Subaru had a quite a lasting and prosperous sprint with its stylish Forester SUV. Right since its launch in 1998, the Subaru Forester has very efficiently defined the Japanese legacy and characters. Over the years, the Forester did gain constant updates, but it never missed out on its core qualities of a sturdy, spacious, and capable family car.
Demystifying its orthodoxical attire, the Subaru Forester was fashioned into a more contemporary outfit in 2019 for its fifth-generation. Subaru is one of the pioneers in the crossover segment. The Forester is a hot favorite among buyers who live in snowy weather or likes to drive off the beaten path. Its high stance provides plenty of space for cargo and people in a well-equipped, high-quality interior.
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Engine And Performance
Expert Review, Pricing Analysis and Buying Guide
The 2021 Subaru Forester has undergone some significant changes. The 2021 Forester is more grown-up, more powerful, and more pleasant on the inside. It also has a more extensive feature and safety bucket than its fourth-generation. Comparing to the 2020 model year though, it didn't see much change apart from some additional packages and features.
8.0/10 Engine and Performance
8.0/10 Fuel Economy
7.0/10 Final Verdict
2021 Subaru Forester Features
The 2021 Subaru Forester in Base, Premium, Sport, Limited or Touring models. Trademark of Subaru’s, you will always have standard AWD. The standard 2.5 liter naturally aspirated engine produces 182 hp and a 7-speed CVT is the only transmission. All models share a CVT as the only transmission option, and the latter two are offered with a manual mode and steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters.
Adds/Upgrades to Base
Adds/Upgrades to Premium
Adds/Upgrades to Sport
Adds/Upgrades to Limited
Automatic climate control system
LED Fog lights
Halogen Fog Lamps
Satin-Chrome exterior mirrors with automatic reverse tilt
6-way manually adjustable driver seat
Rear AC vents
Orange and Black Silica Exterior Accents
Dual-Zone Automatic Climate Control System
2-position Driver Seat memory
10-way power-adjustable driver seat
Key-less access with push-button start
LED Steering Responsive Headlights
8-way power-adjustable driver/passenger seat
17-inch Steel wheels
Premium cloth upholstery
Roof Rails with integrated tie-downs
Roof-rails with silver accents and integrated tie-downs
Eye-sight driver technology
17-inch Aluminum alloy wheels
18-inch Aluminum Alloy wheels
Saddle Brown Leather Upholstery
X-Mode with hill descent control
Dual-function X-Mode with hill descent control
Blind-spot detection with Lane Change Assist
DriverFocus Distraction Mitigation System
6.3-inch Multimedia Information display
Body-colored exterior mirrors with integrated turn indicators
Harman-Kardon 9-speaker Audio System
The top-trims, “Limited” and “Touring”, established on top of the basic features with some extra items that further add the oomph factor to the shelter. Some of these include Powered Tailgate, Dual-zone automatic climate control, LED Steering responsive headlights and the list goes on.
Which trim is recommended?
While the base Forester is sufficient to meet your needs, we think the Forester 2.5i Premium offers the best value as it adds a panoramic power moonroof, alloy wheels, and power liftgate. Most importantly, it unlocks the acclaimed Subaru EyeSight driver assistance technologies.
2021 Subaru Forester Engine and Performance
The sole engine available with the 2021 Subaru Forester is a 2.5-liter naturally aspirated inline-4 pot that makes 182 hp and 176 ft-lbs. This is the very same engine that also powers the Outback and Legacy. We expect this engine to serve in the 2021 Forester as well. Mated to a CVT, the engine is neither inspiring nor dull. Its modest power seems adequate for the daily tasks, while spirited demands are certainly not part of this powertrain’s meal. On harder passing applications, the engine does seem drained too quickly.
Later in the year, Subaru is considering using the Ascent and Legacy sourced 2.4-liter turbo engine that makes 260 hp. Another talk on the table is that the globally available Forester hybrid could finally make its way into the U.S in 2021. We could only wait and see how much of these talkings convert into doing.
2.5L Naturally Aspirated H-4
2.5L Naturally Aspirated Inline-4
2.4L Naturally Aspirated Inline-4
CVT with Sport Mode
The segment consists of humbly powered machines that thrive to strike a perfect balance between performance and efficiency. Speaking of sheer numbers though, the Toyota RAV4 does have an edge over the others with its standard 203 hp. However, that small power bump barely makes any noticeable difference in its zeal and character.
Subaru Forester 0 to 60
The 2021 Subaru Forester with the 2.5 L boxer 4 engines can do the 0 to 60 mph run in 8.5 seconds. Still, it feels inactive when you are trying to expedite on the highway or merging into traffic. Sport mode intensifies the throttle answer, still, there isn't enough vigor at the top end.
