-estimated fuel economy of 26 mpg city, 33 mpg highway, and 29 mpg combined.

The Wilderness trim level's larger tires and off-road stance drain fuel economy slightly to 25 city, 28 highway, and 26 mpg combined.

The Subaru is relatively efficient, considering all-wheel drive usually puts a noticeable dent in fuel economy. While the Forester doesn't offer a hybrid option, the SUV is competitive with non-hybrid versions of the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V.


What’s it Going to Cost Me?

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The base 2022 Subaru Forester starts at $26,320 MSRP, including the destination charge. It comes with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, a CVT, all-wheel drive, 17-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, cloth upholstery, folding rear seats, auto on/off headlights, power windows and door locks, USB inputs, automatic climate control, a 6.5-inch touchscreen infotainment system, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, SiriusXM satellite radio, HD radio, and Bluetooth capability.
Driver assistance technology includes automatic emergency braking, lane departure alerts, adaptive cruise control with lane centering, high beam assist, a rearview camera, and keyless entry.

The Forester Premium trim level starts at $29,320. It adds a panoramic moonroof, black alloy wheels, fog lights, roof rails, power-adjustable front seats, reclining rear seatbacks, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift lever, keyless entry with push-button start, auto up/down front windows, and a 4G LTE WiFi hotspot.

The Forester Sport starts at $30,890 and brings 18-inch wheels, LED fog lights, sport cloth upholstery with orange stitching, a color multifunction display, and a cargo area rear liftgate light.

The Forester Limited starts at $33,000 and comes with 18-inch wheels, a roof spoiler, leather upholstery, and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert.

The Subaru Forester Wilderness costs $33,945. It adds 17-inch wheels with all-terrain tires, an increase to 9.2 inches of ground clearance, one-touch folding rear seats, the X-mode traction control system, hill descent control, synthetic StarTex water-repellant upholstery, and several Wilderness badges inside and out. The Wilderness also includes dual-zone automatic climate control, an 8-inch touchscreen, reverse automatic emergency braking, and a 180-degree front-view camera system.

The top-line Forester Touring starts at $36,420 and comes with heated front and seats, a heated steering wheel, two-position memory settings for the front seats, built-in navigation, a driver distraction mitigation system, and reverse automatic braking.

The upper-midrange Wilderness model would be the one we'd pick if we were shopping for a Forester today. Its added ground clearance and off-road abilities are excellent, but their benefits are not limited to off-pavement activities. The all-terrain tires and extra ground clearance give the SUV a smooth, comfortable ride.


More Photos:

See more 2022 Subaru Forester Photos.