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Subaru Forester
Sticker price: $19,995 - $28,195
AOL 'market price': $19,602 - $27,344
Mileage: 26 mpg Hwy, 20 mpg City
IIHS Top Safety Pick: Yes

The Forester has always been a solid, practical crossover. But while the last-generation version looked like a side-up shoe box on wheels, the latest model has gained some curves while retaining all its practical appeal. This new version is the biggest reason that Subaru was the only auto brand with significant volume to get a sales increase - albeit a small one - last year.

The Forester straddles that not-so-fine line between wagon and SUV. From behind the steering wheel, it definitely feels like a car - and a good one at that. Especially with the optional turbocharged engine, there's plenty of power and no "turbo lag." (In other words, the turbocharger comes on smoothly rather than giving an abrupt jump in power as you accelerate.)

The Forester's not exactly a blast to drive, though. The steering and suspension aren't as sharp as they could be, but the handling is fundamentally secure and balanced.

Safety, as always, is a big selling point for this Subaru. It earned a "Top Safety Pick" from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

NEXT: Mazda CX-7

Last updated February 02 2009: 9:20 AM ET
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