Which Subaru should I buy?
July 23, 2016 9:24 AM   Subscribe

After eight car-free years using public transportation, I am moving to a new region where I’ll need to own a car. I’m pretty sure I’d like to get a Subaru, but am stuck between the Impreza hatchback, Crosstrek, or Forester.

According to NOAA, my new town gets about 60-65 inches of snow per year, with an average of 30 snowy days. I'll be living in town, and have heard from locals that the plows usually (but not always) clear the roads relatively quickly. My commute is only 10 minutes, but about twice a month I’ll be making a 250 mile (round-trip) drive. Almost all of this long drive will be on major highways. I will need to parallel park occasionally, but not on a regular basis.

Initially I was looking at the Impreza hatchback/5-door, due to the lower cost and better gas mileage. However, I see that the Impreza only has 5.7” of ground clearance, while the Crosstrek and Forester have 8.7” of ground clearance. Considering the amount of snow where I’m moving, is it worth paying an extra $4,000-$5,000 for the extra 3 inches of clearance?

Other factors to consider:

-I'm on the shorter side (5’2”), and like the idea of sitting up higher in a vehicle. I've heard the Forester is good for this and has great visibility.

-While it would be nice to have extra cargo space to buy/move furniture or for IKEA runs, I only do those things a couple times each year. On a regular basis, I probably wouldn’t need that much space.

-Regardless of the model, I plan to get snow tires for the winter.

The Outback would stretch my budget a bit, so I think I've narrowed it down to the Impreza hatchback, Crosstrek, or Forester. I plan to test drive all three, but am wondering if I should be learning towards any one particular model based on the information above. I'd especially love to hear from anyone who has owned more than one of these particular Subarus.
posted by oiseau to Travel & Transportation (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Are you buying new? I'm also 5' 2" and I LOVE how much I am upright in my Forrester. Can see better, fit in the car better. The Imprezas that my friends have driven are sportier and a little lower to the ground on the inside. The biggest deal for you really though is going to be good tires (you're on it!) and good knowledge of how to drive in snow since all of these have AWD. I think if I were making these choices Id be going for a used Forrester but that's just because I loved mine so much. The Crosstreks are really nice cars but there seems to be a "oooh shiny" premium on them.
posted by jessamyn at 9:34 AM on July 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

The Forrester is a bigger car than the other two and gets somewhat worse milage.

On the other hand, the visibility for the driver is amazing. It was one of the major reasons I chose the Forrester over the other options. It's fantastic in snow. We get about the same amount of snow and I find that it performs very well (with good tires---snows really are a great idea). I will suggest getting a tow strap too---I've pulled a number of people out of drifts in the past couple of years.

I have to say, I don't understand the logic behind the Crosstrek---it's an Impreza that costs nearly the same as the Forrester (or, at least, it did when we were pricing things out). If that's that case for you, I'd strongly suggest choosing the Forrester.
posted by bonehead at 9:43 AM on July 23, 2016

I'm your height and a Subaru owner. It is fabulous to be able to see from the driver's seat. If I were buying a Subaru right now (unlikely as I suspect my 06 Outback may outlive me) I'd get a Forester.

And then probably go to Car Toys and install a killer sound system but that's me.

posted by bearwife at 9:58 AM on July 23, 2016

I bought an Impreza last summer and I love it, but on snowy trip to Colorado I rented a Crosstrek - and now I wish I had paid the couple thousand extra for the added clearance and improved visibility.

I didn't even consider the Forrester - it's just too big for me. The cargo area for the Impreza, especially with the rear seat folded down, meets all my needs.
posted by kbar1 at 10:00 AM on July 23, 2016

I've driven all of these. I find the Forester to be an uncomfortable ride and cheap in the trim by comparison. Taller cars like the Forester have a higher center of gravity and so are not as good at evading accidents or navigating tightly turning roads. They feel safer but they are actually less safe.

I love the new Outback. It drives like a car but has the power of a bigger truck. I'm 5'2" and can see quite well in the Outback.

I love the Impreza and Crosstrek, too. They handle well, fit easily into parking spots, and get good milage. They're a whole lot less car, which I personally prefer. I don't like hauling around a huge car that I don't need 99% of the time.

I own a Legacy, and I love that the most. I've taken it in some pretty deep snow without snow tires and it has driven through it as if I were on dry pavement. I feel quite safe in that car, and it's the nicest of the Subarus.

