2024 Subaru Forester Review and Test Drive
The 2024 Forester is an old-school Subaru, and that's a good thing.
Good tools are priceless possessions. When you find something simple, capable, and dependable that makes your life easier, it becomes a favorite solution for executing tasks and solving problems. That's what the 2024 Subaru Forester is: an invaluable tool.
There's nothing fancy about a 2024 Subaru Forester, not even when you dress it up in the top trim level. It's basically a box on wheels, a compact crossover SUV packaged to provide as much interior room as possible on a platform offering standard all-wheel drive and more ground clearance than you'll find in most of its rivals. But the Forester's emphasis on function over form endears the Subie to the practical-minded people it attracts.
Trendsetters, thrill seekers, and climbers of social ladders will steer clear of this sensible Subaru, and I'm sure that's fine with Forester fans.
The Forester first went on sale in the U.S. in 1998, and the original version was a part of the first wave of compact crossovers of the era. More than 25 years later, the Forester is much the same, equipped with a purposeful design maximizing interior space, a 2.5-liter horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine, standard all-wheel drive, and excellent outward visibility in all directions. Subaru last refreshed the Forester in 2022 and hasn't redesigned it since 2019, and it enters 2024 with virtually no changes.
After all, you don't fix what isn't broken, especially a good tool.
The 2024 Subaru Forester comes in Base, Premium, Sport, Wilderness, Limited, and Touring trim levels. Base prices range from the high $20,000s to the high $30,000s, including the destination charge to ship the SUV from the Ota City, Japan, factory that builds it to your local dealership.
For this Forester review, I test-drove the Touring trim in Southern California. It had no options, so the manufacturer's suggested retail price was $38,490, including the $1,295 destination charge. Subaru provided the vehicle for this Forester review.
If you're interested in the Subaru Forester Wilderness, check out our review of that model.
2024 Subaru Forester: The Design
Open any of the Forester's doors, which swing wide to grant easy entry and exit, and slide inside the SUV. This Subaru sits at a perfect height, so you don't climb up or plop down to get in. And when you exit, the ease and grace you exhibit more than makes up for the Forester's backpack-on-wheels styling.
My Forester Touring test vehicle had Saddle leather in a subdued caramel-brown color. It offered a stark contrast against the otherwise black interior and lent the entire space an upscale look and feel.
The rest of the cabin did not have a modern, premium vibe. Hard plastic is found throughout, and the controls and displays are busy in a delightfully old-school way. Analog gauges, an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system, and numerous knobs and buttons make the Forester delightfully old fashioned. Again, this is a part of the SUV's charm, and I prefer the Forester's smaller infotainment system and smattering of physical controls to the larger screens and minimalist approach in other Subaru models.
With Touring trim, Subaru equips the Forester with power-adjustable heated front seats, heated rear seats, and a heated steering wheel. So, when winter howls into your region, you'll be ready. In the summertime, however, you'll wish Subaru didn't include a panoramic sunroof as standard equipment on most models because it doesn't protect against solar heating well.
The two front seats are comfortable and supportive, but I do not like the Forester's back seat. It's roomy, but the cushion is too low and flat, and there is too much recline dialed into the default seatback angle. Combined, these traits force a slouched, splayed, uncomfortable seating position. However, your kids or grandkids might find it a natural fit.
Outward visibility is outstanding, easily one of the best things about the Forester. You feel like you have nearly unobstructed 360-degree views out of this SUV. It makes the Forester easy to drive and park. In addition, storage space is plentiful. You'll find numerous nooks and crannies in which you can stash things.
Similarly, the cargo area makes good use of its space. The base trim supplies 28.9 cubic feet of volume behind the back seat and 74.2 cu-ft with the rear seats folded down. All other Foresters provide 26.9 and 69.1 cu-ft due to the panoramic sunroof.
Nevertheless, my Touring test vehicle showed that it could carry four full-size suitcases without a problem. Subaru includes a cargo cover, cargo tie-downs, and hooks for securing plastic grocery bags. There is some hidden storage space under the cargo floor, too.
2024 Subaru Forester: The Technology
Though the Forester's 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system looks dated, it boasts an excellent user interface, including large stereo volume and radio tuning knobs and physical buttons providing quick access to the radio, media, navigation map, and app screens. There is a Home button, too, so if you dig too many layers deep, it's easy to return to the main menu.
The Forester Touring's infotainment system includes standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, SiriusXM satellite radio, and Starlink connected services through which you can access an extra-cost Wi-Fi hotspot. If you have an old CD collection, you can enjoy it in the Forester. My test car also had a navigation system and a Harman Kardon premium audio system that sounded great.
