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Buying used: Subaru Forester (2002-2008)

by Peter Palm on 18/03/2011

Comments: 2

At A Glance

Make SUBARU Forester
Retail Price R244 950,00
kw 112
Torque 223
Top Speed 190


This generation of Forester had strong crossover appeal and offered a versatile blend of all-wheel drive ability and utility. The “cooking” models are the X and XS, which use a non-turbo 2,5-litre flat-four engine delivering 121 kW mated with a five-speed manual transmission with high and low range, or a four-speed automatic.

The low range should perhaps be named medium, as it’s not low enough for serious off-road climbing. The “mad” version is the turbocharged XT with 169 kW and 320 N.m of torque. If that’s still not enough, you could opt for the limited edition Prodrive model, introduced in 2007, which offers 185 kW and 350 N.m.


The biggest complaint centres around cylinder head gaskets. This became an issue for a number of owners at around 100 000 km, but a few had problems at a much earlier stage, fortunately sorted out under warranty.

The engines use a long cambelt because of the large distance between the horizontallyopposed cylinder heads but no reports of premature failure were received. This apparently very durable belt needs replacement at 100 000 km. One exhaust manifold cracked at 80 000 km and was repaired by welding. An air-con compressor developed a bearing rumble that cost around R5 000 to replace.

Another engine suffered overheating problems that was solved by fitting a replacement radiator cap (not an original Subaru part but one with the same rating). One owner stated that there was a problem with radiator caps on this model and it is possible that this had something to do with the cylinder head overheating issues.

Some complaints of difficult shifts on manual gearboxes were received. A few early clutch failures also occurred.

A few vehicles experienced wheel bearing failures. One owner mentioned an irritating and intermittent creaking noise from the rear that remains unsolved. Apparently, load levelling rear shocks are not fitted as standard to the X models. These can be purchased but cost around R10 000. Intermittent rattles from the rear could mean that the rear suspension bushes need replacement. Somewhat strangely, tyre life varied from 30 000 to 85 000 km.

No reports of maladies although one owner said that he had been advised that the pump might fail soon, accompanied by a repair quote of R5 000.

Some headlamp fuses gave up the ghost and some complained that the window motors were noisy, but overall there was impressively little to moan about when it came to electrics! The big difference between the headlamp prices of the X and the XT is due to the latter model being fitted with Xenon units. One Sansui 6-CD changer needed replacement just outside of the warranty and the owner saved R2 500 by fitting an aftermarket Kenwood unit.

Facia rattles were an issue for some and one owner had a water leak into the front footwell. There were some complaints that the radio did not include RDS and the CD player did not have MP3 capability. One driver’s window switch suffered a mechanical failure. This cost R1 200 to fix.

The sheet metal appears a bit thin and flexible to some (a common complaint about Japanese cars) and the frame-less doors can become prone to wind noise if the rubber door seals are less than perfect. A few said that road noise is on the high side with Yokohama Geolander tyres fitted. Incidentally, the 16- and 17-inch Geolanders can be tricky to source. Expect to pay about R1 500 apiece.

Fuel consumption seems to be the main gripe due to the higher frictional forces resulting from the permanent four-wheel drive running gear. Still, quite a few owners reported a figure of around 10,0 litres/100 km and even just below that on country roads from the non-turbo 2,5- litre cars. The heavy drive system also results in rather sluggish-feeling performance if you don’t have the luxury of a turbo. A few were miffed that the 100 000 km service (remember that this includes the timing belts) cost R8 000 for the X and XS and R14 000 for the XT, the latter including replacement of the front discs.

In a nutshell, Forester owners love their cars. Many will stick to the brand for good due to the reliability, exclusivity and versatile nature of the vehicles. Just watch out for cylinder head gasket leaks and those radiator caps. If in doubt, carry out a compression pressure test as well as checking for oil in the water or water in the oil!

Prices And Specs

Retail Price
Top Speed
Fuel Type
Fuel Consumption
Tyre Size Front
Tyre Size Rear
Rear Tyre Size Width
Rear Tyre Size Profile
Rear Tyre Rim Size
Spare Tyre Size
Tyre Pressure Monitor
Tyre Specification

Safety And Features

Air Conditioner Manual
Audio System CD Frontloader
Rev Counter Yes
Gearbox Manual
ABS Brakes Yes
Power Steering Yes
Seats 5
Steering Wheel Heated No
Speakers 4
Colour Coded Bumpers Alternate Colour
Leather Trim Optional
Alarm No
Anti Skid Control Yes
Electronic Defferential No
Gears 5
Height 1590
Onboard Computer No
Immobiliser Yes
Split Rear Seats Yes
Brake Assist Yes
Electric Seats -
Cup Holders Yes
Electric Mirrors Yes
Electric Windows Front Rear
Airbag DP
Doors 5
Airbag Driver Yes
Airbag Passenger Yes
Navigation System No
Park Assistance No
Side Impact Protection Bars Yes
Sunroof No
Fog Lamps Front No
Fog Lamps Rear No
Headlight Type Halogen
Towbar Optional
Payload -
Bull Bar -

  • Louis

    Have read the article in my latest Car, what a dissapointment! I am/was really interested in the new Forester, and thought that Subaru reliability was up there with the best. The article has put me off, with the host of engine and other problems experienced with the previous range. Drove the news 2.0D Forester, only so-so. Why, ibecause it feels downmarket and insubstancial in comparison with my 95 000km Captiva 3.2. I have been dead keen on a diesel Outback or Forester to replace the Captiva( the facelift diesel Captiva will be too expensive for me, well over 400k!). But this article and the test drive have put me off, Maybe I should try the Outback, for a a more classy and upmarket feel. Any comments, help will be appreciated.

  • http://www.facebook.com/neil.russell.94 Neil Russell

    280000km and still going strong. I drive her like there is no tomorrow. Only replaced back wheel bearing & rear silencer at 265k otherwise nothing. This is THE most reliable car I have ever driven by far.