Subaru Forester
(2002 - 2008)

  • Excellent value for money
  • Decent off-road ability
  • Great practicality in a compact package
  • Mechanically reliable
  • Low levels of safety compared to rivals
  • Susceptible to mechanical issues
  • Not all that fuel efficient
  • Turbo models may be badly modified

Based on the second-generation Impreza platform and featuring multiple fine-tune improvements over the previous generation, the second-generation Forester offers something practical, capable and reliable, while also being affordable, fun and enjoyable to drive.

Produced from 2002 to 2008 and substantially updated in 2005, the Forester was available in primarily three different trim levels in Australia with the fire-breathing STi variant becoming recently available thanks to changes to Australia’s vehicle import laws.

However, Subarus of this generation can be guilty of certain mechanical unreliability, excessive oil and fuel use and a recommendation to purchase requires some homework first.

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What goes wrong
  • Oil cooler gasket leaks on XT and STi variants
  • Oil filter and cam seals can leak oil
  • Check for all oil leaks, if they seem major, do not buy that Forester
  • Wheels bearings known to wear at as early as 60,000kms
  • Rear suspension components (especially self levelling) can wear heavily. Check for excessive rear-end squat
  • Check for worn anti-roll bar bushes, drop links, wheel bearings and CV joint boots
  • Timing belt needs replacing at every 100,000kms (this is a critical change)
  • Along with the timing belt, the water pump, thermostat, the platinum and iridium plugs, belt tensioner and all the idler pulleys for the belt should also be replaced
  • Foresters fitted with 2.5-litre EJ series of engines are more likely to suffer a head gasket failure than their 2.0-litre counterparts. (Contrary to popular belief, the turbocharged DOHC 2.5-litre EJ255 and EJ25 power units are less prone to a head gasket failure than the SOHC 2.5-litre EJ253)
  • Automatic transmissions at 200,000kms can have catastrophic failures
  • If the turbocharger in one of the XT or STi variants fail, it can send fine metallic particles all throughout the intake system and in some cases take the entire engine with it. Failure is generally caused by a bearing in the turbo. (Check for distinctive blue/grey smoke, the engine burning lots of oil, slow acceleration or if the boost pressure comes on late
Model range, pricing and features

X (2002 - 2008)

  • Price when new: $31,490 - $35,990
  • Price used: $2,000 - $15,000

The base model Forester comes with minimal frills and equipment but offers a solid base to tackle both the actual and urban jungle.

The X was available in various limited and special editions such as the Luxury, Columbia, Weekender, Sports and Special Edition all featuring different levels of aesthetic additions.

Standard features:

  • 16-inch steel wheels
  • Dual front airbags
  • Anti-lock ABS braking
  • 5-star ANCAP safety rating (from 2005, 4-Star 2002 – 2005)
  • EBD (Electronic Brakeforce Distribution)
  • Seat belt pre-tensioners
  • Air conditioning
  • Cruise control
  • Remote central locking
  • Power mirrors and windows
  • Adjustable steering wheel
  • Roof racks
  • Radio cassette player with four speakers
  • Limited slip differential
  • Painted body mouldings (Columbia and Luxury)

XS (2002 - 2008)

  • Price when new: $34,590 - $40,490
  • Price used: $3,000 - $16,000

Mechanically identical to the base model X, the XS is equipped with extra creature comforts and aesthetic features while the XS Luxury, short of the STi, offers all the bells and whistles the SG Forester range can muster, short of the XT’s turbocharged engine.

XS adds:

  • 16-inch alloy wheels
  • Climate control air conditioning
  • Six-stacker CD player
  • Fog lights
  • Automatic self-levelling suspension
  • Colour coded body mouldings
  • Chrome grill treatment
  • Side airbags (XS Luxury)
  • Leather trim (XS Luxury)
  • Power sunroof (XS Luxury)

XT (2002 - 2008)

  • Price when new: $39,490 - $46,990
  • Price used: $4,000 - $19,000

The XT is essentially an XS with a turbocharged engine and suspension and braking engineered to suit the extra power and performance.

Also available as an XT Luxury, again an XS Luxury with a turbocharged engine and chassis tune.

XT adds:

See XS features

STi (2002 - 2008)

  • Price when new: $50,000 (approx)
  • Price used: $25,000 - $50,000

Initially only available in Japan, the performance-focussed STi variant has made its way internationally due to an ever increasing fan base and a high demand for performance SUVs with a difference.

STi adds:

  • 18-inch alloy wheels
  • STi six-speed manual gearbox
  • Larger intercooler
  • Various STi specific engine and turbo enhancements
  • STi sport springs
  • Revised struts
  • Larger anti-roll bars
  • Larger cross-members
  • STi steering rack
  • STi bucket seats with red inserts
  • STi smaller leather steering wheel
  • STi shift knob with red stitching
  • STi body kit
  • Larger STi/Brembo brakes
Should you buy it?

Buying a Subaru Forester (SG) depends on the Forester you’re looking at.

A Forester with a full and thorough service history, in excellent condition, preferably with low kilometres, being sold by someone that seems honest and trustworthy, should be a good buy.

The right Forester is an excellent car and we cannot say this enough, if it has been maintained and cared for correctly, it should be a very reliable vehicle.

However, if the Forester you’re looking at has no or minimal service history, has clearly not been looked after, is drenched in red flags and the person selling it seems even slightly dodgy, no, do not buy it.

Warranty & servicing


3 year/unlimited kilometre


6 months or 12,500kms

Tech specs

Body style:

  • 5-door SUV

Engine & outputs:

  • 2.5-litre 4-cyl petrol (X, XS)
  • 2.5-litre 4-cyl turbocharged petrol (XT, STi)


  • 121kW (2.5-litre 4-cyl petrol)
  • 169kW (2.5-litre 4-cyl turbocharged petrol)
  • 195kW (STi)


  • 226Nm (2.5-litre 4-cyl petrol)
  • 320Nm (2.5-litre 4-cyl turbocharged petrol)
  • 392Nm (STi)


  • 4-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
  • 5-speed manual, all-wheel drive
  • 6-speed manual, all-wheel drive (STi)

Fuel use:

  • 9.5 – 11.5-Litres/100km (combined and depending on variant)


  • Height: 1550mm – 1650mm
  • Length: 4450mm – 4485mm
  • Width: 1735mm
  • Kerb weight: 1320kg – 1500kg

Information correct as of July 23, 2021.

The advice provided on this website is general advice only. It has been prepared without taking into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. Before acting on this advice, you should consider the appropriateness of the advice, having regard to your own objectives, financial situation and needs.

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