Review: Subaru Forester (2013 – 2019)

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Well-equipped as standard. Impressive roadholding even in poor weather. Spacious interior.

Cabin has some low-budget details. Pricier than some better-finished rivals.

Subaru Forester (2013 – 2019): At A Glance

The Subaru Forester isn’t likely to appeal to many buyers. It lacks the plush, luxurious feel of rivals from European manufacturers like Audi or Volkswagen - but for rural drivers who need a sturdy, reliable car that works well on and off the road it’s a decent choice.

All-wheel drive is standard and it’s effective, providing great confidence both in adverse weather and on muddy tracks or fields. There are three engine choices – an auto-only 241PS 2.0-litre petrol, a 150PS 2.0-litre petrol and a 2.0-litre diesel.

Alongside the manual gearbox, there's also an impressive automatic available. Called Lineartronic, it is quieter than most CVTs under hard acceleration, but is just as smooth and relaxing at low speeds around town. It’s probably the best fit for the Forester, since the manual variants aren’t quite as relaxing or as easy to drive smoothly, especially when pulling away from a standing start.

The Forester has a good braked trailer rating of between 1800-2000kg depending on the variant, which is enough to tow a medium sized caravan or a small horsebox – but it’s capability is down significantly on something like a SsangYong Rexton, which can tow a braked trailer of up to 3500kg.

Practicality is good. The back row of seats is spacious enough for adults, while the raised driving position gives a good view above overgrown verges and hedgerows. The boot is big enough for typical family needs – its capacity of 505 litres is plenty for shopping trips, pushchairs and suitcases, which will all fit without any trouble.

The cabin is sturdily built but it lacks the flair and plush, luxurious feeling of a Volkswagen Tiguan or Audi Q3 – but it comes with all the essentials as standard. Air conditioning, cruise control, auto lights, auto wipers, a touchscreen, a reversing camera, heated seats and Bluetooth come with all versions. Upper trims gain luxuries like leather and a power tailgate.

The Forester lacks the flair and style of many of its rivals – but with genuine off-road capability and a reassuring five-year, 100,000-mile warranty it will make sense to rural buyers. It's not cheap with list prices starting at around £25k and so for many, something like a Volkswagen Tiguan will make more sense – it’s more refined, more comfortable and more luxurious. 

Looking for a Subaru Forester (2013 - 2019)?
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What does a Subaru Forester (2013 – 2019) cost?

List Price from £35,995
Buy new from £34,265

Subaru Forester (2013 – 2019): What's It Like Inside?

Length 4595 mm
Width 1795 mm
Height 1735 mm
Wheelbase 2640 mm

Full specifications

The cabin of the Subaru Forester, while perfectly practical, lacks the flair and luxurious feel of some similarly-priced cars like the Volkswagen Tiguan. It’s solidly made and uses sturdy materials, but the switches and minor controls feel like they would better fit a budget car and they’re not the only issue with the cabin.

Atop the dashboard is a screen that displays the current or average economy, plus there is another display in the instrument binnacle showing eco information, a clock and some other details - and there is yet another screen for audio and navigation. It all looks cluttered and confusing.

The rear seats offer ample head and leg room while the 505-litre boot is big enough for typical family jobs like shopping trips, holidays or carrying pushchairs – though the load deck is quite high off the ground. Folding the rear seats frees up a total of 1593 litres of boot space, but the seat backs don’t fold completely flat, which can make sliding big, heavy items in quite difficult.

Up front, despite its flaws, the Forester is a very comfortable car. There is plenty of adjustment in the seat and visibility is good, plus there are creature comforts like air conditioning as standard. There are three 12V sockets, so everyone can keep their gadgets charged and there are decent door pockets and storage areas.

A touchscreen system is standard and comes with USB/Bluetooth connectivity for streaming music or making calls, plus there is a standard reversing camera and even heated seats. Higher trim levels gain navigation, a power tailgate and leather upholstery.

The trim structure is slightly confusing, with different equipment levels for different engines. XE and XE Premium are reserved for the 150PS petrol, while XC and XC Premium trim levels are reserved for diesel variants. The XT trim level is only available with the most powerful 241PS petrol engine and CVT automatic transmission.

Standard equipment

XE and XC models come with 17-inch alloy wheels, auto wipers, auto lights, heated door mirrors, dual-zone air conditioning, electric windows, heated power adjustable seats, cruise control, Starlink touchscreen system Bluetooth, USB connectors, reversing camera, roof rails and a roof spoiler.