Of all the options Subaru offers, the best is EyeSight. I will never, ever own another car without it.
posted by Capri at 10:02 AM on July 23, 2016 [3 favorites]

In case this applies to you, several organizations have partnered with Subaru for their VIP program, which allows no-haggle prices of 2% off dealer-invoice price for new cars. I was quoted a price that was $900 less than True Car's "great deal" price for an Impreza hatchback with the VIP program with no haggling, but just a couple emails after a test drive. A list of organizations that participate is here.

Also, the 2017 Impreza is coming out in December 2017, so you should check it out and see if it's worth waiting for you to get the 17 model if you are interested, or to see if even better offers might be available on the 16 models then.

I test drove a 16 Impreza hatchback and really liked it and the visibility. I didn't feel like there were blind spots. If you upgrade to the premium version, the wheels are also 17 inch, which might give you an extra inch of clearance.

(I'm one of the VW recall owners, so I have been researching a car to purchase in October when the buybacks come out. Good luck choosing the right car for you!)
posted by shortyJBot at 10:07 AM on July 23, 2016 [7 favorites]

(If you are interested in the VIP program savings, I think you can join Leave No Trace for $35, but check the VIP program to make sure you don't have to have a history of being a member for any amount of time before using the offer.)
posted by shortyJBot at 10:18 AM on July 23, 2016

I'm 5". We have a 2012 Outback, and I have no trouble with visibility (and I and my 6'4" husband can both drive the car comfortably, if that's relevant to you). Our car was in the shop and the dealer loaned us a CrossTrek, and it wasn't nearly as comfortable or nice. I wouldn't recommend it. (I love our Outback!)

We're in Fairbanks AK and it deals with our snow fine. (Although blizzaks help.)---but we don't usually get crazy amounts of snow all at once.
posted by leahwrenn at 11:17 AM on July 23, 2016

I have an Impreza and I love the handling, etc. but I will get something with a little more clearance next time. Although it's four wheel drive It's too low to be good in an appreciable snowfall. Also there's something about this car that my elderly mother has a hard time getting in and out of.
The lengths of the cars are not that different.
posted by readery at 11:22 AM on July 23, 2016

Car shopped in late 2014 for a 2015 model, wanted a Subaru because while I've lived in Colorado for 25 years, my 2 mile commute became a 45 mile round-trip commute so I needed AWD.

I went in wanting a Crosstrek but ended up not even driving one because I didn't like the available trim options - interior felt like something I would love to take camping every weekend with a bunch of muddy dogs but not something I would love to drive hundreds of miles every week. I do regret not driving it now, though.

Loved the handling on the Impreza, it felt so sporty and since I was moving from a standard to my first ever auto transmission, I was totally into the paddle shifters. However, it felt entirely gutless - when I stomped on the gas, it really didn't have much to give and the engine sounded loud and whiny.

So I ended up with the Forester. I really like having the room and the potential to pull a lightweight trailer, and I LOVE the 31-32 mpg I get with it. It's not the most comfortable seat but I think that's across the Subaru brand in general.
posted by kattyann at 11:25 AM on July 23, 2016

I live in central New York (NOAA says 79 inches yearly snowfall) and drive a 2012 Impreza hatchback. This was the first winter I bothered to put snow tires on it, and that was because my job now requires going to patients' homes in a rural area. (Joke was on me, we had a super-mild winter.) Even with the all-season tires, I didn't bother shoveling the driveway for less than 6" of snow. For cargo hauling, you can fold down the entire back seat to give yourself a ton of space.
posted by shiny blue object at 11:31 AM on July 23, 2016

Also 5'2, in the snowy Midwest, and I've driven the Impreza hatchback for almost five years. I really like it, but I've always driven small cars, so sitting lower is what I'm used to. My mom (in her 60s) has some trouble getting in and out, though. Re: IKEA - I can fit a surprising amount of stuff in the car.

