Epitomizing the utility of a box on wheels, the undeniably practical 2022 Subaru Forester is a compact crossover SUV with more interior room and greater off-roading capability than nearly all of its rivals. It comes only with a four-cylinder engine and standard all-wheel drive system (AWD) and is available in a wide range of trim levels to meet specific budget and use-case requirements.
What’s New for the 2022 Subaru Forester?
The big news for the 2022 Forester is the Wilderness model, which has exclusive design and mechanical changes to make the SUV more capable off-road than ever before. Additionally, changes for the model year include revised front styling, improved utility, a next-generation version of EyeSight driving assistance and collision avoidance technology, and, in top-specification, gesture control for the climate system.
2022 Subaru Forester Price and Configurations
Subaru sells the 2022 Forester in six different trim levels, with prices ranging from the mid $20,000s to the mid $30,000s. Highlights of each Forester model are as follows:
- Subaru Forester — Equipped with standard AWD, the base Forester includes basics such as cloth seats; power windows, door locks, and mirrors; and a 6.5-inch touchscreen infotainment system with smartphone mirroring, satellite radio, and a CD player. The core components of Subaru’s EyeSight safety technology are also standard
- Subaru Forester Premium — To better battle foul winter weather, the Forester Premium provides heated front seats, heated outside mirrors, and a wiper de-icer system. Looks improve with 17-inch alloy wheels, dark-tinted rear privacy glass, and roof rails, while the cabin features upgraded materials, a 10-way power driver’s seat, and a panoramic glass sunroof. This model also has Subaru’s X-Mode traction technology
- Subaru Forester Sport — This version of the Forester has blacked-out exterior trim, 18-inch alloy wheels, orange exterior and interior accents, and an enhanced version of X-Mode. The Sport also includes blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and a new Automatic Emergency Steering system
- Subaru Forester Wilderness — New for 2022, the Forester Wilderness builds on Premium trim features. It has a raised suspension that adds half an inch of ground clearance (9.2 inches), improved approach and departure angles, a skid plate, all-terrain tires, and the Dual X-Mode technology from the Sport trim. Towing capacity doubles to 3,000 pounds, and a full-size spare tire is standard. In addition, Subaru decks out the interior with water-repellant StarTex simulated leather, and the Wilderness includes blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert
- Subaru Forester Limited — Take a Forester Premium, add 18-inch alloy wheels, leather seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, a heated steering wheel, and a power rear liftgate, and you’ve got the Forester Limited. This version also has the safety features from the Forester Sport, plus a larger 8-inch infotainment system touchscreen, a navigation system, and a premium sound system
- Subaru Forester Touring — Touring trim has exclusive wheels and leather, more upscale detailing, an 8-way power front passenger’s seat, heated rear seats, and Subaru’s DriverFocus Distraction Mitigation System
2022 Subaru Forester Review and Test Drive
The Subaru Forester is the automaker’s best-selling vehicle. In production since 1997 and now in its fifth generation, the Forester receives a light refresh for 2022, and, as part of the update, it welcomes the all-new Wilderness trim. Following the Outback, the Forester is the second vehicle in the Subaru lineup to offer a Wilderness variant.
Wearing a Wilderness badge means a Subaru offers additional backcountry capability thanks to higher ground clearance, all-terrain tires, an off-road-tuned suspension, advanced driving modes, and model-specific interior and exterior design details. This is similar to how Jeep positions its Trailhawk trim levels, which also feature higher clearances, updated suspensions, and added off-roading capabilities.
Subaru provided me with a 2022 Forester Wilderness for this review, which I conducted in Detroit. Like all Forester models, it had a standard 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, all-wheel drive (AWD), and a continuously variable transmission (CVT). In addition, the Wilderness, which lands in the middle of the six available Forester trims, features a CVT with eight-speed manual mode control.
There is a single options package available on the Forester Wilderness, which my test vehicle had. The $1,850 upgrade includes a Subaru Starlink 8-inch infotainment and navigation system, a Harmon Kardon premium sound system, and a power liftgate. The test vehicle also had a new-for-2022, all-aluminum engine under guard for $220.
The 2022 Subaru Forester Wilderness model has a base price of $32,820. As tested, my Geyser Blue evaluation vehicle was $36,015, including the $1,125 destination charge.
