Year after year, the Subaru Forester has ranked among CR’s top-rated small SUVs and almost aces our surveys for reliability and owner satisfaction. But the rapid pace of competition means even segment leaders can’t rest on their laurels. Hence, the company used the 2018 New York Auto Show to unveil its latest Forester model.

Now that Subaru has added a new three-row SUV, the Ascent, the Forester ranks squarely in the middle of the automaker’s lineup—it’s larger than the Impreza sedan and about the same size as the Outback wagon.

The new Forester will be offered in standard, Premium, Limited, Touring, and new Sport trim lines. All-wheel drive is standard. With a longer wheelbase, the company says the new Forester is roomier inside, most noticeably in rear-seat legroom. Also, headroom, hip room, and shoulder room have been increased, Subaru says.

2019 Subaru Forester

What it competes with: Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-5, Nissan Rogue, Toyota RAV4.

What it looks like: Subaru fans shouldn’t panic: The new model still looks like a box.

Powertrain: 182-hp, 2.5-liter four cylinder engine; continuously variable transmission.

On-sale date: Arriving at retailers later this year.

2019 Subaru Forester driving

Outside

Anyone even faintly knowledgeable about Subarus will instantly recognize the new model. Its boxy, upright stance (which helps it offer some of the easiest access to the front seats of any car) and airy cabin make it seem like the least intimidating SUV available. New LED headlights are standard on all models. 

Inside

The company says the 2019 Forester gets more cargo space—with a larger gate opening—and that the load floor sits flatter. Golfers can look forward to fitting a full-sized golf bag sideways in the back of the new model, according to Subaru. A power rear gate is standard on Limited and Touring trim lines and optional for Premium and Sport versions. Keeping with its outdoorsy image, the Sport model features a rear-gate LED floodlight that illuminates the area around the rear gate when opened.

Subaru says the new Forester is the quietest yet, with greater efforts made to reduce noise, vibration, and harshness. A past complaint we’ve had with Foresters is intrusive engine noise during passing maneuvers, so we’ll be eager to see whether this has improved. New for the infotainment system are standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. 

2019 Subaru Forester interior

What Drives It

All models come with a new version of Subaru’s ubiquitous 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine. Updates have boosted horsepower from 170 to 182. A continuously variable transmission is standard. The company claims that the 2019 model will be quicker than the outgoing one and return better fuel economy. Our last tested Forester returned an excellent 26 mpg overall. The Sport, Limited, and Touring models will come with a driver-adjustable all-wheel-drive system that offers specific settings for piloting through snow, dirt, deep snow, and mud.  

Safety & Driver-Assist Systems

All 2019 models come standard with Subaru’s EyeSight Driver Assist Technology, which includes automatic precollision braking, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, and lane-keeping assist. The top-shelf Touring model also gets the company’s DriverFocus system, which uses “facial recognition software” to recognize signs of driver fatigue or driver distraction. The DriverFocus feature can also store up to five drivers’ preferences for seat position, climate, and infotainment, among others. Other available features include reverse automatic braking, blind-spot detection with lane-change assist, and rear cross-traffic alert. (Reverse automatic braking can apply the vehicle’s brakes if an obstacle is detected while reversing.) 

2019 Subaru Forester cargo area

CR’s Take

The Forester has been rocking CR’s testing for years, consistently hitting the sweet spot among small SUVs, delivering a roomy interior, impressive safety equipment and crashworthiness, and outstanding visibility in a right-sized, affordable package. Considering that all models come standard with all-wheel drive, fuel economy has been excellent.

Adding a touch more room to the interior, lots of standard safety gear, and some emphasis on reducing cabin noise, the next Forester looks poised to carry on Subaru’s winning formula. This small SUV has always been a fan favorite among CR subscribers, so you can bet we’ll be among the first in line to buy our test model. 

2019 Subaru Forester rear


Check out CR’s complete 
coverage of the 2018 New York Auto Show.