I'm probably trading up into a Forester in the next year, though. I have a daughter now, and though her infant seat fit easily in the Impreza, her larger convertible seat does not fit as well. Were it not for this need, though, I'd happily keep driving it!
posted by marmago at 1:13 PM on July 23, 2016

I think the Legacy/Outback is really Subaru's best car. Not sure the extra clearance will actually make much of a difference.
posted by actionstations at 2:02 PM on July 23, 2016

I drive a 2014 Crosstrek. When I went to the dealership, I was planning to get an Impreza, but I liked the higher clearance of the Crosstrek. I also tried the Forester, but it was Too Much Car, and the dealer I went to only had really high-end Foresters. The Crosstrek with the options I wanted ended up being cheaper than similar Foresters. Oddly, my Crosstrek is about the same size as a friend of mine's late-1990s Forester - the new ones have gotten gigantic.
posted by heurtebise at 2:39 PM on July 23, 2016

I'm 5'1" and drive a 2014 Forester which replaced a 2001 Forester. I'm in Michigan but have also taken it in pretty rough back road stuff in Colorado and Utah. Love it - I find it very comfortable to drive, can haul the camping gear, art work or telescopes which are the main reasons we have it and not an Impreza (even the Crosstrek wasn't long enough for hubby's biggest telescope). My father has a recent year Impreza and I don't like it as well in terms of comfort and visibility although the Eyesight stuff is great. Cannot haul anywhere near as much stuff in his car as our Forester. CU rates it as one of the safest vehicles out there. So am a fan. Be aware there is a recall out for recent Foresters using too much oil. Don't know how far back that goes (does seem to be an issue with ours) and not sure how it will affect its longevity - thus far we've just made sure to carry oil always and check it when the light came on (came up once) but we've put far more miles on it than people usually do.
posted by leslies at 3:15 PM on July 23, 2016

I'm 5' even and have an Impreza hatchback 2012 or 2103, I can't remember. I live in New England, so lots of snow. I like it - feels really safe to drive in snowy weather. Can fit a lot of stuff in if needed. It is a little low to the ground, I suppose, but we really wanted a small car because at the time we lived in a city, and it hasn't been an issue so far with snow. We test drove a LOT before we settled on this and I have to say I immediately nixed a lot of cars without even driving because the visibility was bad for me given my height. I was really surprised at how the side columns really blocked my view in a lot of cars. For us short people test drives are really crucial.

FWIW, we have the base model. My medium-height husband finds it hurts his back to drive because the seats are pretty crappy (for him it is mostly the angle), but it hasn't bothered me thus far. That's something that will only come up on a longish drive so once you settle, take it out for awhile before you purchase.
posted by john_snow at 7:15 AM on July 25, 2016

I own a 2015 Impreza hatchback, and I often ride in my parents’ 2014 Forester. In my experience both have very good visibility, but I’m taller than you, so you’ll need to check this for yourself. Both have adjustable height for the driver’s seat, which can help, but it has a limited range. The available amenities and features are mostly the same.

The Impreza’s fuel economy is better than Crosstrek or Forester, but still not great. If you drive 10,000 miles per year, then it might save you around $10/month worth of gas.

With seats folded down, the Impreza hatchback has good cargo space for a compact car, but the Forester is definitely way more spacious. When I get large furniture from Ikea, I pay for their delivery service. (On the other hand, the occasional delivery fee is a lot cheaper than owning a larger car.)

It sounds like the main deciding factors are whether the visibility and driving position work for you (which you can only answer for certain with a test drive), and whether higher clearance is important for getting around town (maybe the locals can help you answer that). If the Impreza passes both tests, I see no strong reason to upgrade to the pricier models.
Taller cars like the Forester have a higher center of gravity and so are not as good at evading accidents or navigating tightly turning roads. They feel safer but they are actually less safe.
The latest Forester is about the same height as the latest Outback (only 2" taller). Both are over 8" taller than the Impreza. All AWD Subarus have a fairly low center of gravity thanks to their boxer engine design.

Tall SUVs in 1990s and early 2000s did have particular safety problems related to center of gravity, but this is not true of current models, according to the IIHS:
A decade ago, SUVs had some of the highest rates, due to their propensity to roll over … However, the spread of electronic stability control (ESC) through the fleet has dramatically lessened the risk of rollover crashes in these and all vehicles. The rollover death rate of 5 per million registered vehicle years for 2011 models is less than a quarter of what it was for 2004 models.

Today's SUVs have the lowest driver death rate of any vehicle type.
In the latest IIHS stats, the Forester, Outback, and Imrpeza all have above-average safety records. The Forester has more fatal crashes per vehicle year than the Outback, but fewer than the Impreza. Both the Forester and Impreza have zero rollover deaths recorded. (These are statistics from the previous-generation models; the latest ones have even better safety features.) So I see absolutely no safety reasons to avoid the Forester.
posted by mbrubeck at 9:06 PM on July 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

« Older Parental control software   |   My Deepest Voice Says I'm Unworthy, Untalented... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.