Subarus are famous for standard all-wheel-drive capability, but they should also be recognized for impressive fuel economy. One example is the 2006 Forester, specifically the base, Premium, and L.L. Bean versions powered by a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder boxer engine generating 173 horsepower and 166 lb.-ft. of torque. When mated to a five-speed manual transmission, the EPA fuel-economy rating comes in at 22 mpg city, 29 mpg highway, and 25 mpg combined; swap in a four-speed automatic and those figures change to 23 mpg city and 28 mpg highway, while combined holds steady at 25 mpg.
Forester buyers focused on maximum efficiency will be faced with base prices ranging from $22,000 to $27,000, while those willing to sacrifice a few mpg’s might be interested in the 230-horsepower XT Limited model. This turbocharged variant is fun, but with combined ratings of 22 mpg (five-speed manual transmission) and 23 mpg (four-speed automatic transmission), it fails to match this list’s 24 mpg or better criteria. Another area where the Forester fails is emissions, lacking the clean ULEV, SULEV, or PZEV ratings of many cars. This caused one editor to make a snide comment about ironic it is that the tree huggers’ favorite vehicle is LEV II rated and spews dirtier emissions than many larger vehicles. Another claimed that the rear seat is too tight and the Forester is one ugly ride. The result? Sixth place.