2.5L Naturally Aspirated H-4
2.5L Naturally Aspirated Inline-4
2.4L Naturally Aspirated Inline-4
That’s acceptable for an SUV and opponents like Nissan Rogue and Honda CR-V take a comparable time. The Volkswagen Tiguan is slowest in this comparison because of the heft.
Driving the Subaru Forester
The 2021 Forester is surprisingly agile for an SUV with 8.7 inches of ground clearance. Body roll is well controlled and the steering feels adequate but not overly fast. Although the Forester is no magic carpet, it rides impressively. The top of the line 2.0XT Touring gets torque vectoring. It basically brakes the inner wheels when cornering for sharper turn-in.
The new 2.5-liter boxer engine, with 182 horsepower and 176 lb-ft of torque, feels satisfactory if not overpowering. It is sufficient to move this 3,500-pound SUV up to the mountain without any evident lag. The new Subaru Global Platform that underpins the Impreza, Crosstrek, all-new three-row Ascent, and now the Forester is 40 % more rigid than the outgoing model. The ride quality is excellent with minimal body roll on corners.
The Subaru Forester is equipped with 11.6-inch brake rotors up front (Forester 2.0XT gets larger front rotors) and 11.2-inch rotors in the rear. The bite remains the same after repetitive use and less pedal stroke before braking inspires confidence. Forester's brake-based torque-vectoring system squeezes the inside wheel calipers in hard cornering to provide a more nimble feel.
Brake Rotors Front
Brake Rotors Rear
The brakes haul the 3449 pounds, Forester, to a halt from 60 mph in 118 feet – one of the best amongst opponents. The escape is also great and just takes 116 feet to stop from 60 mph to standstill. The Nissan Rogue and the Volkswagen Tiguan are far behind taking 127 feet and 131 feet respectively.
2021 Subaru Forester Fuel Economy
While most people do find the Forester’s base engine to be underpowered, it is for a cause. The 2.5-liter unit does maker the Forester compromise on power but compensates well with its decent fuel economy. The CVT transmission further propels its frugal intentions.
The 2021 Subaru Forester returns 26 mpg in the city, 33 on highway and 29 combined. It comes with an automatic stop/start system when you are at a stoplight which also helps in conserving fuel.
Emissions (Tons/yr of CO2 Emissions @ 15K mi/year)
Compared to its rivals, the Forester turns out to be very impressive on the economy front, especially with its raw and rugged character. Its 29 mpg combined is only one mpg lesser than the Toyota CR-V 30 mpg combined. The Forester comes standard with an AWD system and is more substantial than the Nissan Rogue and Volkswagen Tiguan.
2021 Subaru Forester Interior
Again, even on the inside, we are not used to seeing severe changes in successive Subaru models. The 2020 fifth-generation Forester did gain up some upscaling and interior ambiance; the overall theme and layout were very identical. The 2021 Subaru Forester has roomy and clean interiors that can be decorated with leather upholstery with stitching effect in the higher models. While the dashboard, center console, and door-panels do get soft-touch material on them, you will also get some good company of cheap plastics.
The overall dashboard layout is very neat, with touchscreen infotainment stacked into the dash along with some shortcut buttons and temperature controls. Higher models get most of the creature comforts like heated and power-adjustable front seats on board.
First Row (Head/Shoulder/Leg) (in)
Second Row (Head/Shoulder/Leg) (in)
Third Row (Head/Shoulder/Leg) (in)
The seats in the Forester are not as good as their rivals, but they offer good support and adjustability over long distances. In terms of curb weight and interior space, the Subaru Forester and Nissan Rogue are pretty similar. The Honda CR-V and Volkswagen Tiguan are somewhat bigger in terms of interior space when compared to the latter.
The Forester has been stuffed with a ton of specialties that follows up with the division, some of these features are:
10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat
Heated front seats
The leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear shifter
The heated steering wheel and front seats
Dual-zone automatic climate control
60/40 split flat-folding rear seats
Convenience is one aspect where the Forester truly shines with its best in the class space. With a bold proportion, the Forester also serves you with a cargo area of 35.4 cu-ft, which is more than enough to pack your weekend escape items of baggage.
With no significant prospective updates on the inside, the 2021 Subaru Forester shall continue to delight us with its indigenous specialty. With the rear seats down it can hold a substantial amount of cargo.
