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by Steve Siler

Subaru Forester
2003 Subaru Forester

Of all the SUVs in this guide, the Subaru Forester has the most "car" DNA in its genes. It is low to the ground, relatively lightweight and slim, car-like window pillars that clear the way for excellent outward visibility. Yet, like an SUV, the Forester can swallow up to 63.1 cubic feet of stuff, traverse all kinds of terrain with its moderate ground clearance and standard all-wheel drive and seat four adults (five in a pinch) at a commanding seat height.

How is all this possible? Well, ultimately it's physics. The low-mounted boxer four-cylinder engine is flat, and most of the other heavy mechanicals are also mounted low, clearing the way for a spacious, tall cabin with lots of space for people and things while delivering swell handling.

The Forester's styling was updated for '03, bringing with it a more aggressive front end, and an angular tush and nice, big wheels. Horsepower remains just 165, pretty strong for a four-cylinder but nowhere near as strong as the V-6s in some of its competitors. The upside is fuel economy that hovers comfortably in the mid twenties.

In terms of interior features, the base X model comes with tons of standard features, including keyless entry, power amenities, cruise control and even a full-size spare tire. The XS adds ABS and climate control, as well as a limited-slip differential. Two premium packages add either a sunroof or leather, making it easily as nice inside as any cute ute in this guide.