2022 Subaru Forester Review: The Design
The refreshed 2022 Subaru Forester lineup receives a redesigned front bumper, grille, LED headlights, and rear bumper. Base, Premium, and Wilderness models are outfitted with 17-inch alloy wheels, while Sport, Limited, and Touring trims get an 18-inch wheel-and-tire set. Steel wheels are standard on the base model. The alloy wheels come with either black, gray, or silver finishes depending on the trim level.
Compared to its siblings, the Forester Wilderness looks and feels more purpose-built. For example, its 9.2 inches of ground clearance is half an inch more than any other Forester. Also, Subaru manufactures the Wilderness with an appreciable amount of black cladding. These dark plastic bits are most pronounced in the lower front fascia, covering the Forester’s face like the burly beard many Midwesterners grow during the winter out of necessity (i.e., warmth). Bulky cladding also outlines the wheel arches and lower side panels, while black trim pieces decorate the borders of the windows.
Adding to the tough kid look are matte-black wheels paired with Yokohama Geolander all-terrain tires that feature raised white lettering — a very cool detail. In addition, the five-point “Subaru Wilderness” badge exhibits a mountain road scene in inverted black-and-white with distinctive orange-copper serving as color contrast for the badge outline and lettering. Lastly, “Forester” is tastefully embedded into the cladding of the rear doors in the same copper color.
The Forester Wilderness offers outdoorsy appeal but isn’t arrogant about it. Yes, the overall exterior design showcases a rugged, scratch-me-if-you-can demeanor, but the Forester is still a compact crossover and an approachable one at that. The exterior plastic fits the vehicle’s personality, and the Wilderness treatment translates nicely to the interior.
The cabin features more Wilderness-specific details like water-resistant StarTex simulated leather seat surfaces with the “Subaru Wilderness” badge embossed into the front headrests. Copper accents are used throughout the interior, appearing on the steering wheel, instrument cluster, gear shifter, and drive mode controller. The stitching for the seats, steering wheel, dashboard, and door panels is a matching hue. And just in case you forgot what trim level Forester you were in, small “Subaru Wilderness” tags (yes, in copper) are sewn onto the door panels and front seats.
That sounds excessive, but because copper is just about the only other color used in the all-charcoal cabin, it somehow doesn’t feel like overkill. Additionally, a repetitive hexagonal pattern appears within the dashboard, door, and seat inserts to break up the monotony of smooth surfaces.
Aside from the look and feel, the seats themselves could be more comfortable and need better bolstering, as you’d want proper support when maneuvering off the trail. But ergonomics were good, with quick access via buttons and knobs to regularly used features like climate control, drive modes, seat heaters, and camera angles. And although heated seats are available only in the front, rear passengers have access to two USB-A charging ports, a center console storage bin, and additional storage pockets built into the back of each front seat.
The Subaru Forester’s interior is roomy for all occupants and their cargo, and overall interior volume measures 111.6 cu. ft. When equipped with a panoramic power moonroof, which came standard on my test vehicle, front and rear headroom shrink compared to Foresters without it.
If you have travel plans, there is more than enough space in the cargo area for carry-on, check-in, and camping luggage. With a moonroof and the rear seats up, there is 26.9 cu. ft. (28.9 cu. ft. without a moonroof) of cargo space for gear and groceries. Fold the rear seatbacks down, and those figures increase to 69.1 cu. ft. with the moonroof and 74.2 cu. ft. without it. Both of these figures are more than competitive for the segment.
2022 Subaru Forester Review: The Technology
A 6.5-inch touchscreen infotainment system is standard on base and Premium versions of the 2022 Subaru Forester. It features the Subaru Starlink multimedia system, including Bluetooth, smartphone integration via Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, satellite radio, a single-disc CD player, and more.
A larger 8-inch display with added voice commands is standard, starting with the Sport trim. My test vehicle also had an optional navigation system and upgraded sound with a nine-speaker Harman Kardon system. This option is available for the Wilderness and Limited trim levels and is the standard system on the top-of-the-line Touring.
At first glance, the layout for the Forester’s controls appears balanced and well placed, but in use, they’re not ideal. Some features have too many switches, while others have too few. For example, when using the adaptive cruise control (ACC), Subaru uses two steering-wheel-mounted buttons to manage the following distance, yet there are only three settings. Why are two buttons needed when every other new vehicle I’ve driven makes do with one?
Additionally, I don’t need to see the clock on two different screens. Speaking of screens, why is there an infotainment display plus an additional smaller screen just above it? The topside display acts as an extension of the instrument panel (IP) and shows information relating to fuel economy, music, climate, weather, etc. The font is befitting of the screen size (i.e., small). I’d prefer Subaru display multimedia info on the multimedia touchscreen and vehicle status info within the IP. That is the norm with other new cars, minimizing distracted driving.
