2016 Subaru Forester

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$15,754–$28,142 Inventory Prices

Key Specs

of the 2016 Subaru Forester base trim shown

Our Take

From the Cars.com Vehicle Test Team

The Good

  • Visibility
  • Backseat space
  • Backup camera standard
  • All-wheel drive standard
  • Off-the-line response

The Bad

  • No stick shift for 2.0XT model
  • Liftgate should open higher
  • EyeSight cameras intrude
  • Seats not supportive enough
  • Choppy ride
2016 Subaru Forester exterior side view

Notable Features of the 2016 Subaru Forester

  • Regular or turbo four-cylinder engine
  • Manual transmission or CVT
  • All-wheel drive standard
  • Forward collision prevention option
  • Subscription-based emergency communication system available
  • Starlink app integration

2016 Subaru Forester Road Test

Bill Jackson

The verdict: The 2016 Subaru Forester is a compact SUV that impresses us with its cargo space, visibility and peppy engine, but its shortcomings include a choppy ride, soft brakes and a drab interior.

Versus the competition: The Forester is at the head of the compact SUV class when it comes to practicality and utility, but competitors offer nicer interiors and more rewarding driving attributes.

The Forester is styled more like an SUV than Subaru's other compact vehicles, the Impreza and Crosstrek. Changes are minimal for 2016, with all Forester models getting a touch-screen multimedia system (6.2 inches is the standard size). A subscription-based emergency communication system is also now available. Compare the 2016 Forester with the 2015 model here.

We tested a 2016 Subaru Forester 2.5i Limited with an option package that included adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning with autonomous braking, an upgraded stereo and a 7.0-inch multimedia screen.

The Forester competes with small SUVs such as the Honda CR-V, Nissan Rogue and Mazda CX-5. You can compare them all here. For a more in-depth comparison against a wider selection of SUVs, check out our $28,000 SUV Challenge.

Exterior & Styling
The Forester doesn't break any new ground in the styling department; Subaru stayed with the traditional, boxy SUV look. It's not ugly by any stretch of the imagination, but its distinguishing characteristic is that — at least to my eyes — the wheels app...

The verdict: The 2016 Subaru Forester is a compact SUV that impresses us with its cargo space, visibility and peppy engine, but its shortcomings include a choppy ride, soft brakes and a drab interior.

Versus the competition: The Forester is at the head of the compact SUV class when it comes to practicality and utility, but competitors offer nicer interiors and more rewarding driving attributes.

The Forester is styled more like an SUV than Subaru's other compact vehicles, the Impreza and Crosstrek. Changes are minimal for 2016, with all Forester models getting a touch-screen multimedia system (6.2 inches is the standard size). A subscription-based emergency communication system is also now available. Compare the 2016 Forester with the 2015 model here.

We tested a 2016 Subaru Forester 2.5i Limited with an option package that included adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning with autonomous braking, an upgraded stereo and a 7.0-inch multimedia screen.

The Forester competes with small SUVs such as the Honda CR-V, Nissan Rogue and Mazda CX-5. You can compare them all here. For a more in-depth comparison against a wider selection of SUVs, check out our $28,000 SUV Challenge.

Exterior & Styling
The Forester doesn't break any new ground in the styling department; Subaru stayed with the traditional, boxy SUV look. It's not ugly by any stretch of the imagination, but its distinguishing characteristic is that — at least to my eyes — the wheels appear too small for the body.

How It Drives
The Forester offers good acceleration from a stop and power is generally good across the range. The Forester uses a continuously variable automatic transmission, and its immediate response makes it one of the better ones on the market. For my money, the Honda CR-V's CVT is the best in the segment, but the Forester is a close second. I find the Rogue's CVT to be disappointing in its weird, elastic response. Still, no CVT can match a well-designed conventional automatic transmission, so all these SUVs trail the CX-5 in terms of response.

Overall power is modest, with the Forester just not feeling as quick as the CR-V or CX-5. And it's noisy. Wind and road noise aren't so bad, but there's more engine noise in the Forester than its competitors.

Stopping with confidence isn't really the Forester's strong suit, either. It has a very soft, mushy brake pedal.

Ride comfort is a mixed bag. The Forester absorbs bumps and big potholes very well, but there can be an odd bouncing/bucking sensation, as if the front is diving and the rear is rising when the road is really bad. It just feels choppy. The CR-V again leads the category in this area, and I'd put the Rogue second, the Forester third and the sporty, rough-riding CX-5 last in terms of ride comfort.

When it comes to handling, the Forester is surprisingly capable and willing to be pushed, but it's let down both by its mushy brakes and by its steering. The Forester's steering simply gets too light at higher speeds, so it doesn't offer enough feedback to inspire confidence.

