2013 Subaru Forester Review and Prices

Last Updated: Jan 1, 2012

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2013 Subaru Forester Buying Advice

The 2013 Subaru Forester is the best compact SUV for you if you want a nicely packaged, driver-friendly crossover with outstanding all-wheel-drive performance on slippery or snowy roads.

The 2013 Subaru Forester is expected to receive a midcycle freshening, an update that typically involves little more than subtle styling revisions and perhaps the addition of a few new features. The 2013 Forester won’t change its basic shape or dimensions and probably won’t get substantial mechanical upgrades until its next full redesign, likely in model-year 2015. The current generation dates to the 2009 model year and rivals some larger SUVs for passenger and cargo space while furnishing wonderfully carlike road manners. And all Forester models come standard with Subaru’s highly capable Symmetrical All-Wheel-Drive (AWD) system.

Should you wait for the 2013 Subaru Forester or buy a 2012 Subaru Forester? Buy a 2012 Forester if you’re more interested in function and in saving a buck than in the latest styling details and feature accoutrements. If that’s your bag, the nominal changes anticipated for the 2013 Forester shouldn’t warrant delaying your purchase, especially since almost-inevitable model-year inflation means you’ll probably pay a higher price for what amounts to a mildly revised vehicle.

2013 Subaru Forester Changes back to top

Styling: The 2013 Subaru Forester should see some modest styling updates, particularly to the front and rear end. New colors, interior detail revisions, and some fresh wheel designs could also be in the cards. Forester’s overall shape and essential dimensions won’t change. This five-passenger wagon will retain its square-cut crossover-SUV look, an unthreatening and unpretentious shape marked by slightly exaggerated wheel arches and a tall roofline angled slightly at the rear.

A prime Forester asset – a roomy inside and a conveniently sized outside – won’t change. The 2013 Subaru Forester should remain about average in size among compact crossover SUVs, with dimensions similar to that of the Honda CR-V and redesigned 2013 Ford Escape. That means it’ll again be capable of fitting in just about any garage with room left for household storage or squeezing into tight urban parallel parking spaces.

The 2013 Subaru Forester’s interior, however, will remain more spacious overall than that of the CR-V or Escape and even have more overall volume than the larger Nissan Rogue. It’ll be sufficiently roomy for four adult passengers, with a fifth able to squeeze in for the ride, though not so comfortably. The tall and largely horizontal roofline affords ample headroom and enables chair-like upright seating with sufficient legroom in both the front and rear. Likewise, cargo room should again be reasonably generous, with about 34 cubic feet behind the 60/40-split rear seat and some 68 cubic feet with the seat folded.

The 2013 Subaru Forester’s interior should get a few minor tweaks, perhaps updated instrumentation and fresh trim or seat fabrics. Expect the dashboard to continue with a winged motif and be nicely finished in good quality materials. For what appears to be nothing more than a tall-built compact station wagon, the 2013 Subaru should retain almost 9 inches of ground clearance, at least a couple inches more than the norm in its competitive set. Yet, it won’t ride high enough to complicate entry/exit. It will, however, continue with a nominally higher seating position than in a passenger car, which, combined with large windows, ensures superior outward visibility.

Expect the 2013 Subaru Forester to again offer multiple trim levels, each adding progressively more features and concurrently higher prices. Subaru will almost certainly continue a dual-tier lineup, with designations keyed to whether the Forester model is equipped with the base 2.5-liter engine or the more powerful turbocharged variant.

Base-engine models should again be identified as 2.5X models, turbo versions as 2.5XT models. Likely to return are the base 2.5X, the popularly equipped 2.5X Premium, and the well appointed 2.5X Limited and 2.5X Touring models. Look also for the reprise of two turbo variants called the 2.5XT Premium and 2.5XT Touring.

Mechanical: The 2013 Subaru Forester shouldn’t see significant changes to its platform or powertrain. The 2.5X-designated models should return with a 2.5-iter four-cylinder engine that should again generate around 170 horsepower with 174 pound-feet of torque. (Torque can be described as the force behind acceleration, horsepower the energy that sustains momentum.)

The 2013 Subaru Forester 2.5XT versions will probably continue with a turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that should again produce 224 horsepower and 226 pound-feet of torque.

As before, these will be “boxer” engines in which the two banks of cylinders are configured in horizontal opposition rather than in vertical alignment as with most other four-cylinder engines. This type of engine design is a Subaru tradition and is favored for its handling-enhancing low center of gravity and compact packaging. Porsche also employs horizontally opposed engines in its sports cars.