Controls become even more cumbersome when features, like the advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), require you to use a set of buttons mounted onto the left side of the steering wheel to adjust settings located in the top screen above the infotainment system. So, instead of looking at the IP directly in front of you or utilizing the larger 8-inch infotainment display with better clarity, you’re forced to squint and use disassociated buttons to coordinate several menus between the IP and topside screen. It’s frustrating enough when the vehicle is parked and really not worth making adjustments when driving.
Standard safety features include Subaru’s fourth-generation EyeSight suite of ADAS. All Forester models feature forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, and lane-keeping assist. Lead vehicle start alert is also standard, notifying the driver that the vehicle in front has moved. New for 2022 is advanced adaptive cruise control (ACC) with lane-centering assist. When activated, this advanced ACC system not only keeps the vehicle within its lane, but it can bring it to a complete stop if necessary.
Base Forester models also have a rearview camera, a rear-seat reminder, and Auto Vehicle Hold (AVH). Activate AVH, and the vehicle will automatically hold a stop, allowing you to release your foot from the brake pedal after bringing the Forester to a halt. To disengage AVH, simply hit the gas pedal. You will need to push the AVH button again to turn off the feature. Otherwise, it will continue to auto-hold the brake every time you come to a stop.
All but the base Forester include a three-year Safety Plus subscription, which provides vehicle diagnostic and maintenance alerts and emergency response features like roadside assistance, automatic collision notification, and SOS assistance. In addition, Starlink Safety Plus and Security Plus subscription packages are available, adding remote locking, vehicle location, and stolen vehicle recovery.
EyeSight add-ons starting with Premium trim include blind-spot monitoring, lane-change assist, rear cross-traffic alert, and automatic emergency steering. These ADAS become standard on Sport and Wilderness trims, while the Forester Limited is further equipped with automatic high-beam headlights. In addition, reverse automatic braking is an option for the Limited and standard on the Touring.
The Forester Touring also includes a DriverFocus Distraction Mitigation System (DMS). This technology uses a facial recognition system to monitor a driver for signs of distraction or fatigue. In the new Forester, the DMS also includes Hand Gesture Set Temperature Adjustment, which allows you to control the climate settings touch-free by using simple gestures instead of swiping through menus or reaching for knobs.
EyeSight’s advanced ACC performed as intended on the highway, adjusting for speed as needed. One oddity was that EyeSight would beep every time a vehicle came into its view. This audible alert is unnecessary because the system monitor displays the vehicle ahead, and, being the driver, I was already mindful of traffic and road conditions in front of me.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gives the 2022 Subaru Forester a five-star crash safety rating, the highest one possible. As this review is written, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has not finalized testing of the 2022 Forester’s updated ADAS or its headlights. However, it ranks high for crashworthiness and occupant protection.
2022 Subaru Forester Review: The Drive
Every 2022 Subaru Forester has a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine producing 182 horsepower and 176 pound-feet of torque. With Wilderness trim, it pairs with a CVT featuring eight ratios that drivers can manually select, AWD, and a Wilderness-tuned X-Mode drive system.
Subaru X-Mode is a companion to the AWD system and helps maintain throttle and transmission response when the driving conditions become less than ideal. The single-mode version includes a Snow/Dirt setting and Hill Descent Control that can restrict vehicle speed when descending hills at up to 12 mph.
Sport trim has a dual-function version of X-Mode, which adds a Deep Snow/Mud setting. In addition, Wilderness models add a 180-degree front-view camera and a trim-specific dual-function X-Mode that offers additional drive configurations that are speed-specific, such as a Deep Snow/Mud setting for driving both over and under 25 mph.
The Forester’s performance isn’t thrilling on pavement, and the SUV has an engine note to match. But the Forester isn’t made to go fast. And the Wilderness, in particular, is engineered for exploring. The higher ground clearance is a case in point, which increases the approach, departure, and breakover angles that help the vehicle maneuver over rough patches.
When compared to non-Wilderness trims, the Forester Wilderness has an approach angle of 23.5 degrees (+3.5), a departure angle of 25.4 degrees (+0.8), and a ramp breakover angle of 21.0 degrees (+1.4). The Wilderness also doubles the standard Forester’s 1,500-lb tow rating to 3,000 lbs. There are no Fix-a-Flat air canisters here either, as the Forester Wilderness comes with a full-size spare tire.
