Best & Worst Subaru Forester Years

The Subaru Forester has garnered a loyal following for its rugged versatility, spacious interior, and top-notch safety features. With over two decades of production under its belt, the Forester has seen several iterations, each with its own unique attributes and drawbacks.

We will delve into the Best & Worst Subaru Forester Years, examining their performance, reliability, and overall value to help prospective buyers make an informed decision.

Subaru Forester Generations

The first generation of the Subaru Forester, introduced in 1997, marked a significant shift in the SUV market. Its compact size and impressive off-road capabilities quickly gained a loyal following among outdoor enthusiasts.

The second generation, released in 2003, significantly improved the Forester’s interior space and overall comfort. This version also incorporated enhanced safety features, making it an even more attractive option for families.

The third generation of the Subaru Forester unveiled in 2009, showcased a sleeker exterior design and increased fuel efficiency. It also embraced advanced technology with options such as a rearview camera and navigation system.

The fourth generation continued this trend with updated styling and improved handling dynamics. Each iteration of the Subaru Forester has built upon its predecessor’s strengths while adapting to evolving consumer preferences.

The 5th generation Subaru Forester SK offers an impressive combination of ruggedness and modern comfort. With its sleek design and updated features, the SK model brings a new level of elegance to the Forester lineup.

1st generation (SF)1998-2002
2nd generation (SG)2003-2008
3rd generation (SH)2009-2013
4th generation (SJ)2014-2018
5th generation (SK)2019-Present

Subaru Forester: Best, Neutral, and Worst Years

When determining the best year for the Subaru Forester, it’s essential to consider not just one particular model year but each generation.

The best year for the Subaru Forester depends on individual preferences and needs, whether prioritizing specific technological advances or seeking superior driving dynamics.

Each generation offers its own strengths and innovations, making different model years stand out in their own ways.

We evaluate numerous elements to guarantee that our rankings accurately represent the forester’s performance, safety, and owner satisfaction. Our evaluations heavily depend on the following:

  • Reliability information provided by owners
  • Yearly maintenance expenses
  • Safety evaluations
  • Reliability assessments from Consumer Reports
  • Owner contentment ratings from Consumer Reports
  • NHTSA recalls and inquiries
  • Edmunds’ owner evaluations
  • J.D. Power’s owner evaluations
  • Kelley Blue Book (KBB) owner evaluations
  • VehicleHistory’s owner evaluations
  • owner evaluations
GenerationBest YearsNeutral YearsWorst Years
1st generation (SF)2000
2nd generation (SG)2003
3rd generation (SH)2011
4th generation (SJ)2016
5th generation (SK)2021

Best & Worst Years for Subaru Forester 1st Generation (1998–2002)

Best & Worst Subaru Forester Years

The 1998 Subaru Forester debuted as a versatile and nimble SUV that quickly gained a reputation for its off-road capabilities and practicality.

This inaugural model year showcased Subaru’s commitment to blending agility with comfort, making it a standout choice for adventurous drivers. 

The addition of standard side airbags also enhanced safety standards. Despite these advancements, concerns about engine performance and potential transmission problems surfaced in some consumer reviews.

Best Years For Subaru Forester: 2000, 2001, 2002

The late 1990s and early 2000s marked a significant leap in Subaru Forester history, with the 1st Generation models setting the stage for what enthusiasts consider the best years for Subaru Froster: 2000, 2001, and 2002.

These vehicles’ base 2.5-litre SOHC engine offered a winning combination of power and reliability that has stood the test of time.

These years are often revered for their exceptional balance between performance and fuel efficiency, making them sought-after options for daily commutes and off-road adventures.

Whether it’s the rugged design, all-wheel drive prowess, or spacious interior, these model years remain timeless classics that capture the essence of what made Subaru a beloved brand among outdoor enthusiasts.

Subaru Forester Years To Avoid: 1998, 1999

The late 1990s and early 2000s were tumultuous times for Subaru of America Inc. as they grappled with recurring issues in their 2.5L DOHC engines, specifically in the 1998 and 1999 1st generation models. 

This dark period saw a series of recalls and customer dissatisfaction, tarnishing the brand’s reputation as an industry leader in reliability and performance.

The engine problems resulted in decreased power, rough idling, and oil leakage, leaving many owners frustrated with the lacklustre experience of their once-beloved Subarus.

Subaru of America Inc. demonstrated resilience by addressing the issues head-on through a series of technical service bulletins and updates to rectify the shortcomings of the afflicted engines. 

Best & Worst Subaru Forester Years: 2nd Generation (2003–2008)

Best & Worst Subaru Forester Years

The second generation of the Subaru Forester, produced from 2003 to 2008, has had its share of hits and misses. Among the standout years in this range is 2004, with its improved suspension and handling, making it a favourite among off-road enthusiasts. 

The turbocharged XT model introduced in 2004 also garnered attention for its impressive power and performance.

2006 stands out as one of the least favourite years for the Forester due to reported transmission issues and concerns about overall reliability.