XE Premium and XC Premium gain navigation and leather upholstery.

XT gains 241PS petrol engine with Lineartronic transmission, sports styling along with 18-inch alloy wheels.

Child seats that fit a Subaru Forester (2013 – 2019)

Our unique Car Seat Chooser shows you which child car seats will fit this car and which seat positions that they will fit, so that you don't have to check every car seat manufacturer's website for compatibility.

Which car seat will suit you?

What's the Subaru Forester (2013 – 2019) like to drive?

Subaru makes a big deal of its Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system, which is standard on all Foresters. Not only does it provide some extra peace of mind in poor weather conditions, but it also works very well off-road, making the Forester a smart buy for drivers based in very remote, rural areas.

There are three engine choices – a 2.0-litre petrol with either 150PS or 241PS or and a 2.0-litre diesel with 147PS. The 241PS petrol is restricted to the high-performance XT model and only comes with a Lineartronic CVT, so is a very niche choice that some Subaru aficionados will appreciate, but that most are best off avoiding.

The entry-level 150PS petrol is a is a decent engine that comes with a manual as standard or with an optional CVT. It produces enough torque to keep up with traffic, plus it isn’t too bad when it comes to fuel economy and emissions when you consider its all-wheel drive capability – but the diesel is better.

It isn’t the quietest diesel engine in the world but with 350Nm of torque it’s responsive on the move, pulling well out of bends and making light work of overtaking. Official economy for the auto is 46.3mpg, while the manual is officially capable of 49.6mpg – and Subaru models tend to do well in Real MPG, so those numbers are realistic.

All of the engine variants are four-cylinder boxers – a Subaru trademark. The advantage of a boxer layout is its low centre of gravity, which helps improve handling through bends. It’s effective, giving the Forester very impressive levels of grip and excellent body control through corners despite its tall SUV body.

The ride quality is quite good, tackling potholes, speed bumps and uneven road surfaces without much drama – but refinement could be better. The diesel engine can be quite coarse when pushed and on the motorway the large mirrors create some wind noise. It’s not terrible but could certainly be better.

Capable though it is, it isn’t the most enjoyable car to drive – the steering isn’t very nicely weighted and lacks feel, while the manual transmission is quite clunky. The impressively smooth CVT improves things, though – and is easy to recommend, since it suits the Forester so well.

Unlike other CVTs, the Subaru Lineartronic has pre-programmed steps, so when accelerating hard it acts like a traditional torque converter auto. The rest of the time it behaves like a typical CVT. So when driving at normal town speeds or cruising the motorway it’s very quiet and relaxed, plus its effect on fuel economy isn’t huge. 

Engine MPG 0-62 CO2
2.0 D Automatic 46–50 mpg 9.9 s 158 g/km
2.0D 50 mpg 10.2 s 150–156 g/km
2.0i 41 mpg 10.6 s 160 g/km
2.0i Lineartronic 33–44 mpg 7.5–11.8 s 150–197 g/km

Real MPG average for a Subaru Forester (2013 – 2019)

Real MPG was created following thousands of readers telling us that their cars could not match the official figures.

Real MPG gives real world data from drivers like you to show how much fuel a vehicle really uses.

Average performance


Real MPG

28–56 mpg

MPGs submitted


Diesel or petrol? If you're unsure whether to go for a petrol or diesel (or even an electric model if it's available), then you need our Petrol or Diesel? calculator. It does the maths on petrols, diesels and electric cars to show which is best suited to you.

What have we been asked about the Subaru Forester (2013 – 2019)?

Every day we're asked hundreds of questions from car buyers and owners through Ask Honest John. Our team of experts, including the nation's favourite motoring agony uncle - Honest John himself - answer queries and conudrums ranging from what car to buy to how to care for it as an owner. If you could do with a spot of friendly advice before buying you're next car, get in touch and we'll do what we can to help.

Ask HJ

My windscreen has a waxy resin left on it after using a car wash - how to I clean it off?

My Subaru Forester has been hand washed in a commercial car wash that has left a film of wax/resin on the screen. I've tried several means of cleaning, including vinegar and Mentholated spirit - but to no avail. It's severely obscures my vision in bright sunlight. How do I clean it?
Mer windscreen cleaner that goes on as a liquid but dries to a mildly abrasive powder.
Answered by Honest John
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