Subaru Forester: This Model Year Gives You 1 of the Cheapest but Safest Small SUVs

Safety is a huge concern for many drivers, especially when their kids get behind the wheel. Fortunately, young people are safer than ever with Teen Driver and other advanced safety features on cars like the Subaru Forester. Most teens want their own vehicle, but even used cars are expensive in today’s market.

The Subaru Forester is one of the safest and cheapest vehicles for a new driver. It places third on an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety list of safe vehicles for teens. It outranks even successful rivals such as the Honda CR-V and Hyundai Tucson. Here’s why you should consider a 2016 Subaru Forester for your teen.

How safe is the 2016 Subaru Forester?

A blue metallic 2016 Subaru Forester 2.5i travels on a road with a grassy medium dotted with trees
2016 Subaru Forester 2.5i | Subaru of America, Inc.

The 2016 Subaru Forester was named an IIHS Top Safety Pick+, an award for only the safest vehicles. It earned exceptional scores on most IIHS crash tests, with only two exceptions. Both sets of available headlights received poor ratings, and the 2016 model received only a marginal score on the passenger-side small overlap test.

All 2016 Forester trims come standard with cruise control, a backup camera, and all-wheel drive for more stablility. In addition, higher trims with the Subaru Eyesight safety suite have adaptive cruise control, steering-responsive fog lights, and pre-collision braking. 

For the 2017 model year, Subaru added a lane departure warning system and blind-spot monitoring to Eyesight. The 2018 Forester received reverse automatic braking. And the redesigned 2019 Subaru Forester has more standard safety offerings, but only the higher trims get Eyesight.

The IIHS recommends those models too, but the 2016 Forester offers an ideal mix of safety and affordability.

It’s also important to note that the 2016 Forester has had three recalls. More than a million Subaru vehicles had potentially defective brake lights, but not all were Foresters. Over 18,000 units also had an engine stall issue. And more than 300,000 2016 Foresters had faulty front-passenger airbags. So ensure that the previous owner fixed any recalls before you agree to purchase a used model.

Despite those recalls, the 2016 Forester remains one of the safest vehicles in its class.

How much does a 2016 Subaru Forester cost?

The IIHS shows that a used 2016 Subaru Forester costs around $13,500. Two rivals are cheaper, the Nissan Rogue, at around $10,100, and the reportedly safer Mazda CX-5, starting at $9,300. However, the CX-5 doesn’t offer standard AWD, and many base models don’t even include a rearview camera.

Consumer Reports says you’ll pay slightly more for a 2016 Forester, around $15,825. The 2017 and 2018 models cost a little over $20,000. Newer models generally cost more than $24,000.

The 2016 Forester’s other good qualities

For the 2016 model year, the Subaru Forester came with a 170-hp four-cylinder engine or an optional 250-hp turbo. Buyers could pair the four-cylinder engine with a continuously variable transmission or a six-speed manual. But turbo engines came with only the CVT. In fact, the CVT-equipped models get the best fuel economy: 26 mpg overall, according to CR’s testing.

The 2016 Forester is also reasonably quick with the base engine, reaching 60 mph in less than nine seconds. However, CR’s testers thought the ride quality wasn’t as good as in previous model years. They say it always feels jiggly, even on smooth roads. Acceleration produces considerable engine noise, but it’s still relatively quiet during daily driving.

Although the 2016 Subaru Forester isn’t a true off-roader, CR still praises it for its rugged tendencies. The higher trims come with an X-mode traction system and hill assist. Excellent visibility from all angles also makes this small SUV one of the safest vehicles to take on the trail.

But CR’s testers found themselves longing for some extra niceties in the sparsely decorated cabin. Although the standard front seats are large enough, the cushions are too flat to provide long-term support. Testers preferred the rear seats, but they don’t recommend seating three adults on longer trips. And they have no complaints about the optional leather seats.

Despite any qualms about the 2016 Subaru Forester, its pros outweigh its cons. So if you’re shopping for a used small SUV for your teen on a budget, keep this model year in mind.

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