Excellent overall value and likely best car available in the USA for under 25,000.
I have had the chance to drive many performance cars, but by far, this has been my favorite!
Unexpectedly so, it provides antisocial levels of performance/straight line acceleration. Off the line, it is the fastest car that I have ever read about (0-30 in 1.3 seconds!). You can take V8 Camaros and BMW's all day long from the stoplights. It's in gear acceleration is also exhilarating, and you can easily embarass many purebred performance cars at legal speeds.
It's right at home around town or on back roads as the turbo has little lag, the handling is stable and the AWD traction is good, allowing you to make quick work of the thousands of half asleep americans that turn passive aggressive on you the instant you try to pass. It's small exterior size is also a plus for jumping in and out of holes in the traffic and parking it when all is said and done. These qualities and more might make it work equally well in frenetic Europe (or New York!) where you have to be aggressive for dear life since people get road raged at you if you drive slow instead of fast.
In your favor is the fact that it looks really banal, soccer mom-like and slow.
The sleeper/"It wasn't me officer" value is about as good as it gets for a car of this performance.
Interior room is above average, a marvellous feat considering small exterior dimensions. Ading to the enjoyment of that space is a spartan, yet ergonomic layout. Luxury is OK, but the car is a bit unrefined. You need to pay a lot of attention to the balky shifter that always needs to be rowed due to the short gears. Blistering low speed acceleration has its costs: drivers expecting to be coddled need not apply.
The biggest problems are the high speed performance and handling. All of the magic ends at the top of 3rd gear at 80 after which you still have a decent, but no longer stellar performance envelope. All those v8's you squeezed ahead of to get onto the ramp will be zipping by you. High speed handling is also hurt by the softish suspension. This is less of an issue for me because I spend less time on the highway, but cross country types may want to consider a Legacy GT wagon instead.
Sometimes people ask why to get a performance car if the speed limits in the USA are so low. Well, to them, I answer Forester XT because it's happiest within the speed limits and its so practical you'll never feel you made a sacrifice!