2022 Subaru Forester: Mild or Wilder, it’s up to You

Published on December 22, 2021 in First Drives by Mathieu St-Pierre

The Forester’s greatest asset and weakness boil down to the fact that it’s a Subaru. The Japanese brand has never been one to follow trends as they were among the first to offer AWD as a standard feature and they’ve stuck it out with horizontally-opposed engines since forever. With perhaps an exception, they’ve also become extremely conservative with their designs.

The one exception is and has long been the Outback. This trend-setting station-wagon-cum-crossover was the first to brilliantly exploit the adventure vehicle concept. Finally, five generations later, the Forester will be influenced by and benefit from the experience. Well, at least one trim will. For the 2022 model year, Subaru updates the Forester with a mild mid-cycle refresh as well as introduces a Wilderness iteration.

Photo: Mathieu St-Pierre

Familiar powertrain, better ride

The current Subaru Forester was introduced back for the 2019 model year. It ushered in a new era for the popular compact SUV as it landed on the company’s newly-minted global platform. Numerous mechanical components were carried over from the previous SUV however all were upgraded.

Of these elements, we find the standard-for-all 182-horsepower naturally-aspirated 2.5-litre flat 4-cylinder Boxer engine returning unchanged for 2022. To it is mounted the habitual Lineatronic CVT which, in its latest form, is one of the best transmissions of its type in the business. Performance has not been part of the Forester’s makeup for a while and still isn’t. Efficiency is the name of the game, as are efficiency and capability.

Photo: Mathieu St-Pierre

The main upgrade made to the Forester’s driving experience comes from the recalibrated suspension. The Subaru’s ride quality has been one of its best character traits for a few generations and now it’s all the more refined. Damping is even more progressive and better controlled. Throughout the drive day, be on-road or off, the Forester behaved in an admirably civil manner.


The all-new Wilderness trim is far more than just a kit to make the Forester look more robust – Subaru would not fake it. The most notable differences between it and the other trims are the increased ride height, by 9mm for a total of 229mm of ground clearance, the black 17-inch wheels, the Yokohama Geolandar all-terrain tires, and many others which are not as visible.

The driveline has an overall lower gear ratio along with a more aggressive rear differential ratio for enhanced off-roading traction. And should you hear the call of the wild, the Wilderness is equipped with both engine- and rear differential skid plates.

Photo: Mathieu St-Pierre

With the updated dual-mode X-Mode system which features a Deep Snow and Mud mode, we covered reasonably challenging terrains and trails. Well, difficult perhaps for most of the Forester Wilderness’ competitors.

There is one thing about the Wilderness trim that we’re not too keen about, however.

Exterior updates

The new-for-2022 Subaru Forester is at the receiving end of a mild nip and tuck. The rear features a revised lower bumper guard, a new hatch window surround, and moving to the sides and depending on trim, there are new wheels, roof rails, and pilar covers.

The changes are far more drastic in front. Subaru completely changed the headlight design to a boomerang-like reversed checkmark which is far too sharp for the Forester’s overall demeanour. The front grille and bumper are also new, and truth be told, on all versions of the compact SUV, the design change points can and do work. On the Wilderness, however, it’s a different story.

Photo: Mathieu St-Pierre

In the name of a more aggressive approach angle, Subaru designers lifted and backed off the lower bumper creating the impression that the Forester suffers from a massive overbite. What’s more, the extra plastic cladding accentuates the protuberance to silly proportions. Otherwise, the numerous anodized copper accents, hexagonal LED fog lights, matte black hood decal, and Wilderness badges lend some credibility to the SUV. Thankfully, they are supported by real-world capability.

Unchanged cabin

As far as the 5th generation Forester’s interior is concerned, it was willingly overlooked in the refresh. And that’s fine as it remains extremely roomy, comfortable, and well-appointed as any of its competitors.

The handful of exceptions includes rear headliner-mounted cargo hooks, gesture controls for cabin temperature adjustments, and a new two-tone brown and black leather arrangement for the top-line Premier trim.

Photo: Mathieu St-Pierre

Passengers measuring 6-feet tall will be at ease in the second row. The trunk, which features an opening that is just over 10cm wider than that of the Ascent’s. the available volume is cavernous and easily accessible.

The toughest segment in the industry

Selecting the new 2022 Subaru Forester over any of its competitors will never be a mistake even though we are big fans of the Toyota RAV4. The Forester is now more refined and safer than ever. It is, in fact, the first Subaru to be delivered with the 4th generation of Subaru’s acclaimed EyeSight driving assist technology.

The new Wilderness trim will certainly find success with adventure-vehicle lovers and Subaru fans. We just wish it had a little more oomph like the Outback Wilderness.

Test drive report
Test model 2022 Subaru Forester
Trim level Wilderness
Price range $29,495 – $40,595
Price as tested 38 995 $
Warranty (basic) 3 years/60,000 km
Warranty (powertrain) 5 years/100,000 km
Fuel economy (city/highway/observed) 9,5 / 8,3 / N/A L/100km
Options N/A
Competitive models Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Bronco Sport, Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Hyundai Tucson, Jeep Cherokee, Jeep Compass, Kia Sportage, Mazda CX-5, Mitsubishi Outlander, Nissan Rogue, Toyota RAV4, Volkswagen Tiguan
Strong points
  • Fantastically smooth ride.
  • As qualified as ever as an off-roader.
  • Spacious cabin.
  • One of the more affordable compact SUVs with AWD.
Weak points
  • Facelift isn’t exactly an improvement.
  • Wilderness version, although cool, is even less attractive.
  • No electrified powertrain configuration available.
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