Skip to main content

2016 Subaru Forester

Change year or car

$29,195

starting MSRP

Key specs

Base trim shown

SUV

Body style

25

Combined MPG

5

Seating capacity

180.9” x 68.2”

Dimensions

All-wheel drive

Drivetrain

Overview

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

6 trims

Starting msrp listed lowest to highest price

Wondering which trim is right for you?

Our 2016 Subaru Forester trim comparison will help you decide.

See also: Find the best SUVs for 2024

Notable features

  • 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 review: Our expert's take

By 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 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.

Send Bill an email  

Consumer reviews

Rating breakdown (out of 5):
  • Comfort 4.5
  • Interior 4.4
  • Performance 4.6
  • Value 4.6
  • Exterior 4.5
  • Reliability 4.6
Write a review

Most recent consumer reviews

4.0

service departments

The car is great, my 3rd forester and each one is an improvement, but for repairs you need to go to a dealership and there lies the problem. With an emphasis on lies.

Rating breakdown (out of 5):
  • Comfort 4.0
  • Interior 4.0
  • Performance 4.0
  • Value 4.0
  • Exterior 4.0
  • Reliability 4.0
  • Purchased a New car
  • Used for Transporting family
  • Does not recommend this car
18 people out of 22 found this review helpful. Did you?
Yes No
1.0

Waste of money.

Rides rough. Visibility to rear and sides poor. Constant repairs, expensive. Currently 2 months without it. It's sitting at the dealership waiting on a steering rack. Rear brakes replaced twice. This car less than 60k miles.

Rating breakdown (out of 5):
  • Comfort 2.0
  • Interior 2.0
  • Performance 3.0
  • Value 3.0
  • Exterior 3.0
  • Reliability 1.0
  • Purchased a New car
  • Used for Transporting family
  • Does not recommend this car
16 people out of 20 found this review helpful. Did you?
Yes No
3.0

Better choices out there.

I had the top of the line touring model. Engine still burns oil. Not able to go 5,000 miles between oil changes without oil light on dash coming on. Worse car for heat in the winter, very very very weak, and I changed the coolant and thermostat at the dealership and it still did not help. The AC is weak too on very warm days, hot days just open your windows instead. Front collision detection system, will brake car automatically but not good when you have someone close behind you. The front eyesite monitoring system does not work at all in acclimate weather.

Rating breakdown (out of 5):
  • Comfort 3.0
  • Interior 3.0
  • Performance 3.0
  • Value 3.0
  • Exterior 3.0
  • Reliability 3.0
  • Purchased a New car
  • Used for Commuting
  • Does not recommend this car
11 people out of 13 found this review helpful. Did you?
Yes No
See all 158 consumer reviews

Safety

Based on the 2016 Subaru Forester base trim.
Combined side rating front seat
5
Combined side rating rear seat
5
Frontal barrier crash rating driver
5
Frontal barrier crash rating passenger
4
Overall frontal barrier crash rating
4
Overall rating
5
Overall side crash rating
5
Risk of rollover
16.9%
Rollover rating
4
Side barrier rating
5
Side barrier rating driver
5
Side barrier rating passenger rear seat
5
Side pole rating driver front seat
5

Warranty

New car and Certified Pre-Owned programs by Subaru
New car program benefits
Bumper-to-bumper
36 months/36,000 miles
Corrosion
60 months/unlimited distance
Powertrain
60 months/60,000 miles
Roadside assistance
36 months/36,000 miles
Certified Pre-Owned program benefits
Maximum age/mileage
5 years/80,000 miles
Basic warranty terms
Coverage available for purchase
Powertrain
7 years/100,000
Dealer certification required
152-point inspection
Roadside assistance
Yes
View all cpo program details

Have questions about warranties or CPO programs?

Compare the competitors

Latest 2016 Forester stories

subaru forester 2018 exterior front three quarter oem jpg
ford escape titanium 2020 02 blue  exterior  profile  rural jpg
See all 2016 Subaru Forester articles