Our 2019 Subaru Forester long-term test car has been a pack rat for many of us on staff at Autoblog. We've stuffed in camping gear, tires, landscaping supplies and much more over a number of months. However, we haven't given it a proper luggage test until now.
West Coast Editor James Riswick has tested a number of compact crossovers that the Forester competes against with his own set of luggage: Ford Escape, Mazda CX-5, Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4. But since our long-term Forester lives in Michigan, we'll be using the same set of luggage that we've used for all other midwest luggage tests.
Here’s what we’re working with: Two carry-on suitcases sized (24 inches long, 15.5 wide, 10 deep); one carry-on suitcase (21.7L x 13.7W x 9 D); one medium-size suitcase you have to check (24.5L x 16.8W x 11.5D) and two larger, full-size suitcases (33.8L x 21.5W x 13D) and (28.1L x 18W x 10.5D).
This generation of Forester and its more traditional crossover shape means it has a great deal of luggage capacity for its overall footprint. Sunroof-equipped models (like our Touring) come in at 33.0 cubic-feet of space behind the back seat. If you skip the sunroof, you gain 2.4 cubes, but the space at the top of the ceiling is generally pointless unless you’re chill with zero rearward visibility.
Our Touring model comes with a nice powered hatch that can be opened via the fob, interior button, exterior lid button or a kick motion under the bumper. The kicking is generally reliable, but has frustrated on occasion with a refusal to accept our kicks. The cargo cover that comes standard is a little tricky to operate and feels a little flimsy. Strangely, there are two pieces of fabric that must be pulled taut. The more standard, larger piece that covers most of the cargo area can be yanked forward and slot into a neat groove, but the piece on the other side of the roller must be delicately placed in a couple slots right near the rear seats. If you’re too short, you might be forced to climb into the cargo hold to get it right.
For the record, this piece exists because of the back seat's reclining functionality and ensure there isn't a gap between the upright seat and the cover.
Now, let’s chuck some suitcases in it.
All three carry-on suitcases and the medium suitcase fit neatly tucked under the cargo cover. There’s oodles of room in front of them, which ended up being plenty for the fancy bag (22L x 8.8W x 12D). However, you can obviously fit much more around all these suitcases.
Moving along to the full-size suitcases, these also fit comfortably under the cargo cover. However, there’s not enough room on top of them to fit any of the smaller carry-ons. Time to lose the cover.
With this restriction gone, all three carry-on suitcases fit nicely on top of the full-size suitcases. You can see out through the large glass window just fine, as the suitcases hardly eke into sight. Once again, the Forester’s large windows pay great dividends for visibility.
The only other spot to put a bag or suitcase of worthwhile size is on top of the suitcases, though. This does greatly inhibit the view rearward and allows for the possibility of the extra bag flying into the cabin. Unfortunately, the sliver of space left in front and just to the side on the floor isn’t particularly useful. Those spots are best reserved for gift bags or other miscellaneous items on a road trip.
Five suitcases for a crossover that fits five people is perfectly acceptable and excellent in our book. If there are only two along for the ride, the rear seats can be felled with lever pulls in the cargo hold or pull tabs on the seatbacks themselves (note that the lip you see there is from the all-weather cargo mat that is easily pushed down with things on top). This reveals a cavernous and tall 70.9 cubic-foot cargo hold. Or if you skip the sunroof, 76.1 cubic-feet. That number is unmatched by any other crossover in its class. However, the Forester isn’t number one for space behind the second row — the Honda CR-V takes that crown.