In recent years, the Subaru Forester has graduated from being a scrappy, utilitarian little tall-roof wagon to something just a little more comfortable and full-featured.
Fortunately, all that’s made this one of the best familyvehicles has stayed intact. With all-wheel-drive security, a versatile, roomy interior, and a more manageable size compared to other crossover vehicles, the 2011 SubaruForester is nearly the perfect vehicle for smaller families and understated, outdoorsy parents—especially those who want a compact vehicle that’s also easy to maneuver and park. On the FamilyCarGuide scale, it’s a 9 out of 10; the only things that kept it from being a perfect 10 were its some not-quite-perfect safety scores, and interior materials that can feel a little bargain-basement.
There’s a lot to like about the Forester’s package in general. Front seats are high and upright, affording a good view out, and there’s a good view around without the need for an array of fancy cameras and sensors. New parents like it as the backseats are also a bit taller than most passenger cars, which makes it a little easier to lean over and belting little ones into place.
The Forester’s forte remains its ability to trudge through deep snow, or even mud (or get to that remote campsite) without complaint—thanks to 8.7 inches of ground clearance—yet handle on curvy roads with the balance and poise of a compact sedan.
For 2011, the base Forester gets a new engine that isn’t really any stronger than the former one but gets slightly better gas mileage. You’ll still see city mileage in the low 20s and around 30 on the highway. Forester XT models get a turbocharged engine that makes 224 horsepower and makes the somewhat frumpy Forester a ‘sleeper’ sportwagon.
The Forester is a longtime high achiever in insurance-funded IIHS crash tests, but it hasn’t done well in the latest federal tests; it only scored three stars for side impact.
Subaru has increased features and equipment in the Forester, with an integrated Bluetooth hands-free interface, Bluetooth audio streaming, iPod controls, and satellite radio now included in all but the base model.