ABS available, standard from 2001. Side air bags available from 2001, standard from 2003. ESC available from 2007, standard from 2009. Head protection air bags standard from 2009.
Subaru's popular Forester continues to put function in front of form. It stands out from the crowd, resisting the contemporary trend toward making SUVs look like sports coupes with descending rooflines and curvaceous bodies. Instead, the Forester aces the fundamentals with a space-efficient design, large windows, and big square doors. That recipe has resulted in the easiest access and the best view out of almost any vehicle, and one of the roomiest rear seats in the class, with copious head and leg room.
By adapting various fuel-efficient technologies, including using a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), the Forester delivers a class-leading 26 mpg overall and 35 mpg on the highway. Performance is decent from that standard 2.5-liter, 170-hp four-cylinder engine; an uplevel 2.0-liter, 250-hp turbocharged four-cylinder XT version is available. Unlike most modern small SUVs, a manual transmission can be had, but only with the base engine and basic trim levels.