Subaru introduced its popular SUV the Forester back in 1997. It's currently in its fifth generation which started production for the 2019 model year. Its big competition in the market comes from Honda with its CRV and from Toyota with the RAV4. Both of those vehicles have more powerful powertrains but Subaru is generally recognized for being a smoother and more relaxed ride with some decent extras tossed in. It isn't built for speed but a Subaru Forester engine will get you where you need to go.
All Subaru Forester models that you can buy now are powered by a 2.5 L flat 4-cylinder engine that produces 182 horsepower. It also features a continuously variable automatic transmission and all-wheel drive. It's definitely not a performance vehicle and the 2019 Forester Touring test vehicle that Car and Driver took out for a spin took 8.5 seconds to get up to 60 miles per hour. So, this is definitely not your Fast and Furious SUV by any means.
If you're in the market for a reliable and comfortable SUV, the Subaru Forester is a decent option and one that won't break the bank either. However, it's worth knowing the vehicle's history especially in terms of engine issues. Let's take a look at what's been going on under the hood in the past with the Subaru Forester.
Subaru Forester Engine Problems
Even though the Subaru Forester has been in production since 1997 the vehicle has actually been relatively problem-free throughout most of its production run. That's not to say that there weren't some model years that had a few more bumps in the road than others. In particular the 2014 and 2015 models of Subaru Forester were racked with some serious issues that if you're looking to buy an older model you might want to avoid those two production years in particular.
The 2015 Subaru Forester
Arguably the worst year for the Subaru Forester, many drivers reported having issues with the engine in their 2015 model. Common complaints by most drivers were that it seems like the engine was just burning through oil like nobody's business. In fact, many drivers reported having to add new oil to the engine every 1,000 miles or so. As you know, that's far sooner than any car should be requiring oil changes. Unfortunately, Subaru didn't really acknowledge this as an issue and no recalls were related to this particular problem with the engine.
The only fix for the excessive oil consumption problem with the 2015 Subaru Forester is to continually feed it more oil. Subaru didn't offer up any particular fixes or explanations for the problem. This is something that happens rarely but it's definitely not unheard of that vehicles will hit the market and just suck up oil like a sponge.
Some drivers also reported issues with unintended acceleration, engine stalling or hesitating and similar complaints but these were far less frequent than the oil consumption problem.
Based on complaints that were fielded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration there were several hundred drivers who complained about engine problems with the 2015 Subaru Forester. These resulted in 6 crashes and three fires as well as three injuries. The problems happened at an average mileage of 45000 miles. So clearly this wasn't the result of an old car breaking down on people by any means.
2014 Subaru Forester
Although less extreme than the 2015 model year, the 2014 Subaru Forester was also plagued with issues related to excessive oil consumption.
2017 Subaru Forester
This model year has the third-most complaints listed on Carcomplaints.com and a good portion of them are related to engine issues. Compared to 2015 and 2014 they are mostly insignificant and not nearly as extreme in terms of issues with oil consumption that was a concern for some drivers. There were also issues with the engine stalling while accelerating.
Other Subaru Forester Model Years
Any car that's well over 10 years old is going to have the potential to have a number of problems that you should be concerned with. With that in mind, let's take a look at Subaru Foresters that have been manufactured since 2010 so you can get an idea of which years have reliable engines and which did not. Keep in mind that the third generation of Forester was introduced for the 2009 model year. The 4th generation came out in 2014 while the 5th generation appeared in a 2019 model year. It's worth keeping track of these things because new generations typically have serious differences when compared to previous generations and often when they roll out there are a lot of glitches and bugs that tend to make the first year of a new generation more problematic than others.
2010 Subaru Forester
For the 2010 model year the most serious issues that drivers complained about were related to problems with the engine. Blown head gaskets were a major concern for several drivers and they were also issues reported to the NHTSA related to engine hesitation, leaking head gaskets, and jerking and lurching when the Subaru is accelerating.
There were 15 recalls associated with the 2010 model year of the Subaru Forester including one related to an ignition switch that might turn off the engine unexpectedly while you're driving.
2011 Subaru Forester
Like the previous year, the 2011 model year for the Subaru Forester was also plagued with engine issues. This was the beginning of the excessive oil consumption problem that many drivers would experience for several years to come. At least one driver complained to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that they were going through 2 quarts of oil every 1500 miles. The only solution they were offered by a mechanic was to replace the entire engine block at a cost of $5,000.
2012 Subaru Forester
The 2012 model year of the Subaru Forester fared better overall compared to the previous year in terms of specific issues that were pointed out by drivers. Engine issues were still the number one problem with this model year, but overall, they were fewer. The big issue was still excessive oil consumption.
