If getting around town safely and with the confidence of all-wheel drive in any weather conditions is important to your family, then the 2018 Subaru Forester is an ideal candidate to make your short list of SUVs.

The SUV category is loaded with competition and every vehicle makes great efforts to try to distinguish itself by making something they do, or offer, especially good. For the Forester, it has two things going for it immediately: one, it’s a Subaru; two, it has the signature all-wheel drive feature as standard equipment.

The Subaru Forester will not make many heads turn with its conservative exterior styling. If you note the comparison involves many vehicles in the class that must use more extreme styling cues to distinguish themselves, and you look at Subaru’s willingness to rest on its great reliability record and capability in all conditions of weather, it comes down to what’s more important to you – looks, or performance?

Performance

The 2018 Subaru Forester has two engines: a 170-horsepower four-cylinder base engine (called a flat-four) and a 250-hp turbo four-cylinder. The turbo-four delivers the expected higher levels of acceleration, but I found the base model powerplant to offer plenty of oomph to get around the town and moving into fast highway traffic.

A six-speed manual transmission is standard, and a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) is optional. While all-wheel drive is the standard, and that typically means lessened fuel economy, the Forester gets good fuel economy. With the base engine, this Forester manages 26 mpg city and 32 mpg highway.

Cabin

The first thing you will notice when you get yourself situated in the Forester is that there’s a simplicity to the layout and to the details throughout the dash. Based on what the standard is for the class, and most cars, this is at the lower end – though it is highly functional and certainly never distracting.

My biggest gripe would be the hard plastics that still dot the interior spaces. They feel cheaper and unnecessary when other competitors avoid. The Forester will accommodate five passengers.

Seating in both rows is firm and comfortable. Diver visibility is excellent and both headroom and legroom was plentiful up front and in the back. To keep the little ones safe, there are two full sets of LATCH car-seat connectors in the Subaru Forester.

Standard features in the Forester include a basic audio system, a USB port, Bluetooth, and the Starlink infotainment system with a 6.2-inch touch screen. Available features include dual-zone automatic climate control, navigation, an eight-speaker Harman Kardon audio system, and an upgraded infotainment system with a 7-inch touch screen.

Cargo

The Forester is an SUV and it is expected that there needs to be flexibility in the interior cabin space that will accommodate people and things to be hauled. The Forester accomplishes this very well with easy maneuvering of seats to flat positions.

With the rear seats up, it has more than 34 cubic feet of space. With the rear seats down, this Subaru offers almost 75 cubic feet of cargo room.

Pricing

While the base 2.5i Subaru Forester starts at $22,795, which is one of the best entry prices in this class. The biggest difference is that adding all-wheel drive to any of the competitors will set you back a couple grand minimum. You can opt for the turbo engine 2.0XT Premium and you start off at a base of $29,495. Comparing to the competition, that’s pretty impressive.

Delivering the confidence of standard symmetrical all-wheel drive, the Forester manages to set itself apart from a crowded class though a true difference maker that should get a lot of attention here in Chicagoland, where weather can be brutal.

This auto review was researched and written by SteinPro Content Services and provided to the Sun-Times for publication