The Forester we tested is rated 24/32/27 mpg city/highway/combined, which is competitive with all-wheel-drive versions of the CR-V (25/31/27 mpg), CX-5 (24/30/26 mpg) and Rogue (25/32/28 mpg). Unlike the Forester, which has standard all-wheel drive, those other models also offer front-wheel drive, which boosts the Honda's combined rating by 2 mpg and the Mazda's by 3 mpg. (The FWD Rogue's city and highway figures are both 1 mpg higher, but its combined rating is unchanged.)

In addition, there are two other powertrains available in the Forester: A version with the same four-cylinder engine and a six-speed manual transmission that's rated 22/29/25 mpg, and one with a 250-horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that gets 23/28/25 mpg.

Interior
The Forester's standout attribute on the inside is its phenomenally good visibility. This is an SUV, so you ride higher than you would in a car, but the great view is also due to the fact that there's a lot of glass. The main windows are large, and there are also small, sail-shaped windows by the side mirrors that help visibility. The rear window was so large, in fact, that I was startled at first by how much I could see.  It's head-and-shoulders better in this regard than any competitor.

The Forester is also roomy. I'm 6-foot, 2-inches tall, and I wasn't cramped for space either in the front or in the backseat. There's one piece of trim by the driver's right knee that I think could use some padding; when I brushed up against it, it didn't feel great. The seats weren't my favorites, either, as they offered little thigh support and are designed such that I felt I was perched on top of the seat rather than being supported by it. A bit of side bolstering or more seat contour would be welcome.

Still, couple the Forester's excellent visibility with the panoramic moonroof we had in our test car (it's standard on all but the base, 2.5i model), and it's hard to feel claustrophobic in this SUV.

The rest of the Forester's interior isn't a clear-cut winner. The materials aren't bad, but they're more functional than stylish. In this area, the Rogue is the segment's clear winner. The CR-V ranks next and the CX-5 and Forester trail. A little more padding and less-plasticky trim would go a long way toward bringing the Forester up with the best in the market.

Ergonomics & Electronics
The Forester does well in this area, with everything you need within easy reach when it comes to adjusting things such as the climate control system.

Where the Forester struggles is in its setup for adjusting a few of the power controls and electronics. For starters, the USB ports in the center storage console are hard to access: I felt like it was anatomically impossible to bend my wrist in the manner needed to connect my phone's cord to the port.

Also, the touch-screen was too sensitive and would frequently jump to something other than what I wanted because I'd accidentally brushed it. The Forester is the only car I've been in over the past year where that's happened.

Cargo & Storage
The Forester's cargo area is quite large behind the backseat, and it expands to a very good size with the seat down. If there's a nit to pick with the cargo area, it's that the rear wheel wells intrude upon it, so carrying very wide things, such as a television, could prove problematic. On the whole, though, it handled everything I threw at it — a bicycle, groceries, Christmas shopping and gym gear — very well.

Up front, there's a nice, deep center console that — USB port location aside — offers good space for larger cellphones, gloves and sunglasses.

Safety
The Subaru Forester is an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Top Safety Pick Plus, meaning it scored the highest rating of good (out of a possible good, acceptable, marginal or poor) in all five of the agency's crash tests, and that it earned an additional superior rating thanks to its optional forward collision prevention equipment.

The Forester is in good company; six other models in IIHS' Small SUVs category share Top Safety Pick Plus status, including the CR-V and CX-5. The Rogue trails with a collision-prevention rating of basic. Three other direct competitors have a score of poor in the front small-overlap test.

In addition to the required front airbags, antilock brakes and electronic stability system, our test car came with Subaru's optional EyeSight system that includes pre-collision automatic braking, adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning. Browse the Forester's safety features here.

Value in Its Class
The beauty of today's compact SUV market is its variety. Some models are fairly fun to drive (CX-5), some offer a pretty interior (Rogue), and others offer a comfortable ride with a blend of nice features (CR-V). When we tested them head-to-head, their scores reflected their varying strengths and weaknesses. In the case of the Forester, those weaknesses include an interior that's more functional than fun (or nice), overboosted steering, mushy brakes and a choppy ride.

The Forester succeeds as a small SUV that offers standard all-wheel drive, a good cargo area and a roomy interior with fantastic visibility. It also ranks as the most utilitarian of its competitors, and that's not a bad thing when discussing SUVs. Not every car needs to be as nice and pretty as your living room, especially if you're the outdoorsy sort, live a little off the beaten path or just like to haul messy things around, such as pets. Nor does an SUV need to scorch the slalom course if all you're after is the ability to get where you're going in inclement weather.

