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Which to choose: 2017 Forester or 2016 RAV4

I’m looking only at the base models. I live in northern New England where snow, well below zero cold, hills, and mud season are issues. I like the Subaru’s extra 2.5 inches of ground clearance, overall visibility, large easy-to-see display on top of the dashboard, legroom, price, fog lights, and the fact that Consumer Reports says it handles better in the snow. However, looking at the Consumer Reports reliability ratings from '09 to '15, reading about ongoing oil consumption problems, and looking at the number of complaints from '14 to Aug '16 on the NHTSA web site (in light of the number of Foresters sold in the US), it comes across as a vehicle with some significant problems compared to the RAV and that could cost money in the long run. And it seems as if Subaru Corp refuses to officially acknowledge that there is an oil consumption problem. (Personally, one salesman told me the oil consumption issue was “mostly” on manual transmissions. Another told me he’d heard of it, but only on a different model Subaru and only on about two vehicles.)

The RAV has overall better reliability, but I don’t like the fact that I’d be losing an inch of ground clearance from my 2006 RAV, the visibility out the back is not as good, the display is small and not well placed, and fog lights are impossible. The RAV has a sports mode button that provides some extra torque, but I don’t know how effective it is as I’ve not had that feature before. And I don’t know if I really need to be able to go from automatic to manually switching gears as it is not something I’ve needed to do very often in my current car. I have also not had to lock the rear differential for extra traction very often. So not having these features in the Subaru might not be an issue 99% of the time.

I think it comes down to the Subaru’s visibility, ground clearance, and Consumer Reports rating on handling in the snow, which are important, vs. the RAV’s overall reliability, which is also important. The issues of sports mode for extra torque and the ability to manual change gears I’m uncertain about.

For the few times a year you need the perks, I think you will be fine with either, next choice comfort and price.

Personally I rate visibility very high, and find the forester a bit poor in that respect. But it is better than the others.

The CVT in the forester works very well. But it’s reliability is unknown. I’d get the manual transmission if I had to do it over again (If that is even available(.

Just because you can change gears on an automatic with a paddle shifter doesn’t mean you have to use it. All you have to do is ignore it. And of course Subaru is going to refrain from making blanket statements on things like oil consumption and handle it on a case by case problem.

I’d go with a Maxda CX5

You do plan to use winter tires, I hope? That’s a bigger factor than choosing between either of these cars.

Yes, lion9car, I always use winter tires. But I still agree with Consumer Reports that the RAV will want to go straight when you ask it to turn in some snow conditions. It does not respond well at some important times.

Thanks texases for the suggestion. I had started out with the Forester, Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV-4, Mazda CX5, Ford Escape, and Mitsubishi Outlander on the list of possibilities, but research narrowed it down to the Forester and RAV. Although if I can’t decide between those two I might re-look at some of the others. The Honda had a huge number of complaints about an unfixable vibration that simply sounded annoying, and it had below average reliability on Consumer Reports. The Mazda was presented more as a fun to drive, sporty SUV (I’m approaching 60 and am not attracted to sporty). It has not been around long so it does not have a long history of reliability. I did not test drive either, but I could take the time to do that. The Ford and Mitsubishi were not very good according to Consumer Reports so they fell off my list early.

I’d look at sedans, but I need good ground clearance because I need a car that’s easy to get in and out of as well as good on an unplowed road or one with deep mud ruts.

BillRussell, the Forester does have a manual transmission, but my spouse does not know how to drive one so I need to stick with an automatic.

Barkydog, I agree comfort is important. After an hour or two in a car I can end up with back and hip pain. But I don’t know any way of being allowed to take a car for a 2-hour test drive. I have a friend with an older Outback who can’t get up her steep driveway many times in winter because she can’t get a running start at it. I don’t want to end up with that kind of problem (my '96 and '06 RAVs never failed to get me up any hills), but the loss of 1.5 inches of ground clearance if I get a new RAV is significant. So, I’m not finding this decision an easy one to make.

I find the Forester very easy to get in and out of, and I had no troubles with the seats re back problems, and I’m pushing 80. But that is a very subjective thing, and you have to check it for yourself.

I believe the outback had the same ground clearance as the forester. It is a bit more expensive, about the same interior space. but I prefer the higher seating. Again, the forester is easier to get in/out of/


I’d go with a RAV4 with good winter tires such as Michelin X-ICE. You’ll be happy for many years to come.

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Thank you Docnick. The RAV4’s reliability is a key factor that keeps it on my list, but I’m not thrilled about the loss of ground clearance, especially since one place lists it now being as low as only 5.5 inches. I’m trying to find out just what the ground clearance is now, but it is clearly significantly less than the 7.5 inches my 2006 has.

While clearance is good to have, it depends on your use. I drove a Rabbit GTI for 12 years in Anchorage, with only one problem with clearance, of which it had little. And while some part may stick down causing the 5.5" clearance, I’d check what the clearance to the major body parts is. I bet it’s more. Those are what will hang you up in dense snow.