2013 Subaru Forester
This model year fared much better in terms of engine issues that were reported by drivers. There were a small number of people complaining about excessive oil consumption so that again was the main issue, but it wasn't as prevalent with this model year as it would be in the next two model years.
2016 Subaru Forester
After two very bad years for engine problems, the 2016 Subaru Forester proved to be a far superior model in terms of issues with engine problems. That's not to say that there were no engine problems whatsoever, but the excessive oil issue did seem to get cleared up for the most part. In 2016 one of the big concerns for drivers was poor acceleration. Again, this is not very common by any means, but it was one of the most noted complaints with this particular model year.
2018 Subaru Forester
Subaru was really hitting their stride for the 2018 model year of the Forester. There were actually remarkably few engine complaints relating to this particular model year. In fact, the biggest problem drivers had with this model year related to exterior accessories like windshield wipers and trouble with visibility through the windshield. When it comes to the engine problems, they were a handful of complaints made to the NHTSA and they were chiefly concerned with vehicle speed control problems.
2019 Subaru Forester
This was another good year for the Subaru Forester with a very limited number of issues being reported in regard to engine troubles. There were very few reports of issues with the engine not starting or with noises being produced by the engine.
2020 Subaru Forester
One of the best model years ever for the Forester, the 2020 model had almost no reported problems with engines whatsoever. In fact, the national highway traffic safety administration Only has one report on record dealing with engine problems related to the Subaru Forester. That one complaint was about a vehicle speed control problem.
2021 Subaru Forester
As you might expect, given how new the 2021 Subaru Forester is and how much the 2020 year had an effect on overall new car buying due to the covid-19 outbreak, there's very little data related to any issues that drivers have experienced so far with the 2021 Subaru Forester. No complaints at all have been lodged regarding anything with this particular model year, so it's likely going to be at least halfway through the year before anything does pop up, which is the standard for any new model of vehicle.
Subaru Forester Engine Repair Costs
As we have seen there are a few common problems with Subaru Forester engines depending on the model year. And depending on exactly how the engine breaks down there can be a wide-ranging associated repair cost.
Fixing a problem with a blown head gasket on a Subaru Forester could cost around $1500 depending on where you take it to get the job done. For those earlier model years between 2001 and 2009 this was actually a common problem and getting it fixed was extremely expensive.
After the 2009 model year Subaru started using a multi-layered steel cylinder head gasket that was far more reliable than their older head gaskets had been. That's why this problem doesn't appear in Subaru models that were made in the last decade nearly as much as it did in the decade before.
On the other hand, if you have a severe failure in the engine, something like a critical failure in one of your cylinders and you need to replace the short block heads and cam you may end up paying between $7,000 and $9,000 to get this repaired.
If you have a bad enough problem with your engine and you want to swap it out of the favour of a remanufactured one you can probably pick that up for somewhere between $3,000 and $5,000. That's a pretty steep investment, but replacing an engine is never going to be cheap by any means.
If the timing belt is what failed in the engine of your Subaru Forester, then getting it repaired would likely cost anywhere between about $500 and $900 depending on where you go. It's worth remembering that when a timing belt fails however it typically causes some additional damage that happens while you're driving which could incur some extra fees as well. Getting a timing belt replaced should happen every 60000 miles to 90,000 miles or so, although the owners manual for your specific year will let you know exactly how long your timing belt should last.
Any model of vehicle, Subaru Forester or otherwise, is going to have some costly repairs associated with engine problems however so you shouldn't take this as a sign that the Subaru Foresters engine difficulties are any worse than other vehicles in terms of repair costs.
The Bottom Line
The Subaru Forester has proven to be a reliable, affordable, and appealing SUV for a lot of drivers over the years. It may not be as sporty as some others on the road, but it's not as expensive either and it does offer a very comfortable ride which not every SUV can live up to.
As with any vehicle, you have the potential for engine issues to pop up in your Subaru Forester either due to lack of proper maintenance or just because of mechanical failure or manufacturing error. The best thing you can do as a driver is make sure you're doing all the maintenance that you need to do when you need to do it. Keep an eye on that timing belt and make sure it's getting swapped out on a regular basis as dictated in your owner's manual.
Likewise, make sure that your engine oil is staying clean and being replaced on a regular basis as well. The number one cause for engine problems and not just a Subaru Forester but any single vehicle on the road is problems with the engine oil not being properly maintained. If your oil is low or badly contaminated your engine can and will suffer as a result.