Subarus are staggeringly popular in northern New England. They have a reputation for being rugged, reliable, and, with all wheel drive all the time, are appreciated for their winterability.
The 2009 Forester is more attractive than its predecessor; however, seeing it back-to-back with the CR-V didn’t do it any favors. Quality of the interior seemed more like the Jeeps and less like the Ford or Honda. The cloth seat covering material felt cheaper and more plainly finished hard plastic surfaces were evident throughout. The rear seat incorporates a flip-out cup holder from the middle seating position. Not only does occupying the middle position render the cup holder useless (not such a big deal), the cup holder – in its stowed position, of course – leaves the seat very uncomfortable.
Control placement, switches and gauges were good, as was outward visibility. Performance seemed about on par with the Ford Escape and Honda CR-V though it came with Subaru’s own signature flat-four thump. The doors gave a more tinny sound when closing them from the outside, but sound insulation muted this in the interior.
Overall, the Forester isn’t bad but seems more budget-conscious than some of the other contestants, and the rear seat issue seems likely to be a deal-breaker.
One more to go, the Toyota RAV4.