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2009 Subaru Forester - Heels on Wheels Review

2009 SUBARU FORESTER  (select to view enlarged photo)

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By Katrina Ramser
San Francisco Bureau
The Auto Channel

The Forester dropped its nerdy look and adapted an SUV sex appeal that seems to work for both consumers and automotive media alike. The 2009 Forester has the honor of being awarded Motor Trend's 2009 Sport/Utility Car of the Year and also became Consumer Report's top-rated small SUV, beating out competitors like the tougher looking Toyota RAV4 and the sleek, redesigned Honda CR-V.

I drove a 2009 Forester with the 170-horsepower, 2.5-liter 4-cylindar Pzec (Partial Zero Emissions) engine ($451), 4-speed auto transmission with Sport Shift ($1,000) and Subaru's standard symmetrical all-wheel drive. Highlights from the premium package that came standard with my model included a large, power moonroof; roof rails; rear seat retractable cup tray; all-season 17-inch tires; and steering wheel mounted controls. The All-Weather Package ($400) included heated front seats, heated side mirrors and a wiper de-icer. Total vehicle price came to $25,623.

The panoramic moonroof is a definite standout. The only other vehicle I've driven with such a notable feature is the 2009 VW Tiguan (which is more of a crossover with not as much room as the Forester). Another closing sale factor is the fact the Forester is a PZEV, or particle zero emissions vehicle. Yes, is basically means what it says – although this vehicle uses gasoline, it produces extremely clean (or practically zero) evaporative emissions.


Stylish But Comfortable Results: Since the new Forester is highly praised – rightfully so – it's best if I point out those few attributes you might notice are missing. My model didn't have power seating, which I have come to find as a needed ergonomic asset in any car and hopefully soon a new standard; however, not to say the standard Forester seats weren't moderately supportive. The climate controls were very basic and only had four settings (plus a defrost) – it was difficult to maintain the right temperature.

Reliability & Safety Factor: The Forester cares to give females an extra sense of safety with its lighting system. There is a longer-than-most delayed dome light during leaving, and when the unlocking button is pressed on the key fob, a bluish light comes on and casts away any dark shadows under the car. Subaru offers a 3-year/36,000-mile basic; a 5-year/60,000 mile powertrain; and a 5-year/unlimited mileage rust perforation warranties.

Cost Issues: In a nutshell, $25,623 buys you cloth seats, a great moonroof, all-wheel drive and roof rails. Step it up to a limited trim, adding much-missed leather seats, power seating and a turbo engine, and you'll pay around $28,860 – about $2k less than the beefed-up limited-editions of the RAV4 and Hyundai Santa Fe.

Activity & Performance Ability: What a consumer should mostly be concerned about with a small engine like a 177-horsepower 4-cylinder is whether or not it's too loud and whiny – the answer is no. The drive is stable and tight on corners. It should be noted for the active types that if you travel through inclement weather to recreation, the Forester offers 30-feet of cubic space in the cargo area (not including a hidden cargo space under the mat) for all your gear, and a nice tonneau cover to hide items in that back space.

The Green Concern: The EPA's Green Vehicle Guide gives the Forester a 9.5 out of 10 for reducing air pollution and a 6 out of 10 for greenhouse gases. (You have to take into account the EPA estimates everything, from the car's lifetime for using petroleum-base products to what overall burden any oil-driven car brings in our quest for refining or obtaining fuel). Gas estimations are 20-mpg city and 26-mpg highway for an average of 22-mpg driving, conserving a couple gallons over most all-wheel drivetrains.

The small yet capable SUV Forester had strong ratings before the new look and has certainly garnered much kudos for it's 2009 model. What makes the Forester so damn likable is it's all-around modesty for trying to do nothing more than being a reliable car.

Katrina's Car Tips For Women Drivers
2010 and 2009 Model Reviews
2008 Model Reviews

MORE: Subaru Specs, Reviews and Comparisons-Subaru Buyers Guide

2008 Katrina Ramser