Consider this Subaru’s subtle suggestion that we travel over yonder. Unfortunately, Michigan isn’t known for a landscape that includes mountains, unless they’re former landfills now posing as ski “resorts.” But that doesn’t mean there’s a lack of road surfaces.
The week of my loan, the streets were covered in a mix of ice, snow, and salt, and the Forester handled the slippery slush just fine. In fact, it didn’t slip at all. The AWD was always dependable. Coupled with the chunky all-terrain tires, the Forester Wilderness had no issues coming to a complete stop as if it were traveling on dry pavement.
I found that X-Mode set to Normal suited non-blizzard conditions with confidence. I switched to Snow/Dirt when driving across unplowed areas, but it wasn’t necessary even then. And there was never an occasion when Deep Snow/Mud was needed.
Because Subaru engineers the Wilderness model for off-road capability, its suspension is on the stiff side. Although not uncomfortable, this particular Forester hardly qualifies as a grand tourer. But it still scoffed at crumbling roads without delivering a jarring ride, for which I was thankful due to Michigan’s extraordinary number of potholes.
Worth noting is that the Forester provides excellent visibility thanks to its large windshield and windows. However, during testing, the Forester’s washer fluid line froze when the mercury dropped to less than 20 degrees Fahrenheit. In particular, I liked the added small triangular front windows that minimize blind spots around the door-mounted outside mirrors.
Is the 2022 Subaru Forester a Good SUV?
The Subaru Forester Wilderness may come off as bold versus its base and low-luxe lineup siblings, but it looks good doing it. It’s also not a poser. Subaru has a long history of on-track and off-road rally racing motorsports accomplishments, so if the automaker says a vehicle is built for adventure, it probably is.
Where the Subaru Forester fails to impress is the in-car technology user experience. The engineering receives few complaints, but everyday usability of the controls and displays is lacking. Having multiple screens but limiting redundancies to clunky, multi-function buttons makes for a frustrating driving experience.
Subaru Forester Competitors for 2022
The Forester is Subaru’s compact crossover SUV. It battles a long list of rivals, many of which offer a greater sense of style, or a more upscale interior, or better acceleration, or an electrified powertrain option, or a more advanced set of technologies. Sometimes, Forester competitors offer all of these things and more. But few compact SUVs adopt the same simple, single-minded mission to go almost anywhere and do almost anything that the 2022 Forester does.
When it comes to the Forester Wilderness, primary rivals include the Ford Bronco Sport, Jeep Compass Trailhawk, and Toyota RAV4 TRD Off-Road.
Subaru Forester Features
Designed to carry people and cargo to destinations near and far in any kind of weather, the 2022 Subaru Forester defines simplicity, practicality, and utility in a vehicle. Plus, the Forester is safe, durable, efficient, and affordable, all traits that make it one of the better sellers in the compact SUV segment.
2022 Subaru Forester Safety Features
- EyeSight — Standard collection of advanced driving assistance and collision avoidance systems
- Rear-seat Reminder System — Standard feature reminds drivers to check the back seat before leaving the vehicle
- Starlink Safety and Security — Available connected services plan that includes automatic collision notification and SOS emergency assistance*
- Blind Spot Detection — Available feature that warns the driver when another vehicle is in one of the Forester’s blind spots*
- Automatic Emergency Steering — New for 2022, this available feature adds assistance when the driver take sudden evasive action to avoid a collision*
2022 Subaru Forester Technology
- Starlink infotainment system — Standard 6.5-inch or available 8-inch touchscreen
- Smartphone integration — Standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
- Wi-Fi connection — Available feature*
- Navigation system — Available feature*
- DriverFocus Distraction Mitigation System — Available feature that uses facial recognition technology to identify and warn a distracted driver and to recall the preferences of up to five different drivers*
2022 Subaru Forester Specs
- 2.5L four-cylinder engine
- 182 hp
- Continuously variable transmission (CVT)
- All-wheel drive
- EPA fuel economy rating: 29 mpg in combined driving (26 mpg for Wilderness)
2022 Subaru Forester Interior
- 10-way power driver’s seat — Available feature*
- Panoramic glass sunroof — Available feature*
- Water-repellent upholstery — Available feature*
- Dual-zone automatic climate control — Available feature*
- Heated front and rear seats — Available feature*
*Availability is subject to specific trim level selections