Subaru Forester 2009-2013 review

Overall rating:4 Star Rating: Recommended
September 24, 2017
2013 Subaru Forester
2013 Subaru Forester. Click for larger photo.

The Forester is a strong competitor in the compact SUV segment. It comes standard with Subaru's trademark symmetrical all-wheel drive and a 4-cylinder 2.5L horizontally opposed "Boxer" engine. Thanks to its upright shape, the Forester offers excellent visibility all-around and comfortable seating position. Tight turning circle (34.4 ft) makes the Forester easy to navigate in tight city corners. We have test drove the 2013 Forester and researched reliability, common problems, read owner reviews and checked Subaru technical service bulletins. Is Subaru Forester a good choice on the used car market? Let's find out.

2013 Subaru Forester Interior
Subaru Forester interior. Click for larger photo
2013 Subaru Forester cargo area
Rear cargo space . Click for larger photo

Interior: The first thing you notice inside the Forester is how great is the visibility. It's a concept lost on most modern SUVs. The up-right seating position, tall windows and large side mirrors offer excellent view of the road situation around. Overall, the interior is simple and practical. Rear seats fold almost flat, offering 68.3 cu. ft. of cargo capacity (in models without moonroof).

Handling and ride Thanks to its flat "boxer" engine, the Forester offers lower center of gravity than most compact SUVs. This results in better stability in turns and comfortable ride. Tight turning radius is another plus. To make a U-turn, the Forester needs just 34.4 feet. Both 2011 Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 need more than 37 feet.

How good is the Forester in snow? We didn't have a chance to test drive this Forester in winter, but we did tested the previous 2008 Forester in a foot-deep snow. The car handled it easy. Given that the 2009-2013 Forester is not much different, we expect it to be as competent is winter. Here is a great Youtube video showing how the Forester can handle the snow. The ground clearance is listed at 8.7 inches for 2.5X models and 8.9 inches for the 2.5XT (turbo) model.

Timing belt or Timing chain? The 2009 and 2010 Forester comes with the old-style EJ253 non-turbo SOHC engine. It has a timing belt that needs to be replaced every 105,000 miles. For 2011 model, the non-turbo engine has been replaced with the newer FB25B 2.5L DOHC engine that has a timing chain instead of a belt. The 2009-2013 Forester with a turbocharged EJ255 DOHC engine has a timing belt that also needs to be replaced at 105,000 miles.

EPA Fuel Economy: MPG
city/hwy
L/100 km
city/hwy
2011-13 Forester 2.5L-turbo auto (premium) 19/23 12.4/10.2
2009-10 Forester 2.5L-turbo auto (premium) 19/24 12.4/9.8
2009-10 Forester 2.5L non-turbo auto 20/26 11.8/9.0
2009-10 Forester 2.5L non-turbo manual 20/27 11.8/8.7
2011-13 Forester 2.5L non-turbo auto 21/26 11.2/9.0
2011-13 Forester 2.5L non-turbo manual 21/27 11.2/8.7

Fuel Economy: The 2013 2.5L non-turbo automatic Forester is rated at 21/26 mpg, which translates to 422 miles (679 km) to a tank with mostly highway driving. A turbocharged engine is thirsty and requires premium gasoline.

Towing capacity: For the 2012 Subaru Forester, the towing capacity is listed at "up to 2,400 lb. (200-lb. tongue weight)" on a trailer equipped with trailer brakes. You can find the more detailed information in your owner's manual under section 8 "Driving Tips".

Safety: The NHTSA awarded the 2009 and 2010 Forester with five stars out of five for frontal and side crash protection and 4 stars for rollover resistance. Starting from 2011, the NHTSA introduced more rigorous testing. In the new tests, the 2011 early-release Forester got four stars overall rating, however side crash protection received only three stars. The 2011 later-release, 2012 and 2013 Forester got 4 stars overall, with four stars for frontal, side-crash protection and rollover resistance.

RELATED: Subaru Outback 2010-2014 review: reliability, common problems, maintenance and more.

Cons: Engine and other problems in some model years (see the next page), rattles, audio system and interior materials could be better.

Pros: Visibility, cargo space, ground clearance, capable all-wheel drive system, handling in bad weather, low center of gravity, decent towing capacity, ride quality, tight turning radius.

Read about common problems, what to look for in a used Subaru Forester, alternatives on the used car market and maintenance tips on the next page.