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New Forester Sport Review; 5 Things We Liked, 4 We Didn’t

The first year of the fifth-generation Forester introduced for 2019, gets a number of important improvements. It also has a few things we don’t like.


This week we drive the completely redesigned 2019 Subaru Forester in Sport trim. There are five things we liked on the all-new Forester and four things we didn't like.

What’s new for 2019?

The Subaru Forester has been completely redesigned for the 2019 model year and is now in its fifth-generation. It gets the new Subaru Global Platform growing 1.2-inches in its wheelbase giving it improved ride quality, a roomier cabin with 1.4 more inches of rear legroom, and superior safety tech. Forester also comes with a wider tailgate opening, more cargo room, standard EyeSight driver-assist technology and Starlink infotainment package, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. Forester also gets a newly-redesigned 2.5-liter engine with improved fuel mileage.

Standard Features

The 2019 Subaru Forester Sport ($28,795) comes standard with automatic LED headlights, a rearview camera, automatic brake hold, automatic climate control, driver information display, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, push-button start, selectable drive modes, a height-adjustable driver seat and 60/40-split rear seats.

The all-new Forester Sport is basically an appearance package and gets “specially enhanced” standard equipment. Here’s a list of standard features. The new Sport comes with the 182-hp Subaru Boxer engine, Dual-function X-MODE with Hill Descent Control, SI-DRIVE with Sport Sharp mode, and of course, Subaru Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive.

Outside appearance upgrades include 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels with black finish, roof rails with integrated tie-downs, front, rear and side under guards with orange accents, and gloss black and orange exterior accents. Inside it comes standard with dark gray sport fabric with a leather shifter, Orange stitching and trim accents, Sport gauges with color LCD display, Keyless Access with Push-Button Start, STARLINK Multimedia, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto app integration. It also gets 10-way power adjustable driver’s seat, panoramic moonroof, EyeSight driver assist technology and the All-Weather package.

Also standard is the EyeSight bundle of safety systems, composed of adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist and pre-collision warning with automatic braking.

Forester Sport options

This Forester Sport tester came with Blind-Spot Detection with Rear-Cross Traffic Alert, Power rear gate with automatic close and height memory, and Reverse Automatic Braking. It also came with optional Subaru STARLINKTM 8.0-in. Multimedia Plus system that includes 8-inch high-resolution touchscreen; smartphone integration with Apple CarPlayTM, AndroidTM Auto, AhaTM, Pandora and STARLINK cloud apps; Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity and audio streaming; voice-activated controls for phone; Near Field Communication; AM/FM stereo; single-disc CD player; HD Radio, SiriusXM All Access Radio and Travel Link and a Harman Kardon premium audio that includes 576-watt equivalent amp and 9-speaker system. Option package ($2,045) Total MSRP including destination ion: $31,815.

What we don’t like: There is no heated steering wheel in the all-weather package. It’s surprising Subaru doesn’t include this in the package. They keep your seat warm, but your hands freeze.

Interior Highlights

Stepping inside the new Forester cabin reveals an even greater sense of space and openness with interior volume growing. You get 41.2 inches of headroom in front and 39.6 in the rear seats, while legroom is 43.3 inches and 39.4 inches, respectively. The Sport is attractive with its dark gray sport fabric, leather shifter, and orange stitching and trim on the seats, dash, console and steering wheel.

Forester gets a redesigned dashboard, with a new touchscreen infotainment interface and, for the first time in a Forester, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration. The infotainment, climate controls, and steering wheel controls are all to use and understand. The interior design gets more of a refresh than a total makeover.


The Forester's cargo carrying ability and flexibility is one of the small SUVs strong points. It is one of the largest in the segment, with 35.4 cubic feet of space behind the rear seat. This increases to 76.1 cubes with the seats folded nearly flat. The sunroof in the Sport decreases both figures by a few cubic feet. There are numerous bins, trays, and pockets for storage throughout the cabin.

What we liked: We especially liked the optional power rear liftgate with auto close and height memory function. It’s also easier to load cargo in the new Forester because of the wider rear opening (+5.3 inches over the outgoing model).

What we don’t like: There is no courtesy lighting inside. We had to get into the Forester tester in the black of night and had to hunt for the interior dome light above the dash. It took a few minutes to get everything illuminated so we could see.

Engine & Fuel Mileage Specs

Each Forester trim is powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder Boxer engine with direct injection producing 182 horsepower and 176 pound-feet of torque (up from 170 hp and 174 lb-ft in the previous-generation Forester). It comes mated to a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) with a 7-speed manual mode and steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. Forester Sport also comes with a version of the Subaru WRX STI Intelligent Drive (SI-DRIVE) with Intelligent and Sport Sharp modes as upgrades. Drivers will be able to choose from two selectable modes; Intelligent and Sport Sharp.

It also comes with an Auto Start-Stop function, which shuts off the engine when the vehicle is at a standstill and switches it back on as needed to save on fuel but can be a bit annoying in stop-and-go traffic. All Forester models come standard with Subaru’s Symmetrical all-wheel drive and 8.7-inches of ground clearance.

Forester gets a segment-leading EPA estimated 26/33 mpg city/highway, and 29 combined mpg using regular unleaded fuel.

What we like: The new Forester gets improved fuel mileage for consumers, and ties for the best fuel mileage for a small SUV with all-wheel-drive. Forester gets the top spot along with the Honda CR-V w/AWD getting 27/33 city/highway mpg and 29 combined with the 1.5-liter turbo model.