Unfortunately, the voice-recognition system in the Forester fails to meet expectations. It often did not interpret a spoken command accurately. On the rare occasion when it did, it took an excessively long time to respond. I recommend using Apple CarPlay or Android Auto and the navigation and digital assistants accompanying those platforms.
Touring trim adds an exclusive technology called the DriverFocus Distraction Mitigation System. It employs facial-recognition technology and can recall up to five driver profiles. It also continually monitors the driver and warns when they are not paying attention to the road ahead. I've received DriverFocus warnings in the past — not during this evaluation — and the technology is effective.
Subaru also equips the Forester with EyeSight, a collection of advanced driving-assistance systems. Last year, the Forester received the latest version of EyeSight with improved cameras and software, and Subaru added Automatic Emergency Steering to most trim levels. It's an evasive steering-assist system that works at speeds less than 50 mph.
EyeSight includes nearly every driver-assistance feature you expect to find in a modern compact crossover SUV and then some. A highlight of the system is Lead Vehicle Start Alert, which lets you know when vehicles ahead have started to move. In addition, all Foresters have steering-responsive headlights that help to illuminate around corners and curves. However, you'll need Premium trim or higher if you want the blind-spot monitoring system.
Subaru also offers a rear automatic braking system for the Forester. Unfortunately, this feature frequently activated when reversing out of my driveway with my family aboard. I couldn't permanently turn it off because the default setting is on. So each time I left home, I had to wait for the infotainment system to load to use the onscreen Off button or back up very slowly.
Otherwise, the Forester's EyeSight features worked with improved smoothness, refinement, and accuracy. In 2023, I evaluated a Subaru Outback with a similarly upgraded EyeSight system and found the experience dissatisfying. It seems to work better in the Forester.
Safety scores from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) give the 2024 Forester five-star ratings in all assessments, except for rollover resistance, where the Forester earns a four-star rating. The NHTSA has not assessed the Forester Wilderness for frontal-impact or rollover-resistance safety.
As of this writing, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has not rated the 2024 Forester.
2024 Subaru Forester: The Drive
Every 2024 Subaru Forester has a 2.5-liter flat-four, a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), and all-wheel drive. The SUV offers 8.7 inches of ground clearance (9.2 inches with Wilderness trim). Starting with Premium trim, you get an X-Mode off-road traction-control system and hill-descent control.
The towing capacity measures 1,500 pounds, and that figure doubles for the Wilderness model.
While the Forester offers better off-roading capability than most of its rivals, the engine is merely adequate for this SUV and the segment, generating just 182 horsepower and 176 pound-feet of torque. Subaru fortifies the drivetrain with SI-Drive modes, including Intelligent, Sport, and Sport Sharp, but switching between them doesn't make much difference.
The automaker also programs the CVT with seven ratios to make it sound and feel more like a traditional automatic transmission, which helps. Still, the Forester desperately needs a turbocharger or a powerful hybrid or plug-in hybrid powertrain option.
Underway, the signature bleating of the four-cylinder boxer engine makes its way into the cabin, adding a soundtrack to the drive that is unlike what you'll find in other compact crossovers. I like this unique note, as do many Subaru owners, who sometimes add aftermarket exhaust systems to amplify it. Some might complain about it as engine noise.
It's a shame the Forester doesn't offer more satisfying acceleration. Otherwise, this crossover is a delight to drive. Like so many things about the Forester, it rides and handles like an old-school Subaru, thanks to a firm connection to the road. The suspension decisively controls unwanted body motions, and the ride doesn't feel soft and numb like it can in the larger Subaru Outback. The precise and effortless steering, impressive braking feel and response, and agile and athletic handling reward drivers even if they're just running errands around town.
Following a rainstorm, I took the Forester off-roading, where it performed well — until the Touring model's Falken Ziex all-season tires allowed the SUV to slip and slide sideways in the muck. My experience driving the 2022 Forester Wilderness on challenging trails near Bend, Oregon, tells me you'll want that version if you spend lots of time off-road.
Unfortunately, fuel economy missed the mark during this evaluation. According to the EPA, the Forester Touring should get an average 29 mpg. During my test drive, the SUV averaged an indicated 25.9 mpg. So, it is slow and thirsty. That's not a good combination.
Is the 2024 Subaru Forester a Good SUV?
The 2024 Forester is a good choice among compact crossover SUVs. When you live with one daily, it might make life easier. But the rear automatic braking system is irritating, and considering my observed fuel economy during this evaluation, there isn't a payoff for putting up with the Forester's sluggish acceleration and passing power.
Nevertheless, Subaru bakes enough goodness into the Forester to make it worth consideration if outright power isn't essential to you.