Subaru Forester (1998)
The Subaru Forester is an extremely practical car. It competes with theother mini-SUVs on the market: the Toyota RAV4 and the Honda CRV. But it'sa little more carlike than both of those vehicles. It's sort of an unusualvehicle, in that you're never quite sure exactly what it is that you're in.It's not a sedan, yet it's not a sport utility. It handles like a car andit's easy to get in and out of, but it's a little higher than a sedan andit's got better visibility. And there's oodles of room. The Forester isthe modern-day Dodge Colt Vista--and we mean that in a good sense.
The Forester rides well. It impressed us as being not a piece of cheapjunk. (Now, that's not to say there aren't some parts on this car that arecheap junk...we just didn't notice them right away.) The 2.5-liter enginein the Forester is the biggest one Subaru makes, and it's got plenty of power.
On the seating front, you can adjust the height of the driver's seat, whichin Ray's case didn't go quite high enough. On the other hand, it waspretty comfortable on long trips. Ray took the Forester for a spin fromBoston to Cape Cod and back in the same day. In most cars, Ray says, hisbutt and back would have been killing him by the end of the ride. Not sowith the Forester--he loved it.
Our one objection to this car? Noise. It's very noisy, especially at highspeed. We couldn't quite tell if it was drivetrain noise we were hearingor the tires. We suspect the latter, because our test model came with fourNokias that had rather aggressive treads. The level of wind noiseon the Forester, by the way, is not too bad.
We should point out that the Forester is not as nice a vehicle as theOutback. The Forester is built on the smaller, Subaru Impreza platform. If you're choosing betweenthe two--and you don't mind spending a few thousand dollars more--ouradvice would be to go for the Outback.
One minor annoyance with the Forester: the stupid little display betweenthe front seats--a digital compass and an altimeter, which we found to beirritating. Plus, it was always on when the car started. We foundourselves turning it off every time we got in the car. We would havepulled out the fuse, but, knowing our luck, that would have killed theradio, headlights and windshield wipers too. So, our next choice was tosmash it with a hammer.
We would put the Forester toe-to-toe with Honda's comparable vehicle, theCRV, which is about the same price. The Forester has quite a bit more cargo room, slightly less back seat leg room, and is not quite as far off the ground as the Honda. (It's got six-tenths of an inch less ground clearance.) Toyota's RAV4 is also acomparable vehicle, though definitely smaller than either the Honda or theSubaru.
The Forester is a very likable little car. It's fun to drive. It's not agreat car for a lot of interstate cruising, but if you're looking for aversatile, comfortable wagon with the added attraction of four-wheel drive,this is a good choice.
View cars.com model report on this vehicle.