Used Subaru Forester 4x4 2002 - 2008 review

Category: Large SUV

The Forester's fine drive is let down by its cramped cabin and poor economy

Subaru Forester 4x4 (02 - 08)
  • Subaru Forester 4x4 (02 - 08)
  • Subaru Forester 4x4 (02 - 08)
Used Subaru Forester 4x4 2002 - 2008 review
Star rating

What's the used Subaru Forester 4x4 like?

The Forester is usually compared to 4x4s such as the Toyota RAV4 and Land Rover Freelander, but it's not quite the same sort of car. In fact, the Forester is more of a four-wheel-drive estate than an outright off-roader.

It sits a little lower than a conventional 4x4, for a start, which helps to make it such a good drive. None of the engines are short of performance, and the suspension does a fine job, providing an excellent blend of a smooth ride with enjoyable handling.


The Forester's fine drive is let down by its cramped cabin and poor economy

  • The Forester drives well for a 4x4, with decent handling and a supple ride
  • There's no diesel engine, and the cabin is not as practical as some rivals'

The driving position is good, too, as are all-round visibility and the space up-front. However, it's not quite as good in the back: legroom is a bit tight and it's quite a squeeze to fit three adults across the back seat. The boot is big enough for most families' needs, and the split/fold rear seats are a big help.

Ownership cost

What used Subaru Forester 4x4 will I get for my budget?

How much does it cost to run a Subaru Forester 4x4?

Although many used Foresters are still within the Subaru network, prices are not too high. If you're looking at it as an alternative to a Land Rover Freelander or Toyota RAV4, the Forester is generally the cheaper option.

There's no worry about fuel economy, either, with the original 2.0-litre engine returning better mpg than the equivalent RAV4 or Freelander. And, although the more powerful 2.0-litre unit is more thirsty, it's only by a little.

Of the two high-performance engines, the turbocharged 2.0-litre is the better bet, as it returns almost 29mpg. However, even the 2.5's 26mpg is respectable for such a fast car.

Routine servicing costs are a little higher than a RAV4's, but insurance costs are fair as long as you steer clear of the quick versions. However, unscheduled work is dear: Warranty Direct says that average repair bills on Subarus are among the most expensive of any make's.

Our recommendations

Which used Subaru Forester 4x4 should I buy?

This version of the Forester arrived in the UK in the middle of 2002, was face-lifted three years later, and had a variety of different engines, but our favourite has always been the most basic model, the 2.0 X, which has all the equipment you need.

To begin with, the engine had 123bhp, but an all-new 2.5 156bhp was introduced as part of the 2005 face-lift. That made the car much quicker, but consumed more fuel, so stick to the less powerful original version, which was no slouch.

When the car was launched, the only alternative was the turbocharged 2.0-litre engine that made the Forester as quick as most hot hatches. It was discontinued in 2005, so the only alternative was the 2.5-litre six-cylinder, which made the Forester almost as quick as the Impreza WRX. However, it's expensive to buy and run, and best avoided.


What alternatives should I consider to a used Subaru Forester 4x4?