Subaru Forester Hybrid S 2020 road test review

Front side view of a red Subaru Forester Hybrid S 2020 driving down a residential street

Tim Nicholson

Posted June 30, 2020

The new hybrid Forester is a great drive and packed with safety features.

Earlier this year Subaru introduced a pair of new variants that gave the brand some much-needed environmental credibility – petrol-electric hybrid versions of the XV crossover and the Forester medium SUV.

At the moment, the Forester’s sole hybrid rival in the mainstream medium-SUV space is Toyota’s hugely popular RAV4. Other green offerings include the Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in hybrid, while Ford’s new-generation Escape PHEV arrives in the coming months.

Thumbs up

Well-built family SUV with loads of features, a great ride and sharp handling.

Thumbs down

Fuel economy figures well off the pace of other hybrids.


Two model grades are available for the Forester Hybrid – the L from $39,990 before on-road costs and the S that tops the Forester range at $45,990. Toyota’s RAV4 Hybrid has a choice of three model grades in both front and all-wheel drive ranging from $35,490 to $44,990.

Subaru has thrown a lot of specification into the two hybrid Foresters, particularly the Hybrid S tested here. So much so that there are no options available. Subaru’s big focus on active safety is front and centre with the full suite of EyeSight driver-assist technology standard.

The dash design with the multi-screen layout is busy, there are too many controls on the steering wheel and there seems to be a lot of information in the driver’s line of sight. It’s clunky and not very intuitive. Subaru could learn a lot from Mazda or Volkswagen about dialling things back.

The infotainment system is uncomplicated and user-friendly and Bluetooth and Apple CarPlay are easy to connect.


Subaru’s innovative Driver Monitoring System offered in higher-grade Forester variants is standard in the Hybrid S. Once you set up a profile, the system recognises when you get behind the driver’s seat and adjusts functions like air-conditioning, door mirrors and the driver’s seat to individual preferences. The infrared LED camera also monitors the driver’s face for drowsiness or distraction and alerts them accordingly. It’s very smart tech and is starting to pop up in more and more new models.

There are loads of storage nooks up front, deep bottle storage in the doors and a big central storage bin. The leather front seats are supportive in all areas and have eight-way electric adjustment.

As with previous-generation Foresters, all-round visibility is exceptional. It’s an airy cabin with acres of head and leg room throughout. The second row has knee-level air vents, map pockets, decent bottle storage and a pair of USB charging points. The Forester is also easy to get in and out of.

In the Forester S, the 60/40 split-fold rear seats have an electric folding function and they almost fold flat. Cargo space has increased marginally over the regular petrol versions to 509 litres with all seats in place, and up to 1779 litres with the rear seats folded. This is despite the battery and other hybrid components being positioned under the cargo area. However, because of the hybrid packaging, it means there’s no room for a full-size spare wheel. Instead it gets a tyre repair kit.

The petrol-electric hybrid system pairs a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine with a 12.3kWh electric motor and lithium-ion battery for an output of 110kW and 196Nm.

Acceleration from a standing start is adequate, but this gets a boost if you select Sport mode. The continuously variable transmission is a good match for the hybrid setup but there’s no escaping the drone under heavy acceleration. Aside from this, the Forester’s cabin is well insulated from outside noise.


Dynamically, the current Forester has an excellent reputation and the news is the hybrid hasn’t blunted that. It has a nicely balanced chassis and remains remarkably flat through corners, with very little lateral movement.

The Forester confidently grips the road on unsealed and uneven sections of road, thanks in part to the all-wheel-drive system and the good-quality Bridgestone tyres. It is still one of the best-handling SUVs of any size on the market.

Deep potholes on crumbly roads are no match for the Forester’s ride. The suspension setup and damping tune is well matched for Australian roads and conditions, ensuring it’s a great all-round car for everyday driving.

The lane-keeping aid bounces the car from line to line a little, rather than keeping it in the centre of the lane, but the adaptive cruise control functions well.

Now to the biggest letdown of the Forester Hybrid S. You’d expect pretty good fuel-economy figures from a hybrid, but unfortunately the Subaru is well behind the Toyota RAV4 on this front.

The Forester’s official fuel economy figure is 6.7 litres per 100 kilometres, not much less than the regular petrol Forester’s 7.4-litre combined figure and well off the AWD RAV4’s 4.8L/100km claim. After a week of mixed city, country and freeway driving, we recorded 10.1L/100km in the Forester.

An RACV review of the petrol Forester from March last year saw a fuel-use figure of 8.9L/100km. With this in mind, it’s difficult to justify the additional spend for the hybrid.


The verdict

The Forester Hybrid S is a well-packaged SUV with engaging handling, a great ride and the latest safety and in-car tech. But it’s badly let down by average fuel-economy figures.


Subaru Forester Hybrid S


List price: $45,990 plus on-road costs.
Price as tested: $45,990 plus on-road costs.
Model range: $34,690 to $45,990 plus on-road costs.


2.0-litre petrol-electric powertrain, continuously variable transmission, all-wheel drive.
Power: 110kW@6000rpm.
Torque: 196Nm@4000rpm.
Wheels: 225/55 R18.


91 RON petrol, 48-litre tank.
Consumption: 6.7L/100km (government test), 10.1L/100km (RACV test).
Emissions: 152g/km CO2 emissions.

Standard safety

Five-star ANCAP safety rating, EyeSight driver-assist package with pre-collision braking, adaptive cruise control, pre-collision throttle management, lead vehicle start alert, lane-departure warning and lane-keep assist.

Standard features

Electric sunroof, Harmon Kardon premium audio system, 8.0-inch infotainment display with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto and DAB+ digital radio, power tailgate, leather trim, electric-folding rear seats, keyless entry and start.


Five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty. Five-year/62,500-kilometre capped-price servicing program. Servicing schedule every 12 months or 12,500 kilometres.

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