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Latest 2016 Forester Stories

What Drivers Are Saying

Exterior Styling
(4.4)
Performance
(4.5)
Interior Design
(4.3)
Comfort
(4.5)
Reliability
(4.7)
Value For The Money
(4.6)

Latest Reviews

(5.0)

LOVE LOVE LOVE

by nicole5 from New Jersey on May 4, 2018

My Forester is everything I could ever dream of! I can't stop staring at it it's reliable, fast, safe and something that is going to last me for a very long time and grow with my family. I couldn't ... Read full review

(5.0)

An excellent car for the elderly

by g from Dayton, MD on April 30, 2018

I like it very much. Easy to enter and exit. Excellent cargo capacity. I am pleased with the good performance in all weathers. Cruise control wit Eye-sight is TOP. Read full review

Safety & Recalls

Recalls

The 2016 Subaru Forester currently has 1 recall

IIHS Crash and Rollover Test Ratings

Based on 2016 Subaru Forester 2.5i

IIHS rates vehicles good, acceptable, marginal, or poor.

Child Seat Anchors (Latch)

Ease of Use
marginal

Front

Chest
good
Head/Neck
good
Hip/thigh
good
Lower leg/foot
good
Overall evaluation
good
Retraints and dummy kinematics
good
Structure and safety cage
good

Head Restraints and Seats

Dynamic Rating
good
Overall Rear
good
Seat Head/Restraint Geometry
good

Moderate overlap front

Chest
good
Head/Neck
good
Left Leg/Foot
good
Overall Front
good
Restraints
good
Right Leg/Foot
good
Structure/safety cage
good

Other

Roof Strength
good

Side

Driver Head Protection
good
Driver Head and Neck
good
Driver Pelvis/Leg
good
Driver Torso
good
Overall Side
good
Rear Passenger Head Protection
good
Rear Passenger Head and Neck
good
Rear Passenger Pelvis/Leg
good
Rear Passenger Torso
good
Structure/safety cage
good

Small Overlap Front - Driver Side

Chest
good
Head/Neck
good
Hip/Thigh
good
Lower Leg/Foot
good
Overall Evaluation
good
Restraints and Dummy Kinematics
good
Structure and Safety Cage
good
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is a nonprofit research and communications organization funded by auto insurers.

Manufacturer Warranty

  • Bumper-to-Bumper

    36 months / 36,000 miles

  • Powertrain

    60 months / 60,000 miles

  • Roadside Assistance

    36 months / 36,000 miles

CPO Program & Warranty

Certified Pre-Owned by Subaru

Program Benefits

24-hour roadside assistance and Carfax vehicle history report

  • Limited Warranty

    7 years / 100,000 miles

    Powertrain: 7 years/100,000 miles from original date of first use. Roadside assistance: 1 year from date of purchase
  • Eligibility

    Under 6 years / 85,000 miles

    Vehicles receive a 152 point inspection and reconditioning.

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Cars.com Car Seat Check

Certified child passenger safety technicians conduct hands-on tests of a car’s Latch system and check the vehicle’s ability to accommodate different types of car seats. The Forester received the following grades on a scale of A-F.*
* This score may not apply to all trims, especially for vehicles with multiple body styles that affect the space and design of the seating.

Warranty FAQs

What is a Bumper-to-Bumper warranty?

Often called a basic warranty or new-vehicle warranty, a bumper-to-bumper policy covers components like air conditioning, audio systems, vehicle sensors, fuel systems and major electrical components. Most policies exclude regular maintenance like fluid top offs and oil changes, but a few brands have separate free-maintenance provisions, and those that do offer them is slowly rising. Bumper-to-bumper warranties typically expire faster than powertrain warranties.

What is a Powertrain warranty?

Don't be misled a 10-year or 100,000-mile powertrain warranty doesn't promise a decade of free repairs for your car. It typically covers just the engine and transmission, along with any other moving parts that lead to the wheels, like the driveshaft and constant velocity joints. Some automakers also bundle seat belts and airbags into their powertrain warranties. With a few exceptions, powertrain warranties don't cover regular maintenance like engine tuneups and tire rotations.

What is included in Roadside Assistance?

Some automakers include roadside assistance with their bumper-to-bumper or powertrain warranties, while others have separate policies. These programs cover anything from flat-tire changes and locksmith services to jump-starts and towing. Few reimburse incidental costs like motel rooms (if you have to wait for repairs).

What other services could be included in a warranty?

Some automakers include free scheduled maintenance for items such as oil changes, air filters and tire rotations. Some include consumables including brake pads and windshield wipers; others do not. They are typically for the first couple of years of ownership of a new car.

What does CPO mean?

A certified pre-owned or CPO car has been inspected to meet minimum quality standards and typically includes some type of warranty. While dealers and third parties certify cars, the gold standard is an automaker-certified vehicle that provides a factory-backed warranty, often extending the original coverage. Vehicles must be in excellent condition and have low miles and wear to be certified, which is why off-lease vehicles feed many CPO programs.

See also the latest CPO incentives by automaker