Expert Reviews

2025 Subaru Forester First Drive Review

Radical redesign is largely out of character for Subaru, and yet the Forester’s new look is nothing short of a serious departure from its predecessor.

It’s still not exactly earth-shattering as far as styling is concerned – there’s no need to squint to see shades of Ford here – but the latest iteration of this brand’s proverbial box on wheels looks almost nothing like the one that came before it. Or the one before that. Or the one before that.

Driving refinement abounds, too – typical stuff for a new generation of just about any vehicle. And while the 2025 Subaru Forester falls short of shaking up this segment, it remains perhaps the single most underrated crossover like it.

Mirrored Mechanicals

Simply put, the new Forester is very good. But then so was the old one. And while there’s certainly merit to maintaining the status quo, Subaru played it safe here.

Take the powertrain. It’s the same as before.

The days of the turbocharged Forester XT are long dead and gone, and this serves as the latest reminder. Worse still, while Subaru is promising a much-needed hybrid version of this new Forester, it won’t be ready until next summer or thereabouts.

That leaves the 2.5L flat four-cylinder that powered the old Forester as the lone choice, with 180 hp and 178 lb-ft of torque to get this crossover moving and keep it that way. That’s paired with an automatic continuously-variable transmission (CVT) and full-time all-wheel drive, the latter of which is a Subaru staple.

Don’t expect especially urgent acceleration, but this mechanical setup serves its purpose in mostly mild-mannered fashion. Even the cacophony of unflattering sounds that emanated from under the hood of the last one has been largely eliminated, with significantly less engine noise to report.

With its CVT and full-time all-wheel drive, the 2025 Forester is an approachable all-conditions cruiser. While different drive modes exist to optimize performance, this remains a spectacularly surefooted vehicle even without that electronic trickery at work.

Tweaked Chassis

Utilizing the latest evolution of the so-called Subaru Global Platform (SGP) underpinnings, usual upgrades abound here. There’s more structural adhesive than before, as well as new suspension geometry up front.

It also happens to come together seamlessly, with an even-keeled experience that’s hard to match in the segment. In fact, there might not be a better driving crossover like it – not that the Forester is especially sporty (hello, Mazda CX-5), but it balances engagement and smoothness to near perfection.

Travelling south along Vancouver Island’s Pacific Marine Road, where ribbons of asphalt flow towards the ocean, the Forester Sport is quick to impress with its balanced and precise dynamics. It boasts unique dampers that do a lot of heavy lifting in terms of on-road behaviour, with an astonishingly flat feel through a series of tight turns.

The range-topping Premier trim exhibits most of the same characteristics, although there’s just a bit more of the kind of body roll that’s to be expected of a crossover like this. Even so, it’s not especially egregious, while the steering rack that’s been adapted from the WRX sport sedan is nicely balanced for use here.

Same Shape, Different Style

While it’s typical for a vehicle to get bigger from one generation to the next, the 2025 Forester is virtually unchanged from its predecessor. Bigger isn’t always better, though, and this compact crossover remains almost ideally sized inside and out.

Its boxy and upright shape, a staple since the very first Forester launched back in 1997, means there’s all kinds of headroom inside, while outward visibility is as good as ever. Even cargo room, while unchanged in terms of the numbers (779/1,957 L seats up/down), is as generous as it is well used. While a few in the segment offer more outright space, including the sales-leading Toyota RAV4, there isn’t a noticeable shortage here.

Where the sixth-generation model is obviously different from the one before is the way it looks. It benefits from bolder exterior styling, including bulging fenders and flourishes that accentuate its perceived size. It’s as innocuous as ever, and yet it manages to stand out from its forebears.

The interior is much more evolutionary in its execution, although that’s a simple statement of fact instead of a slight against this Subaru. The portrait-oriented 11.6-inch touchscreen used elsewhere in the brand’s lineup has been added to the Forester for the first time – twin seven-inch displays are used in the base trim – while a nice mix of materials, textures, and colours is offered across the lineup.

Pumped Up Pricing

Unsurprisingly, although no less unfortunately, the redesigned Forester arrives with price increases across its lineup. The entry-level Convenience trim comes with more features than before, including alloy wheels and dual-zone automatic climate control, as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connections and an entire advanced safety suite, for $33,495 before freight and tax.

From there, the Touring is a $5,000 step up to $38,495, while the Sport trim and its cool bronze accents rings in at $40,995. The Limited, meanwhile, is $42,995, while the top-of-the-line Premier touches $44,995 before freight and tax but comes with Forester-first features like ventilated front seats and a surround-view camera system.

That’s all good stuff, although it puts the Forester in line with the likes of the gas-powered RAV4 that starts at $33,150 and maxes out at $44,750 before freight and tax. Likewise, the Volkswagen Tiguan is priced from $34,895 to $45,495, while most of the rest of the segment is within the same range.

Final Thoughts

While the 2025 Subaru Forester doesn’t quite move the needle – and that hybrid version can’t come soon enough – it remains a sleeper pick for one of the segment’s best. A bit more boldness is never a bad thing, and that new look is joined by the same spaciousness and impressive drivability as before. While Subaru played it a little on the safe side overall, it could afford to do so with this crossover.

While that hybrid model remains a much-needed addition to the lineup, all the Forester’s finest attributes are back and better than ever.