2016 Subaru Forester Review: Safety and Performance


Subaru Forester StockI keep hearing such good things about the Subaru Forester: It gets a 5-star rating in government crash tests, and it’s an IIHS Top Safety Pick+, so it’s hard to beat for safety. Forester owners I’ve talked to seem to love theirs. I wanted to try it out for myself, though, especially since my husband and I are in the market for a secondary car to replace our existing Honda Civic. Could the Forester be a contender?

Here’s a quick video overview, with more detailed information below.

Vehicle Features and Driving

I drove the 2016 Subaru Forester 2.5i Limited for a week. As I’ve mentioned in other vehicle reviews, I’m not a “car person” in the sense that I know a lot about fuel injectors or rear suspension. But I do know what I like, and I like a vehicle that feels responsive, as the Forester does.

First, this thing has amazing acceleration. I’d barely touch the gas pedal and it would take off—but not in a bad way. It was nice knowing I could pull out into traffic without worrying about my engine lagging behind. I didn’t do anything crazy, but it handled turns nicely, too. I’m not the kind of person who typically says, “Wow, I really enjoyed driving that,” but I really enjoyed driving that.

Forester EyeSight

EyeSight Cameras on either side of center windshield

The safety features are a big consideration with the Subaru. Foresters equipped with Subaru’s EyeSight technology earn the IIHS Top Safety Pick+. (Foresters without EyeSight are still a Top Safety Pick, just not a “plus.”) EyeSight technology is available on mid-level trim options, which is nice considering that some manufacturers offer similar safety packages only on their top trim levels.

EyeSight includes a frontal crash avoidance system that alerts drivers (through a sound and a dashboard light) when they get dangerously close to a vehicle or object in front of them. If necessary, the vehicle will apply the brakes to avoid or minimize a collision. Also included with EyeSight is a lane departure warning. If the vehicle detects dedicated lanes in the road, it can alert drivers when they veer over the lines.

The warning systems in the Forester seemed a bit more subtle than in some other cars I’ve tested. They’re still noticeable but not startling.

The Adaptive Cruise Control, which allows you to set your speed but then slows down or stops the car based on traffic ahead of it, worked perfectly the few times I tried it out. You can adjust your following distance (close, far, or in between) to your preference.

The only feature the Forester lacked that I would have appreciated is a blind-spot detection/avoidance system.

Subaru ForesterOne other nice safety feature of the Forester was adaptive headlights. My husband took the car out at night and came home to report that the headlights were flashing on and off. After doing some research, we realized it was actually the fog lights. When the headlights are on and the car turns or goes around curves, the fog light on that side of the vehicle lights up to give the driver a better view and a bit more reaction time in case something is around the bend. We were surprised that even just a slight turn of the steering wheel would activate the lights—it worked even on very subtle curves in the road, not just on tight curves. I wouldn’t say the feature was distracting, per se, but it was unusual for us. I’m sure it’s the kind of thing we would have gotten used to and not even noticed after a while.

The Forester’s fuel economy is 24 MPG city/32 MPG highway, for a combined MPG of

Car Seats and Kids


Harmony Defender 360° Combination Seat Review


DefendermainHarmony Juvenile Products brings us the Defender 360° combination harness-to-booster seat, a solid performer alongside Harmony’s excellent line-up of booster seats both in Canada and the US.

US customers can purchase from Amazon.comWalmart.com or Burlington Coat Factory for $99-119, and Canadian customers can purchase from Walmart.ca for $159. The Defender is a well-priced seat that comes with features seen more often with a higher price tag.

Samples shown in this review are primarily Canadian. Differences between countries will be noted where relevant.

Defender 360° Specs:

  • With 5-point harness: forward facing from 22-65 lbs. and 27-57″ tall
  • As a booster (high back or backless with lap/shoulder belt): 30-110 lbs. and 34-57″ tall (US) / 40-110 lbs. and 34-57″ tall (Canada)


  • No-rethread harness height adjustment through nine positions
  • Smooth harness adjuster
  • Two crotch buckle positions
  • EPE energy-absorbing foam in headrest, backrest and base
  • Harness covers included
  • May use lower LATCH anchors in booster mode
  • Cup holder swivels and can be used on either side of seat
  • Infinite recline system to best mesh with the vehicle seat shape
  • Approved for use on aircraft (in harness mode)
  • Machine washable cover
  • Ten year life span before expiration
  • Available in three fashions: Pirate Gold (black/grey/yellow), Raspberry (pink/grey), and Moon Rise (US only – black/grey/red)

Harmony Defender Pirate Gold Harmony Defender Raspberry Harmony Defender Moonrise


Harmony Big Boost Deluxe Booster with LATCH Review – the best big kid booster ever?


Harmony Big Boost - stockWhen it comes to backless boosters – there really isn’t much to rave about. Usually. A backless booster is simply a positioning device meant to boost older kids so that the adult seatbelt fits them properly. A backless booster is usually the last product that older kids will use before they can pass the 5-Step Test and transition to using just the adult seatbelt. Generally speaking, this doesn’t happen until about 10-12 years for most kids although there are always exceptions. The problem with a lot of backless boosters on the market right now is that they don’t actually fit many of the older, heavier kids who still need to use them. Many products claim weight limits of 100 lbs. or more but when you try to stick a kid who weighs 90+ lbs. in the seat, you quickly realize that those numbers don’t translate in the real world. Luckily, bigger kids are not a problem for the Harmony Big Boost Deluxe. It seems to be the ideal booster for kids who may have trouble fitting comfortably in other backless boosters but really still need some help to fit properly in the adult seatbelt. On the downside, it doesn’t seem to fit smaller kids as well and that’s a concern since the minimum weight limit for this product is 30 lbs.

