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2009 Subaru Forester

Ted Laturnus for The Globe and Mail/ted laturnus The Globe and Mail

In 2009, Subaru's Forester was going into its 12th year. Based on the Impreza platform, and manufactured in Japan, it also received a bit of a redesign this year, getting increased back-seat elbow room and all-new rear suspension.

Where the previous version featured strut suspension in back, this, the third-generation model, came with a double-wishbone arrangement. Among other things, it helped improve interior dimensions and gave it a longer wheelbase than before, and, consequently, a slightly more civilized ride.

As was and continues to be the case with all Subaru products, this iteration of the Forester had a full-time all-wheel-drive system and was offered with either a turbocharged or normally aspirated engine, and your choice of a five-speed manual, or four-speed automatic transmission.

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A traction control system was standard on all models, as was a hill-holder feature that also worked in reverse, and four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, and a vehicle dynamics control system.

The 2.5-litre, horizontally opposed, four-cylinder "boxer" engine propelling the Forester was recalibrated slightly for increased torque in 2009 and developed 170 horsepower in normally aspirated form and 224 hp turbocharged.

Equipment level was comparatively high; heated seats, power outside mirrors (also heated), air conditioning, power windows, tilt/telescoping steering and 16-inch wheels and tires all came standard, and it was offered in six different trim levels.

Extras included leather interior, aluminum alloy sport pedals, high intensity "hawkeye" headlights, roof rails and a huge "panoramic" power sunroof. This last item was one of the biggest in this segment of the market.

A premium sound system came with the Limited and turbocharged versions, but a navigation system was not offered in Canada, although American buyers did have it as an option.

It's also interesting to note that Consumer Reports has recently put Subaru products on its "best cars" list and the current generation of Forester just received a "recommended" designation from this organization. In view of the fact that there are few differences between a 2012 Forester and a 2009, this bodes well for prospective buyers. Oh, and the Automotive Journalists Association of Canada, voted the Forester as Best SUV/CUV under $35,000 in 2009.

Transport Canada has a safety recall for the 2009 Forester, and it's directed at turbocharged models. The weld connecting the oil supply pipe to the turbocharger may crack and, if it does, oil may spill out and possibly cause an engine fire. Dealers can rectify this problem with a new supply pipe. This contretemps also extends to the Impreza, both for 2009 and 2008 models.

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Subaru also just announced it is recalling more than 275,000 Forester SUVs from the 2009 to 2012 model years because a rear seat belt may not hold a child seat securely in place.

To this we can add the widespread problem with Thule aftermarket roof storage units. On some models manufactured from January, 2008, to March, 2009, the bolts securing the unit to the vehicle can break and cause all kinds of havoc. This recall applies to an impressive range of vehicles, and Thule will provide new bolts to replace the old, gratis. Phone 1-800-238-2388 if this affects you.

Ten technical service bulletins are on file with the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and they range from software issues, to problems refilling the gas tank in cold weather, to a leaky front body panel, to issues with the catalytic converter.

Nothing but smiles and love from Consumer Reports here. The 2009 Forester receives this organization's top marks in every single category and gets its top used-car prediction rating. "Best vehicle I ever had" claims one owner; "A nice box that goes down the road well," says another and "More like a sports car than a SUV," adds another. That said, complaints about mediocre fuel economy and unsupportive seats seem to be common. And, like all Subarus, if you let your coolant or oil level go down, you're asking for trouble. If these engines overheat, you're done for.

From a base price of just less than $26,000 in 2009, the Forester has dropped in value by $6,000-$7,000, depending upon the model. The turbocharged versions are fetching slightly more than their naturally aspirated counterparts, but that may be because they also have a higher level of standard equipment. About $5,000 separates the base model from the top-of-the-line Limited.

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Tech specs

2009 Subaru Forester

Original Base Price: $25,795; Black Book: $19,800-$23,300; Red Book: $18,950-$23,850

Engine: 2.5-litre, horizontally-opposed, four cylinder, normally aspirated and turbocharged

Horsepower/Torque: 170 hp/170 lb-ft for naturally aspirated; 224 hp/226 lb-ft for turbocharged

Transmission: Four-speed automatic/five-speed manual

Fuel Economy (litres/100 km): 10.5 city/7.6 highway (non-turbo with manual transmission); regular gas

Alternatives: Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Chevrolet Equinox, Nissan Rogue, Mazda Tribute, Mazda CX-7, Ford Escape, Hyundai Santa Fe

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