Roseville, Calif.- Like any Subaru vehicle, there’s nothing flashy about the Forester, a compact crossover sport utility vehicle with a boxy exterior that’s very straight forward.
The Forester is a no-frills SUV that embraces Subaru’s practical approach to auto making. People searching for a high-tech interior and more engaging on-road manners should look elsewhere.
The 2016 Subaru Forester possesses two qualities that other competitors can’t match: It can handle some mild off-roading situations and still manages to possess the driving acumen of a car.
That makes the Forester an enviable choice in a class that includes the Mazda CX-5, Toyota RAV4, Ford Escape, Nissan Rogue, Honda CR-V and Hyundai Santa Fe.
What many car buyers really like about any Subaru is it comes standard with full-time all-wheel drive and offers a little extra ground clearance, characteristics that are much more prevalent in larger SUVs. That is a real selling point to someone who’s looking to downsize to a compact, but is concerned about giving up the versatility and rugged quality of a larger SUV.
There are other reasons to consider the five-passenger Forester, which went through a major redesign two years ago and is essentially unchanged for 2016. This year the Forester adds a standard 6.2 inch touch-screen multimedia system.
The Forester redesign included:
* An all-new platform that added 3.7 inches of rear legroom.
* Increased fuel economy that now ranks near the top among small and midsize crossovers, due to updated engines and transmissions.
* An optional 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder with ample performance.
* A more contemporary cabin with higher-quality materials.
Many car buyers applaud the addition of the continuously variable transmission (CVT) that Subaru says is the primary force behind the increased gas mileage. The CVT comes standard on all of Forester’s six trim levels with the exception of the 2.51 model.
The Forester has two engine choices. However, the alternative to the standard engine is the better choice. The optional turbocharged model can really deliver performance and is considered one of the strongest in its class. That’s not surprising since the 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder produces 250 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque.
The turbo engine travels 0-60 mph 6.3 seconds, which is extremely quick for a small SUV. Of course, the sticker price will be higher than the base model while the gas mileage (23-28 mpg) is lower.
The standard Forester engine is a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder that churns out 170 horsepower and 174 pound-feet of torque. It goes 0-60 mph in 9.0 seconds, but gets 28-32 mpg and has a reasonable starting price tag of approximately $22,395.
2016 Subaru Forester
* Performance: 2.5-liter, four-cylinder, 170 horsepower; 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder, 250 horsepower
* Mileage estimate: 24-32 mpg; 23-28 mph
* Estimated price: $22,395 to $33,795
* Warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles; drivetrain: 5 years/60,000 miles; roadside assistance: 3 years/36,00; corrosion: 5 years/unlimited
The Forester provides composed and stable handling, two qualities that aren’t found in every compact SUV. It also offers quite a bit of comfort inside its modernized-looking cabin that features far less hard surfaces than in the past. The trunk space is 34.4 cubic feet and expands to a whopping 74.7 cubic feet when the rear seats come down.
Since the compact SUV class has many good options, it’s best to shop around. The Forester will impress because it offers a standard all-wheel drive, roomy interior, a good cargo area, and excellent turbo-engine.