The Subaru Forester has become a popular choice for anyone who wants a safe, comfortable compact SUV. It’s been well-respected for decades, even winning Car and Driver awards in the early 2000s. But not every model year has been awesome. In fact, one was especially bad, with a terrible owner satisfaction score, a worse reliability rating, and an absurd number of recalls.
Recent Subaru Forester models are quite reliable
Car and Driver‘s review of the 2021 Subaru Forester is positive. It earns an excellent 8/10 rating and is praised as “nailing it on the practicality and image fronts.” The publication ranks it 10th among similar crossovers, such as the Honda CR-V and Mazda CX-5. But the Subaru Forester starts at a lower price point, which makes up for its lower ranking. It makes 182 hp and can tow 1,500 pounds; it also has a spacious interior. Though its acceleration is a bit slow, it’s an excellent daily driver.
Where the 2021 Subaru Forester really excels, however, is safety. It boasts a 5-star rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety also recommends it. The lane-departure warning, emergency braking, and cruise control help take stress off the driver. And the distraction mitigation system is an excellent advanced feature that helps keeps drivers focused on the road.
But the 2009 Subaru Forester disappoints
Knowing that recent Subaru Forester model years are safe choices, you might assume earlier models are also excellent. But that’s far from the case with the 2009 Forester. First off, Consumer Reports gives it a low owner satisfaction score of only 2/5. Owners reported the transmission and acceleration were slow. They also described the engine noise as distractingly loud. And they knocked the seats, which became uncomfortable on long drives.
The 2009 Forester’s reliability is also awful. The engine is a particular trouble spot, as are the drive system, electrical system, exhaust, and many other areas. The only parts on this model that rank higher than the previous year are the trim and power equipment.
But the worst was yet to come for this model year.
The 2009 model has seen 17 recalls
Any recall is a big deal, but the 2009 Subaru Forester has seen more than a dozen. Faulty airbags can fling sharp metal fragments at the driver. Sometimes, the engine unexpectedly turns off. There’s a significant risk of fire due to an error with the electrical system, the brake fluid is prone to leaking (meaning the vehicle can struggle to stop on time), and oil can leak from the engine. And some problems with the 2009 Forester require urgent attention from the owner: Incorrect installation of child seats can lead to the seat belts injuring small children, and the roof racks can fall off while the vehicle is in motion.
So it’s good to hear that Subaru has fixed these significant safety issues on new models. You don’t want to have to worry about fires, brake failures, or the engine abruptly turning off while you’re driving. The 2021 Forester’s high safety ratings show the automaker learned from the 2009 model’s problems.