Cargo Capacity (with the third row folded)
Cargo Capacity (with all rows folded)
That’s above average for the class, exceeding both the Nissan Rogue and Honda CR-V in total cargo space. The CR-V's cargo area is slightly larger, though the Forester has more maximum cargo room if you don't opt for the sunroof.
The 2021 Subaru forester sees some new changes. The first and foremost is larger 11.6-inch touchscreen infotainment, as seen in the 2020 Outback. Since Forester’s STARLINK infotainment system is already rich in connectivity features like Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, NFC, and voice-activated controls, there is barely anything left to wish for.
The higher models of the 2021 Forester are likely equipped with the premium audio system over the present 9-speaker Harman Kardon system. The system itself is sharp and crisp with a clean user-interface that makes it very intuitive to use.
Some of the outstanding features are:
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
Pandora and Aha app integration
Bluetooth audio streaming with hands-free feature
2021 Subaru Forester Exterior
This is where the 2021 Subaru Forester got significant changes. While the overall form factor and the architecture remain the same, some minor exterior changes are evident. Thre is a redesigned front and rear bumper with some more aggression probably tweaked headlamp housings and more extensive wheel arches with widespread rim options, of course.
Apart from the changes mentioned above, rest everything shall remain the same. Thanks to Subaru’s product revision cycle of five years. Since the fifth-gen Forester was only unveiled in 2019, we are not going to get a complete thorough overhaul before 2024.
Compared to its rivals, the Subaru Forester has a persona of its own, and it lets you know its intentions and purpose at first glance. Unlike its curvy and trendy counterparts, which are more tuned for city-travel, the Forester proudly flexes its rugged and muscular appeal. It means business, nothing else. Some might find it a bit orthodox, but that’s how we have known Subaru’s over the years.
The Subaru Forester has been blessed with some signature design cues that set it apart from the segment in some way or the other. Some of these features are:
LED Steering Responsive Headlights
Windshield wiper de-icer with heated external mirrors
Satin chrome exterior mirrors with integrated indicators
2021 Subaru Forester Safety
Aside from their raw and go-anywhere character, Subaru’s are also known for their high safety standards. With an excellent standard safety package and reworked architecture, the fifth-gen Forester took the standard even further. As one of the safest cars in its segment, the 2020 Subaru Forester sets the bar even higher with its 5-star safety rating from NHTSA and a Top Safety Pick+ recognition from IIHS.
Some of the highlighted safety features of the 2021 Subaru Forester are listed below:
Adaptive Cruise Control
Lane Departure and Sway Warning
Lane Keep Assist
Airbag Occupancy Sensor
Curtain 1st And 2nd Row Airbags
Dual Stage Driver And Passenger Front Airbags
Dual Stage Driver And Passenger Seat-Mounted Side Airbags
Side Impact Beams
ABS And Driveline Traction Control
Electronic Stability Control (ESC)
2021 Subaru Forester Competition
Subaru Forster Vs Honda CR-V
The Subaru Forester and Honda CR-V have similar fuel economy and size. The Honda CR-V has the best in class cargo space which the Forester can't match. The 1.5-liter turbocharged powertrain of CR-C is far better in terms of performance when compared to the Forester.
The Forester is a capable off-roader and the CR-V can't match its ability. Opting one depends on what you desire, city jaunts, or adventure junkie.
Subaru Forster Vs Nissan Rogue
The Nissan Rogue and Subaru Forester have a lot of things in common. Both have an underpowered powertrain and similar EPA ratings. Both of the vehicles have lots of legroom and headroom.
The Subaru Forester undercuts the Nissan Rogue by $500 and also comes with standard all-wheel drive. In Nissan, you have to pay extra for 4WD, which makes the Forester an obvious winner.
2021 Subaru Forester Final Verdict
If you are looking for a spacious compact-crossover that can not only drop your kids to school safely and efficiently but also take on the wild terrains with ease, the Subaru Forester is the right choice. It packs all the character and flavor that you might look for in the segment, and though it might not be as flashy as its rivals, it always guarantees pure business. Most importantly, it offers the potential, space, and versatility of one class higher SUVs at a very competitive price.
Is the Subaru Forester any good?
Yes, the Subaru Forester is amongst the best compact-SUVs in the market today. Its composition of comfort, utility, and space makes it a very valuable proposition. Above all, its high ground clearance and standard AWD make it a competent off-roader as well.
Which is better Toyota or Subaru?
Japanese car brands have an excellent reliability rating, and both the Toyota as well as Subaru are no different. However, since Toyota’s trust of quality dates decades back, Subaru started entrusting upon reliability only after 2010. In direct comparison today, Toyota is still more reliable than the Subaru. Thanks to Toyota’s large number of on-sale products than the latter.