A five-speed manual transmission should remain standard with the base 2.5X and 2,5X Premium models, with an automatic transmission optional there and standard elsewhere in the line. Unfortunately, the automatic will probably remain a dated four-speed unit while rivals are quickly adopting five-and six-speed automatics. A modern six-speed automatic would enhance Forester’s performance and likely boost fuel economy, but a change isn’t likely until the crossover’s next full redesign.

Subaru tradition also calls for its Symmetrical All-Wheel-Drive to remain standard on the 2013 Forester. As before, either of two AWD systems will feature, each tailored to a particular powertrain. Foresters equipped with manual transmission likely will come with an AWD system that features a viscous-coupling locking center differential. In normal driving on dry roads it splits power to the front and rear axles on a 50-50 basis, sending additional power to the wheels with the best traction if the system detects wheel slippage.

A more sophisticated AWD system should return on 2013 Foresters equipped with the automatic transmission. This version uses an electronically managed continuously variable transfer clutch to more effectively distribute power front-to-rear based on multiple factors, including acceleration, deceleration, and available traction. Either system is capable of plowing a Forester through deep snow, and combined with that generous ground clearance makes possible moderate off-road activity.

The 2013 Subaru Forester should again feature a four-wheel independent suspension that maintains a reasonably smooth ride with good cornering abilities. The base 2.5X model will likely continue to ride on standard 16-inch wheels and tires but all other 2013 Foresters should come with 17-inch tires on alloy wheels. As is required by federal regulation, Subaru’s stability control system -- called Vehicle Dynamics Control – will remain standard for added security in sudden and severe handling maneuvers. Antilock four-wheel-disc brakes will likewise be included across the line to improve control in emergency stops. On 2013 Foresters equipped with the manual transmission, a feature called Incline Start Assist will return; it helps prevent rolling backward while facing uphill at a stop when the clutch is released.

Features: Expect a few new features as part of the 2013 Subaru Forester’s midcycle update. Subaru needs to keep its compact crossover competitive in a hotly contested market segment.

These could include a lane-departure warning system that signals if the vehicle is inadvertently crossing highway lane-markers. Another high-tech feature that might be offered is blind-spot warning that alerts the driver to the presence of cars and other obstructions to the side and rear that might not be visible in a side-view mirror.

Otherwise, the 2013 Subaru Forester should continue to come decently equipped with standard features such as air conditioning, power locks with keyless entry, power windows, cruise control, tilt steering wheel, and a CD audio system. Available returning features likely will include a rear-view camera for easier and safer parking, heated front seats, high-intensity headlamps, and a power sunroof

Two separate navigation systems probably will again be optional. Most 2013 Forester versions will probably again be available with a removable dashboard-docking system supplied by GPS maker TomTom. Top models should offer more deluxe in-dash navigation hardware that includes voice-activated controls, a Bluetooth mobile phone interface, XM satellite radio, USB iPhone/iPod connectivity and control, and HD radio that can receive CD-quality signals (where available). The deluxe system should again include a “song tagging” feature that saves title and artist information on select songs to a connected iPod or iPhone for later retrieval and/or purchase via the online iTunes music store.

2013 Subaru Forester Prices back to top

Prices for the 2013 Subaru Forester were not available in time for this review but could rise modestly to coincide with the midcycle update. They’ll need to remain competitive with those of other compact crossovers, though, so expect a 2013 Forester base-price range of around $22,000-$31,500. (Estimated base prices in this review include the manufacturer’s destination fee; Subaru’s fee for the 2012 Forester was $775.)

Expect the 2013 Forester 2.5X to start at about $22,000 with the manual transmission and $23,125 with the automatic. Estimated base price for the 2013 Forester 2.5X Premium is $24,750 with manual transmission and $26.000 with automatic.

The 2013 2.5X Limited and Touring models should again come standard with the automatic transmission and will likely start around $28,000 and $29,250, respectively.

Turbo models should see similar increases, with the 2012 Forester 2.5XT Limited starting at an estimated $28,250, with the 2.5XT Touring priced from around $31,500.

While option package content and availability may change for the 2013 Subaru Forester, among standalone features expect the built-in GPS navigation system with backup camera to cost between $1,000 and $1,200 depending on the trim level, with alloy wheels on the base model adding around $400.

2013 Subaru Forester Fuel Economy back to top

EPA fuel-economy estimates for the 2013 Subaru Forester were unavailable in time for this review but with powertrains expected to carry over mileage ratings should remain at or near model-year 2012 figures.