Best Subaru Forester Years: 2003, 2004, 2005

The Best Subaru Forrester Years 2003, 2004, and 2005 marked an unprecedented era for enthusiasts. The models featuring a powerful 2.5-litre SOHC EJ253 engine raised driving dynamics and reached new heights.

The combination of robust performance and reliable engineering made these years stand out as some of the best for Subaru Forester aficionados.

It was in 2004 that the game changed with the introduction of the Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system. This groundbreaking feature not only enhanced traction and stability but also redefined the driving experience for Forester owners. 

The marriage between power, efficiency, and innovation during this period solidified these years as a golden age for Subura Forester’s evolution.

These model years paved the way for a new standard of excellence in the automotive industry, setting a benchmark that resonates with fans today. The dynamic fusion of power and technology makes the 2003-2008 X and XS models legendary within the Subaru community.

Neutral Years: 2007, 2008

Subaru Frontier models were lauded for their reliability and rugged performance. Amidst the praise, a safety concern emerged regarding the front lower control arms in the 2007 and 2008 models. 

This recall raised eyebrows among Subaru enthusiasts and owners, prompting discussions around safety standards and manufacturer accountability.

While these recalls can cause trepidation among potential buyers or existing owners, it is crucial to acknowledge that every vehicle manufacturer faces similar issues at some point. 

Subaru’s response to this issue shows its commitment to ensuring customer safety and satisfaction. It also highlights the importance of staying informed about any reoccurring faults or recalls within specific model years.

Subaru Forester Year To Avoid: 2006

In 2006, Subaru Forester owners faced many issues that significantly impacted their vehicle’s performance. The most prevalent problems reported were related to engine durability, with many experiencing premature wear and tear, leading to costly repairs and replacements. 

Electrical system malfunctions were common during this time, causing headaches for drivers who struggled with recurring dashboard light indicators and faulty wiring.

Transmission issues plagued numerous Subaru Foresters from the 2006 model year, resulting in unpredictable gear shifts and potential safety hazards on the road. 

These setbacks compromised the driving experience and tainted the reputation of what could have been one of the best years for Subaru Forester enthusiasts. 

Best & Worst Years for Subaru Forester 3rd Generation (2009-2013)

Best & Worst Subaru Forester Years

The 3rd generation Subaru Forester, spanning from 2009 to 2013, offered a solid blend of performance, reliability, and practicality.

Among these years, the 2011 model stands out as the best year for Subaru Forester due to its enhanced fuel efficiency and improved handling. 

Its sleek design and advanced safety features make it an attractive choice for families or outdoor enthusiasts.

The 2010 model is often considered one of the Subaru Forester Year To Avoid for the 3rd generation Forester due to reported issues with excessive oil consumption and head gasket leaks. 

Despite its spacious interior and smooth ride, these mechanical concerns have caused some buyers to proceed cautiously considering this particular year.

The Best Years For Subaru Forester: 2011, 2012

In 2011 and 2012, the Subaru Forester saw significant advancements by introducing turbocharged trim levels and a state-of-the-art Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system, setting these years apart as some of the best for this versatile SUV. 

The turbocharged models brought an exhilarating driving experience, catering to those seeking a blend of power and agility. This upgrade was well-received by enthusiasts looking for a more spirited driving performance from their Forester.

Implementing the Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system further solidified Forester’s reputation for exceptional handling and stability in various road conditions.

This feature enhanced safety and improved overall driving dynamics, winning over critics with its seamless distribution of power to all four wheels. 

The positive reception of these advancements highlighted Subaru’s commitment to innovation and performance, cementing 2011 and 2012 as pivotal years for the evolution of the Subaru Forester.

Subaru Forester Years To Avoid: 2009, 2010, 2013

2009, 2010, and 2013 were undoubtedly challenging times for many. The global financial crisis peaked during this period, leaving countless individuals and businesses struggling to stay afloat. 

There were glimmers of hope and resilience that emerged. In the automotive industry, for instance, the Subaru Forester experienced significant growth and popularity during these tumultuous years. 

With the overall downturn in car sales, the Forester managed to capture the hearts of consumers with its blend of practicality, reliability, and adventurous spirit.

These years represented a turning point for both individuals and businesses alike. From a personal perspective, many people underwent transformative experiences during this time, whether it was discovering newfound strengths to navigate through adversity or reevaluating priorities in life.

Best & Worst Years for Subaru Forester 4th Generation (2014-2018)

Best & Worst Subaru Forester Years

The best year for the Subaru Forester in the 4th generation is 2015. It introduced improved fuel efficiency, enhanced safety features, and a refined interior, setting a new standard for compact SUVs.

With its smooth handling and impressive off-road capabilities, it satisfied both adventurous drivers and urban commuters alike.

The 2017 model year faced criticism for its lacklustre acceleration and outdated infotainment system. Despite offering reliability and spaciousness, it struggled to keep up with competitors in terms of advanced technology and driving dynamics. This made it one of the more challenging years for Subaru’s Forester enthusiasts.

While each year of the 4th generation Subaru Forester had unique strengths and weaknesses, the 2015 model truly shone due to its well-rounded performance and modernized features.

