Subaru is most often associated with wagons and rally cars favored by adventure lovers, but the brand actually makes one of the most versatile and capable compact crossover SUVs on the market: the Forester. In fact, Consumer Reports recently compiled a list of the “10 Best SUVs You Can Buy Right Now,” and the 2020 Forester was one of four Subarus named. That’s right, Subaru vehicles comprised 40 percent of the list.
This particular Subie combines tons of cargo space, excellent fuel economy, a long list of standard safety technology, the automaker’s signature all-wheel-drive functionality, and much more in one smartly designed little package.
The 2020 Subaru Forester has just one engine across all trim levels, a 2.5-liter four-cylinder with 182 hp, but it’s plenty capable for nearly any real-world driving situation. Consumer Reports noted the engine was “on the slow side compared to other small SUVs” with its 9.2-second 0-60 mph time, but most commuters aren’t drag racing, so that’s not much of a problem.
While it may not have a lot of “oomph” off the line, the Forester is comfortable to drive and handles exceptionally well. Steering is responsive, and the compact SUV takes corners well, with minimal body lean. No surprise there — Subaru makes rally cars, after all.
Even with Subaru’s full-time Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive, the Forester gets an impressive 26 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway, tying the class favorite Honda CR-V. You can’t really do better than that without getting a hybrid or electric vehicle.
Speaking of all-wheel drive, Foresters come standard with a feature called X-Mode that optimizes the AWD system. When it’s activated, X-Mode improves traction on uneven terrains such as sand or gravel and engages Hill Descent Control to limit downhill speed.
The Forester: surprisingly spacious
Car and Driver said it best when it wrote that the 2020 Subaru Forester is “Good at most everything that matters to crossover buyers.” Topping the list of desirable features for most crossover shoppers is a comfortable, spacious cabin with plenty of room for both passengers and cargo, and the Forester does indeed do that well.
The Forester’s rear seats offer ample leg- and headroom for even tall adults, and they split to fold nearly flat, offering up to 76.1 cubic feet, which is near the top of the segment. To put that into perspective, Consumer Reports said, “There’s even enough space with the rear seat folded down to fit a bicycle with both wheels on.”
It’s safe to say the Forester won’t win any awards for being luxurious, but it more than makes up for that with its practicality and ease of use. In addition to being comfortable for both drivers and passengers, the standard 6.5-inch touchscreen infotainment system is easy to use and includes standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration. A larger 8-inch screen and features like navigation and voice recognition are available, but only on upper-tier Limited and Touring trims.
Subaru completely redesigned the Forester in 2019, so changes are minor for 2020. The tire pressure monitor now displays information for individual tires, and the Premium trim comes standard with heated front seats and exterior mirrors, plus a windshield wiper de-icer.
Safety first with Subaru
Few brands have consistently won as many awards as Subaru, and that’s largely because of the company’s focus on safety. The IIHS named the 2020 Forester a Top Safety Pick+, and the NHTSA awarded it a perfect five-star safety rating.
Subaru’s EyeSight Driver Assist Technology is standard across all Forester trims and includes adaptive cruise control with lane-centering, pre-collision warning with automatic emergency braking, and lane-departure warning with lane-keep assist.
A new rear-seat reminder system alerts you to check the backseat when you turn the vehicle off if either rear door was opened before starting your trip. Rear cross-traffic alert and a blind-spot warning are optional features on upper trims, but not on base models.