Adventure comes first. Subaru has built the reputation of its brand – and the Forester in particular – on rugged looks and all-weather capability. The 2020 Subaru Forester is no exception. It gets a few minor exterior tweaks, but the boxy silhouette and exposed cladding make it instantly recognizable.
Subaru’s vaunted all-wheel-drive system comes standard, which will appeal to snow-state buyers. But other parties shouldn’t be discouraged by the Forester’s image. The upright profile makes for excellent visibility, and the vehicle's manners are as good on the road as they are off of it.
Space for more. The Forester is classified as a compact crossover, but it makes good use of its space. The cabin is capacious and airy, with more than 40 inches of legroom for rear passengers. That’s good for the class, and it compares favorably against competitors like the Toyota RAV4.
Naturally, the Forester has plenty of room for gear in the back. Behind the rear seats is 35.4 cubic feet. That’s not quite as much as the Honda CR-V’s 37.6, but it’s enough for most uses. Capacity expands to an excellent 76.1 cubic feet with the seats folded.
Complementing all this space is a comfortable and composed ride. The Forester’s tall shape means it leans in the corners, but it’s well suited for everything but corner carving.
The interior is more about function than fashion, but materials are high-quality and durable. Upper trims can have warm brown leather upholstery, but the Forester never forgets its utilitarian roots.
More features, same value. For 2020, the Forester gets an improved lane keeping assist system that better keeps the car centered. This feature joins a comprehensive suite of standard safety tech and universally good crash test scores.
Base Foresters also come with standard features like automatic climate control, 17-inch wheels, and infotainment compatibility with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. That's excellent for a crossover starting at just over $25,000.
Our favorite trim, the Forester Premium, adds heated seats for 2020. For crossover shoppers looking for the most bang for their buck, it should be on the short list.
Efficiency with capability. Thanks in part to a continuously variable transmission (CVT), the Forester manages an EPA-estimated 29 miles per gallon combined even with its standard all-wheel drive. That’s good for a gas-powered vehicle and great for a crossover – only hybrids from Toyota and Honda can manage better efficiency.
The 2.5-liter engine creates 182 horsepower, which we’d categorize as “enough.” The Forester isn't a fast car, but it has the right amount of oomph for everyday duty. Away from the pavement, the Forester will climb just about anything you’re brave enough to tackle, assisted by 8.7 inches of ground clearance.
The CVT doesn’t sound or feel particularly good, but it’s a minor quibble, and the gain in efficiency is worth the trade.
Final thoughts. The 2020 Subaru Forester is the right vehicle at the right time. It’s a compact crossover happy in a variety of environments, with the features buyers want at a price they’ll appreciate.
Subarus once carried the reputation of hiking boots – functional enough but awkward away from the mountains. With the Forester, the brand continues to demonstrate that it can build vehicles for everyone.