Best Years For Subaru Forester: 2016, 2018

In 2016, the Subaru Forester made significant strides in its model offerings, including the 2.5i base Premium, Limited, and top-line Touring versions. These additions opened a world of options for forester enthusiasts, catering to various preferences and needs. 

The integration of Eyesight Driver Assist Technology and X-Mode set these models apart, giving drivers an unparalleled sense of safety and control on the road.

Fast forward to 2018 and Subaru continued to raise the bar with their Forester lineup. This year’s enhancements saw an even more refined driving experience, cementing its status as one of the best years for the Subaru Forester. 

With advanced features such as Eyesight Driver Assist Technology and X-Mode carried over from previous years but further optimized, it’s no wonder that the 2018 models left a lasting impression on critics and consumers alike.

Subaru Forester Years To Avoid: 2014, 2015, and 2017

2014, 2015, and 2017 were undoubtedly challenging years for Subaru due to the persistent issues with their Occupant Detection System (ODS) and airbag systems.

The erratic behaviour of these safety features in certain vehicles posed a serious concern for the company and the drivers.

The struggles faced by Subaru during these years underscore the complexity and importance of vehicular safety systems.

This period served as an essential learning curve for the company, prompting them to reevaluate their quality control and customer satisfaction approaches.

Subaru’s commitment to rectifying these safety concerns is a testament to their dedication to providing reliable and secure vehicles.

Best & Worst Years for Subaru Forester 5th Generation (2019-present)

The 5th generation Subaru Forester, introduced in 2019, has undergone notable changes and improvements since its debut. 

The model year for the Forester is 2021, which introduced additional safety features like adaptive cruise control and lane centring assist as standard across all trim levels.

This made the 2021 Forester a top choice for buyers prioritizing safety and modern driver-assist technologies.

While each year of the 5th generation Subaru Forester offers distinct advantages and drawbacks, thorough research into specific model years can help potential buyers make well-informed decisions based on their preferences and priorities.

The Best Subaru Forester Years: 2021, 2022, 2023

In recent years, Subaru’s engineering prowess has taken centre stage with the introduction of the Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive and robust 2.5-litre flat-four engine, making models like the Forester stand out in their class.

The engineering behind Subaru’s Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system ensures superior stability, traction, and balance for a confident driving experience in various terrains and weather conditions. 

This technological innovation has positioned the 2021, 2022, and 2023 model years as some of the best years for Subaru Forester enthusiasts who value exceptional handling and performance.

This model, years apart, is the Starlink Multimedia System, which provides seamless connectivity and entertainment options on the go.

This advanced infotainment system offers a user-friendly interface, smartphone integration, and access to various apps for an enhanced driving experience. 

EyeSight technology further elevates safety standards by incorporating features such as adaptive cruise control and pre-collision braking into these impressive vehicles.

The Neutral Years: 2020

The release of the 2020 model showcased a commitment to innovation and adaptability, with technological advancements and sleek design updates that resonated with both existing fans and prospective customers.

The Subaru Forester continued to solidify its status as one of the best SUVs in its class. The 2020 Forester exemplified Subaru’s dedication to safety and practicality, boasting impressive fuel efficiency and driver-assist features.

As the automotive landscape evolved post-2020, these qualities remained at the forefront of Subaru’s offerings, positioning subsequent years’ models as formidable contenders in a competitive market.

Subaru Forester Years To Avoid: 2019

In 2019, many Subaru Forester owners experienced the frustrating issue of cracked windshields and malfunctioning thermostat control valves (TCV). This perfect storm of automotive woes disillusioned drivers with their once-beloved vehicles. 

The constant expense of replacing windshields and dealing with TCV problems turned joyous road trips into stressful endeavours, tarnishing the reputation of an otherwise reliable vehicle.

Subaru Forester owners can recognize that newer models have implemented design improvements to mitigate these issues.

With advancements such as improved windshield materials and re-engineered thermostat control valves, the troubles of 2019 are becoming a distant memory for current Forester drivers.

Subaru Forester Average Resale Values

Regarding Subaru Forester’s average resale values, certain model years are noteworthy. According to recent data, the 2017 and 2018 Subaru Forester models have been observed to hold their value exceptionally well over time.

Drivers seeking an investment in a vehicle with strong resale potential may find these years of particular interest. Subaru Forester’s best years for resale value can be linked to its desirable features and overall reliability.

The market tends to favour vehicles with advanced safety technology, efficient fuel economy, and solid performance—all prominent qualities in the 2017 and 2018 models. 

These specific model years consistently display higher-than-average residual values than other SUVs in their class. 


The Subaru Forester has proven to be a reliable and versatile vehicle over the years. The Subaru Forester’s best and worst years include the 2014–2018 models, which offer a winning combination of performance, safety, and technology.

These years are known for their superior handling, spacious interior, and advanced safety features, making them an ideal choice for families and outdoor enthusiasts.

With their reputation for longevity and durability, these model years continue to hold value in the used car market.


What is the fuel economy of the best year Subaru Forester?

The Subaru Forester has a fuel economy of around 24 to 29 mpg.

Are there any years with notable performance upgrades?

Drivers have enjoyed the enhanced performance of the 2016 Subaru Forester due to its upgraded engine options.