Subaru Forester improves on its familiar flavor

The redesigned 2019 Subaru Forester, priced from $25,270, is comfortable and useful without striving to be posh or flashy. Photo by Brady Holt

In the compact crossover class, many popular models have boosted their focus on flashy styling, sporty performance, and luxury-grade refinement.

One popular holdout is the Subaru Forester. Compared to the fairly posh Honda CR-V and Mazda CX-5, the Forester looks almost dowdy, despite a complete redesign for the 2019 model year.

But many buyers will appreciate Subaru’s decision to avoid radical changes to the new 2019 Forester. The company hasn’t messed with this crossover’s blend of everyday comfort, exceptional outward visibility, and hardy utility. Even the styling has barely changed, despite thorough changes under the skin. In other words, if you liked last year’s Forester, chances are you’ll also like the new model.

The redesign has also offered enhancements that might help win buyers from the competition. The new 2019 Forester has superior infotainment to the old model, with brighter graphics and standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration. Fuel economy has inched upwards, from 28 mpg to 29 mpg in mixed driving. Last year’s expensive optional safety gear now comes standard. And there’s more passenger and cargo space.

On the road, the Forester delivers a smooth ride that thumps confidently over potholed pavement. There isn’t the hushed, cushy ride of a luxury SUV, but you don’t feel like D.C. streets will break your car.

The 182-horsepower four-cylinder engine is decently powerful, and the accelerator isn’t overly sensitive like in some Subarus, meaning the Forester doesn’t feel jumpy when you’re trying to drive gently. Last year’s 250-horsepower turbocharged engine has been discontinued, however.

The Forester’s cabin uses sturdy-feeling materials without coming across as super-luxurious, even in the fully loaded Touring model. But it is user-friendly, with a well-executed touchscreen infotainment system that is complemented with plenty of simple buttons and knobs.

The 2019 Subaru Forester has up-to-date infotainment and pleasant interior materials, but it doesn’t look like a luxury car. Photo by Brady Holt

The Forester also has an intimate feel from the driver’s seat, which helps you feel like you’re in a smaller car. Some folks might prefer the extra-airy feel of a Honda CR-V, but others will appreciate Subaru’s attempt to make the Forester feel more cozy and, for some drivers, less intimidating.

However, the Forester is spacious. There’s generous legroom and headroom for front and rear passengers. Cargo capacity on most models has increased to 33 cubic feet behind the rear seat and 70 cubic feet with the rear seat folded. The base model, without a space-robbing panoramic sunroof, rivals the class leaders for cargo volume with 35 and 76 cubic feet of space, respectively, though all models should have similar real-world space unless you pack the car to the roof.

Outward visibility remains another standout quality. Rather than focusing on style, the Subaru’s boxy shape and giant windows are all about functionality. It has the biggest windows in its class, so you can easily see in all directions. It’s a breath of fresh air in a world where stylists have been forcing ever-smaller windows on most new cars.

The 2019 Subaru Forester continues to have larger windows and superior visibility compared to other current compact crossovers. Photo by Brady Holt

The Forester also continues to be an excellent value for the money. Pricing starts at $25,270, with standard features that include all-wheel-drive, a forward-collision warning with emergency automatic braking, and a lane-departure warning with automatic steering corrections. Most comparably equipped competitors cost several thousand dollars more, though you can save a couple thousand on those if you’re comfortable with their standard front-wheel-drive.

For a similar price to the Forester, you can get higher levels of luxury and performance: more elaborately finished interiors, livelier acceleration and handling, and more elegant styling. You can also get cars that look newer than the Forester, which visually hasn’t changed much since 2014.

But if those factors aren’t concerns for you, you won’t want to miss the 2019 Subaru Forester.

To see more photos of the tested 2019 Subaru Forester, you can visit