2025 Subaru Forester First Drive Review: It’s Nice Now

The new Subaru Forester is a huge leap forward.

byKyle Hyatt|
Kyle Hyatt
Kyle Hyatt.


There was a time—and this wasn't that long ago—that buying a Subaru meant making some sacrifices. In exchange for your symmetrical all-wheel-drive system, practicality, safety, and a friendly dog-loving image, you gave up things like sound deadening, an interior you actually wanted to spend time in, and reliability (Can somebody say "head gaskets?"). With the 2025 Subaru Forester, it's clear that Subaru is keen to put those days behind us.

In many ways, as is typical with Subaru, the underpinnings of the new Forester are basic and not unlike the rest of its lineup, barring the WRX and the BRZ. You get a 2.5-liter naturally aspirated flat-four engine producing 180 horsepower and 178 lb-ft of torque paired with an unremarkable and unobtrusive continuously variable transmission (CVT) that lets you select between eight "gears" in manual mode. This is hooked up to Subaru's symmetrical all-wheel-drive system to give it the "Go Anywhere" vibe that buyers expect.

Under the Hood

With that drivetrain, you'd expect a pretty uninteresting experience behind the wheel, and you wouldn't be wrong. Still, while the experience isn't thrilling, it's also not a true detriment to the car. It's the kind of drivetrain that I'd want in a Forester: a torquey, uncomplicated mill just humming away under the hood, taking me where I need to go relatively efficiently (Subaru claims 25 mpg in the city, 32 on the highway, and 28 combined). 

Kyle Hyatt

Subaru also made numerous mechanical changes inside the engine, which it claims will make its boxer-four more reliable, which is good given Subaru's past troubles with things like head gaskets and piston ring lands. This engine also feels unstressed, which should also help.

It's Nice Now

Things get a lot more compelling once we get away from the drivetrain. For a long time, Subarus felt, for lack of a better word, cheap. They're still not expensive cars, but the folks from Shibuya City have gone out of their way to increase the Forester's overall refinement by leaps and bounds. This starts with a new-for-2025 chassis design that Subaru claims is three times more rigid. This lets the suspension control the car's movement with less of a flexible body to compensate for, which leads to a more controlled ride.

Kyle Hyatt

Next, the suspension tuning is now excellent. The Forester still rides plenty soft, making it ideal for commuting and families living in areas with poor pavement. Dampers do a fantastic job of smoothing out imperfections without resorting to all kinds of electronic trickery. The Forester's steering is also perfectly fit for purpose. No, it's not wriggling around with feedback, but I wouldn't want it to. Instead, it's nice and light but with enough weight to make the driver feel in control. Interestingly, Subaru adapted the Forester's new steering rack from the WRX sport compact.

The biggest improvements for the 2025 Forester, though, come in the form of extra sound deadening and improved interior materials. Subarus have historically lacked sound deadening, something that may indeed add weight and cost to a car but also makes it not feel like a cheap rattletrap. Seriously, close the doors on a Subaru from 15 years ago and then try the new Forester, and the difference is massive. It actually feels like a quality object now.


Forester's interior also sees considerable changes in design and appointments. The front seats are new, and friends, they're excellent. Subaru figured out how to add considerable bolstering to a non-performance seat while keeping it comfortable, attractive, and easy to get in and out of. Subaru claims its new design adds more back support, reducing driver fatigue, but it's hard to say how true that is after just a few hours with the car.

Touchpoints, like the steering wheel, feel great. My top-tier Touring tester is replete with soft-touch plastics, fascia panels with interesting textures, and perforated leather on the seats with suede on the bolsters. It easily gives the Toyota RAV4 a run for its money and while it's a bit busier-looking than the Honda CR-V's elegant interior, it feels just as high-quality.


As a very tall person at six foot four, I found the Forester incredibly comfortable. Even with the panoramic sunroof, I didn't lack headroom, and legroom in the front is great at 43.3 inches. Rear legroom is pretty good at 39.4 inches, but the Forester isn't a big car, so I'm inclined to let that slide. The rear cargo room is good, too, though not class-leading, at 27.5 cubic feet with seats up and 69.1 cubic feet when the seats are down. These figures trail slightly behind the RAV4 and CR-V, but the delta isn't massive.