Big Boost Deluxe Specs & Features:

  • Harmony Big Boost DeluxeWeight range: 30 – 110 lbs.
  • Height range: 34 – 57″
  • Age requirements: None (manual indicates that you should consult your state laws for guidance; we suggest this product for kids between 6-12 years old)
  • Child’s ears must be below top of vehicle seat headrest
  • Flexible hook-style lower LATCH attachments with center front adjust strap
  • Well-padded and comfortable
  • Smooth bottom won’t scratch or dent vehicle upholstery
  • Cup holder can be attached to either side
  • Cover is machine washable
  • Shoulder belt positioning strap (if needed) is attached at the bottom


  • Product weight: Less than 4 lbs. (according to my digital bathroom scale)
  • Inside width at hip area: 13″
  • Overall width at widest point: 17.5″
  • Seat depth: 13″ approximately (it’s difficult to measure on this seat)

Belt Fit:

The Big Boost did an excellent job positioning the seatbelt properly on my 11-year-old who is 105 lbs. and 55″ tall.  He raves about how comfortable this seat is and claims it’s the best booster he has ever used! In case you’re wondering why my 6th grader still uses a booster – it’s because the seatbelts in most of our vehicles don’t fit him right yet. He still needs a little boost to be comfortable (and safe!) in the adult seat belt. When he grows a few inches taller (which I’m sure will happen soon), he will pass the 5-Step Test in my van and hubby’s truck. But for now he actually prefers to use a booster. The problem we’ve had is that he doesn’t fit in most boosters on the market today – even the ones that are supposedly rated to 110 lbs. or more. However, as you can see, he fits in this seat and is very happy with it. I specifically asked if he’s bothered by the seat depth because it doesn’t extend all the way down this thighs but he says it’s not an issue. He’s been using this seat for the last 2 months, even on long road trips, and he’s totally comfortable

Harmony Big Boost Harmony Big Boost Harmony Big Boost

On the opposite end of the weight range, here is what belt fit looks like in the same vehicle with a 5-year-old who weighs 37 lbs. and is 43″ tall. The belt fit isn’t terrible but the lap belt placement is a little too low in my opinion (across the femur instead of making contact with the pelvic bones) and when she scooted all the way to one side, she had about 4″ of room between her body and the other side of the booster. My honest opinion is that this product would be best suited for kids who weigh at least 50 lbs.

Harmony Big Booster - smaller child Harmony Big Boost - swimming in this seat Harmony Big Boost - belt fit on smaller child


Traveling with Harmony Big BoostWhile no booster seat, including this one, can be used on an airplane because airplane seats only have lap belts (and you need a lap/shoulder seatbelt to use any booster), this product does make a great travel seat for older kids. We recently flew with the Harmony Big Boost Deluxe and it fit easily in the overhead bin. It also stored nicely under the seat on the flight home when the overhead bins were full. It’s super lightweight and the front adjuster strap that connects to the lower LATCH connectors made a handy loop for attaching the seat to our wheeled carry-on bag.  If traveling with a backless booster, we always recommend taking it with you as carry-on even though your child can’t sit in it during the flight. A backless booster is small enough to be a carry-on item and if you bring it with you on the plane, it’s nearly impossible for it to be lost or damaged in transit.

Bottom Line:

The Harmony Big Boost Deluxe in a welcome new product for bigger, older kids. It’s super comfortable and it does a great job positioning the seatbelt properly on bigger, older kids. While it isn’t the cheapest backless on the market (MSRP $24.99), it’s a great value for what you get – especially since it’s LATCHable. The only potential downsides are that it’s wide, may not be a great fit on smaller, lighter kids and currently it’s only available at Walmart.

If you’re searching for a comfortable, LATCHable, backless booster and your kid is on the heavier side of the weight range –  the Harmony Big Boost Deluxe definitely deserves your consideration. If you ask my kid, he’ll tell you to go for it because he claims it’s the most comfortable booster he has ever used. That’s an impressive endorsement coming from a kid who has used many different boosters in his short lifetime!

The Incredible (little?) Plasticman!


If you know me, you know one of my peeves is when people try to swing my kids around by their arms or lift them up by their hands. I’m always the bad guy to ruin the fun for all. But here’s why:

Kids, especially the under 5 set, are pretty much just running around connected by rubber bands. It sounds crude to say, but it’s true. The ligaments holding their joints together are still fresh, and aren’t as strong as they will be later in childhood. One of the most common minor injuries of childhood is known as the “nursemaid elbow”. It occurs when a child is pulled hard by the arm, falls on it wrong, or is picked up or swung by their arms/hands. The weight is too much for the immature ligaments to handle, and the joint of the elbow partially or completely dislocates. It’s pretty painful for the child, and you’ll know right away if it happens. Kids will cry and refuse to use their arm.


It’s pretty scary but fortunately it’s benign and a simple fix. Your pediatrician or the doctor at urgent care or the emergency room can quickly pop it back into place by doing a maneuver known as a reduction. It hurts for a split second but there’s immediate relief. The downside is if this happens to your child once, the odds of it happening again are pretty high, so you may be making multiple trips before your child’s ligaments firm up a bit after the age of 5 or 6.

I swear sometimes my 2 year old does look like this.

I swear sometimes my 2 year old does look like this.

You can prevent this from happening altogether by always leading your child gently by the arm (I know this is hard when you’re holding their hand and they are doing spaghetti legs and flailing around!), only lifting them by their armpits, and avoiding rough play that involves swinging them around by their hands or wrists. Sometimes it just happens regardless, but following those basic tips greatly reduces the chances that your toddler will have to go through the pain.

But if it does happen, don’t fret. It’s very common and sometimes it’s just another bump in the roller coaster of childhood.