What we don’t like: The 2.0-liter turbocharged engine has been discontinued. It offered 250 horsepower and sportier driving dynamics. We will miss this sporty model. The 6-speed manual gearbox has also been discontinued for 2019.

Driving Dynamics

After we got underway in the Forester Sport we could immediately feel the difference in ride quality and driving dynamics over the previous generation model. The new 2019 Forester feels more composed when going around sharp mountain curves near Evergreen than the previous model, and on the open road, the small SUV soaks up the bumps and is quieter inside.

Power had been improved over the outgoing model and acceleration feels adequate when you're driving around town. We drove up I-70 into the mountains at elevation, and while most reviews lament the lack of power, we think it has enough for most driving situations. If you are loaded with cargo and four adults, it might feel like you need more power.

Forester is comfortable up front for longer trips and won’t leave you feeling tired after a long commute. Rear seat passengers will have to deal with flatter seat cushions and an upright seating position.

What we like: All-around visibility in the new Forester is excellent, thanks to narrow roof pillars and large windows. It has the most open greenhouse feeling of any small SUV. It’s great for commuting in heavy traffic offering exceptional outward views from the driver’s seat.

What we don’t like: Handling isn't as responsive as the previous generation Forester. For driving enthusiasts, the Forester gets a little tamer as Subaru appeals to a wider audience. Most consumers will appreciate the new, more comfortable ride quality. For those wanting a ride higher on the fun-to-drive meter, you will have to opt for the Subaru WRX. Although if you opt for Forester Sport it comes with a version of the Subaru WRX STI Intelligent Drive (SI-DRIVE) with Intelligent and Sport Sharp modes as upgrades. We were able to dial up Sport Sharp mode which improved driving dynamics.

Two-Mode X Mode

What we like: Adventure enthusiasts will want to opt for the Sport trim. The new fifth-generation Subaru Forester Sport gets a two-mode X-Mode system that features separate settings for snow and dirt as well as deep snow and mud, and the unique SI-Drive Sport system for improved throttle response. The system should offer even more off-road capability to go virtually anywhere necessary. Forester also comes with a minimum ground clearance of 8.7 inches, along with the widest possible approach and departure angles and ramp break-over angle for extreme off-road use. The new 2019 Forester offers increased ground clearance for a wider range of off-road activities than ever before.

Forester Safety

Subaru’s Forester has the distinction of being the longest-running Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) Top Safety Pick (TSP) winner in the small SUV class for 12 consecutive years (2007-2018), and the Japanese automaker is looking to extend that streak with the all-new 2019 Forester. When equipped with EyeSight, (standard for 2019), the 2018 Subaru Forester earned the 2018 TOP SAFETY PICK award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)

Look for the new 2019 Subaru Forester to get even better scores once it’s tested by the IIHS later this year. According to the Repairer Driven News, Subaru built 56 percent of the next-generation 2019 Forester body out of high-strength steels which integrates the latest version of the Subaru ring-shaped reinforcement frame design.

What we like: The Forester now comes with standard EySight driver assist safety system. This will help consumers avoid many accidents caused by distraction. EyeSight has been proven to reduce accidents.

The ITARDA investigation in Japan found Subaru vehicles equipped with the EyeSight safety system, had an 80 percent decrease in rear-end collisions between vehicles and 50 percent fewer pedestrian accidents. There was a 60 percent decrease overall in all driver accidents. This study was conducted with EyeSight-equipped Subaru vehicles from 2010 to 2014 in Japan in over 10,000 surveyed accidents.


The 2019 Subaru Forester Sport trim could be the best value proposition among all the models. It comes standard with the All-Weather package, which is a must for those living in cold-weather climates and comes with additional drive modes and a two-mode X-Mode system that enhance the Forester's off-road capabilities. It is also the least expensive trim available with a blind-spot monitor. Forester is a good choice and is more fuel-efficient than most of its front-drive competitors.

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Photo credit: Subaru USA, Torque News


Mr. White (not verified)    November 4, 2018 - 10:43PM

Open differentials front and rear. Why? I'd gladly trade all the nanny naggers for a pair of Torsens. (Hey Subaru, the car wouldn't need a backup camera if it was as small and had as good a visibility as the original '99 Forester.)

Zach H (not verified)    November 4, 2018 - 11:51PM

There is interior lighting, it just has to be set to auto come on when the doors are open. That saves you from the hunt. Every dome light in the vehicle, (there are 3) has its own switch it auto illuminate when approaching the vehicle (proximity key models), or when the door is opened, standard key models.

Ed B (not verified)    November 5, 2018 - 10:12AM

Good summary of the new Forester overall. I'm a Subie fan and owner (2017 XT) and Subaru just really dropped the ball for enthusiasts. The 'sport" monikar on the 2019 version is really a joke. Subaru missed an opportunity in my opinon. When the XT was out, there were very few CUVs that riveled its' power, utility and safety. Now, they've fallen back into the pack with this mainstream offering. Oh well, it is what it is - but they really missed an opporunity to be the market leader for performance CUVs.

Henry (not verified)    November 7, 2018 - 4:28PM

"Rear seat passengers will have to deal with flatter seat cushions and an upright seating position."
I've watched video showing that the rear seatbacks recline. Is this feature not present in the Sport trim?

Ayal Zingher (not verified)    January 20, 2021 - 3:10PM

In the basic and premium models, without power on the rear gate, it is a pain to open in cold weather. This is a design flaw. It does not stay up when half open and you need to grab the bottom to fully open it. I complained to the dealer. We went to the shop and checked other cars.