This means the 2013 Forester 2.5X family of models should again be rated 21/27 mpg city/highway and a combined 23 mpg city/highway with either the manual or automatic transmission.

The turbocharged 2013 Forester 2.5XT models will likely be rated at 19/24 mpg city/highway, 21 mpg combined. These figures are about average among AWD compact crossovers with engines of similar horsepower ratings.

Expect Subaru to again recommend regular-octane gas for Forester 2.5X models and more expensive premium-octane for the turbocharged 2.5XT versions.

2013 Subaru Forester Release Date back to top

The 2013 Subaru Forester should go on sale in fall 2012.

What's next for the 2013 Subaru Forester back to top

The original Forester’s U.S. model introduction for the 1998 model year marked the arrival of Subaru’s first genuine crossover SUV. The Outback actually came first, but it was -- and basically remains -- a station wagon version of the Subaru Legacy sedan with nominally higher ground clearance and SUV-like styling cues. The 2013 Forester is at the mid-point of the vehicle’s third design generation, which debuted for model-year 2009. The next full redesign will come no earlier than the 2015 model year.

And at that don’t suppose Subaru will ticker significantly with one of its most popular vehicles. We’d expect the next generation Forester to retain the current model’s basic dimensions but come wrapped in sleeker, more graceful styling. It should remain a five-passenger wagon and continue to offer a reasonably roomy interior with additional comfort and convenience features like heated rear seats and ventilated front seats newly offered.

The next-gen Forester should also see additional connectivity features, including the ability to stream music and other data directly from Internet-enabled smartphones. It may also offer an integrated touchscreen multimedia operating interface similar to Toyota’s Entune or General Motors MyLink systems.

Future Foresters also likely will continue with non-turbo and turbocharged four-cylinder engines though they’ll probably be updated with direct fuel injection and other technologies to help boost fuel economy, especially with stricter federal corporate average fuel economy requirements phasing in by the 2016 model year. To that end, an automatic stop-start function that would automatically depower the engine at idle is a good bet. So is change on the transmission front. An automatic transmission with six (or more) gears would further boost fuel efficiency, though Subaru has begun to incorporate continuously variable transmissions (CVTs) in other model lines and one could find its way into the four-generation Forester. 

A hybrid gas/electric-powered Forester is certainly a future possibility, with a plug-in hybrid that can run for an extended period solely on battery power possibly in the picture down the road.

2013 Subaru Forester Competition back to top

Honda CR-V: Redesigned for model-year 2012 and expected to carry over for 2013, the five-passenger CR-V received modestly sleeker styling, a revised AWD system and tweaks to its 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine to yield slightly better fuel economy. Horsepower should remain at 185, with torque still on the slim side, at just 163 pound-feet. Expect fuel economy of 23/31 mpg city/highway with front-wheel drive, 22/30/25 with AWD. The 2012 CR-V should continue to deliver good handling with a smooth ride and about average acceleration. Its interior remains roomy enough to seat four passengers in comfort with a fifth able to fit in for shorter trips as necessary. Standard tech features include a rearview camera and a Bluetooth hands-free phone interface; the latter allows users to have text messages read aloud through the audio system and stream Pandora Internet radio tunes via compatible smartphones. Estimated 2013 CR-V base-price range is $23,800-$31,200.

Ford Escape: Ford tapped its global design portfolio to bring U.S. buyers the impressive Focus compact and Fiesta subcompact cars and will use that Focus platform for the first all-new Escape in more than a decade. The 2013 Escape is aggressively styled, will boast European-bred driving manners and feature three four-cylinder engines. Two will use Ford’s EcoBoost technology that employs both turbocharging and direct fuel injection. The top EcoBoost four is projected at 237 horsepower and 250 pound-feet of torque and all 2013 Escapes will have a six-speed automatic transmission and offer AWD with torque vectoring. Ford pledges class-topping fuel economy and a wide selection of cutting-edge connectivity options.

Toyota RAV4: Also due a major revamp for model-year 2013, this popular Toyota will retain its slight size advantage over Forester and the others in this group but should get far sleeker styling. The 2013 RAV4 could in fact continue to offer a tiny third-row seat. However, Toyota probably won’t continue availability of the V-6 engine that made this compact-crossover a junior hot rod. An all-four-cylinder lineup will likely expand to include a gas-electric hybrid version. And Toyota is also developing a pure-electric RAV4 model with a 100-mile range on a single plug-in charge.

2013 Subaru Forester Next Steps