Playing It Safe

Safety is a big sales driver for Subaru, and the Forester, with its 17 Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) Top Safety Picks certainly qualifies as a safe car. I was able to (unintentionally) test the 2025 Forester's safety features during a minor unintended off-piste incident on a snowy and icy stretch of Montana mountain gravel road. Leaving the pavement in favor of gravel fire roads through the mountainous areas outside of Missoula, we were told we might encounter some snow and that there could be some hidden roadside ditches. While I was behind the wheel and in Subaru's otherwise excellent X-Mode off-road mode, I hit a patch of ice doing about 30 mph and slid directly into one of those unseen ditches.

Chase Bierenkoven

Partly thanks to the three-odd feet of snow in the ditch and thanks to the Forester, neither myself nor my co-driver were injured. In fact, after a little help from the Subaru team digging out and then pulling out our car, it seemed as though the Forester was uninjured as well, minus a bumper cover that needed to be popped back into its clips. Embarrassing? Sure. But it gives me some insight into why people seem to repeat-buy Subarus in general and the Forester in particular.

In addition to its multiple traction modes—Road, Snow/Mud, and Deep Snow—the Forester has a bevy of active and passive safety features to help keep you and your family out of ditches. Subaru's EyeSight suite of driver assistance features is standard across the range and has features like automatic emergency braking, blind spot warning, adaptive cruise, and more. The Touring trim gets emergency steering assist, reverse automatic braking, and rear cross-traffic alert in addition to the standard features. EyeSight also gets a new third wide-angle camera to help improve functionality.


A New Screen

The Forester also gets an upgraded infotainment system for 2025. The majority of the range gets an 11.6-inch screen oriented in portrait mode. The Touring gets a Harmon Kardon audio system, which is pretty good, though I'd like to A/B test it with the JBL system in the RAV4. Wireless Apple CarPlay is standard as is wireless Android Auto. Both USB-A and C are present, which is a nice touch.

Kyle Hyatt

Less nice is the decision to put climate control in the touchscreen. It's permanently docked at the bottom of the screen so you always know where it is. But still, features that get adjusted frequently should be physical buttons that don't require taking one's eyes off the road.

Pricing & Competition

One of the Forester's historical strengths has been its price relative to the competition, and Subaru is pretty excited that this trend will continue. The base model starts at a reasonable $31,090, including a $1,395 destination fee. The top-tier Touring trim goes for $41,390 and has almost no options available. Comparatively, the CR-V is slightly more expensive at $32,950 for the all-wheel-drive LX. The RAV4 LE with all-wheel drive is also $32,950. Both offer cheaper front-wheel-drive models, but as is the case with most Subarus, the Forester is all-wheel-drive-only.

Kyle Hyatt

The Early Verdict

So, after driving it on the road and off (and accidentally way off), is the 2025 Subaru Forester competitive against heavy hitters from Toyota and Honda? Absolutely. It's a more complete car with fewer compromises than ever in its near-30-year history. It offers all of Subaru's greatest hits—safety, ruggedness, and purposeful styling—while consigning that overall feeling of cheapness to the dustbin of history where it belongs.

Ultimately, the new Forester will be bought by people who already own Foresters, and while the brand plans on healthy levels of conquest sales (that is, sales to people coming from other brands), this vehicle will satisfy both parties with its excellent value proposition and newfound sophistication. If you need a crossover that will laugh at inclement weather but doesn't feel like a massive tank driving around on narrow streets or trails, then the new Forester is a no-brainer.

2025 Subaru Forester Specs
Base Price (Touring as tested)$31,090 ($41,390)
Powertrain2.5-liter flat-four | continuously variable automatic transmission | all-wheel drive
Horsepower180 @ 5,800 rpm
Torque178 lb-ft @ 3,700 rpm
Seating Capacity5
Curb Weight3,510-3,664 pounds
Cargo Volume29.6 cubic feet behind second row | 74.4 cubic feet behind first row (base)
27.5 cubic feet behind second row | 69.1 cubic feet behind first row (others w/ pano roof)
Off-Road Angles19.0° approach | 19.6° breakover | 24.6° departure
EPA Fuel Economy26 mpg city | 33 highway | 29 combined
Quick TakeStill a Subaru but now nicer than ever.
Kyle Hyatt
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