2021 Subaru Forester

MSRP range: $24,795 - $34,895
Edmunds suggests you pay$25,849

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Build and Price

2021 Subaru Forester Review

  • Standard all-wheel drive
  • A full complement of driver assist features are standard
  • Enhanced off-road capability thanks to better-than-average ground clearance
  • Generous cargo capacity
  • Engine is underpowered
  • Modest tow rating limits maximum utility
  • Automatic high beams and turn-swiveling headlights are now standard
  • Other minor revisions to standard feature availability
  • Part of the fifth Forester generation introduced in 2019

The fifth-generation Subaru Forester debuted just a couple of years ago, so it carries on into 2021 with relatively few changes. We're pretty fond of it, even if it isn't our top-rated small SUV. The ever-popular Forester slots between the smaller Subaru Crosstrek and the larger three-row Ascent. It's loaded with tons of standard driver aids and tech, and — thanks to standard all-wheel drive and decent ground clearance — it's better than most of the competition off-road.

There's a plethora of great choices for a small SUV, with just about every mainstream automaker offering a similarly sized and equipped model. Our favorite remains the well-rounded Honda CR-V, though you might also want to check out the Jeep Cherokee, which has similar off-road abilities as the Forester. Is this small Subaru for you? Check out our Expert Rating to read our in-depth take on the 2021 Forester's advantages and disadvantages.

EdmundsEdmunds' Expert Rating
Rated for you by America’s best test team
Aside from lackluster acceleration, there isn't much to dislike about the Subaru Forester. This crossover SUV delivers the feel and rugged attitude that buyers want, along with a comfortable cabin and plenty of features for the price.
A largely gutless engine holds the Forester back. The four-cylinder engine and CVT automatic take their time getting up to speed. The Forester accelerated from 0 to 60 mph in a slow 9.3 seconds during Edmunds testing. Its steering, handling and braking, on the other hand, are more respectable. While the Forester isn't sporty, especially not compared to top rivals, it feels planted and changes direction with speed and confidence.

The Forester shines off-road thanks to 8.7 inches of ground clearance and an X-Mode drive setting that includes trail capability and hill descent control. There's much more off-road prowess here than you get in a typical small crossover SUV.
Whether you've got a long daily commute or a refreshing retreat on the horizon, the Forester will keep you riding in comfort. The front seats are well padded and have good bolstering and lumbar support, and the suspension easily smooths out bumps and ruts in the road.

Road noise is kept to a minimum. The Forester's tall profile does produce some wind noise, but it's a small price to pay for the commanding seat position and great visibility. Climate control knobs are right where they should be and easy to find without taking your eyes off the road. The available automatic climate control works well, and most Foresters come standard with heated seats.
All controls inside the Forester are clearly labeled and easy to reach. There's no fussing around or overdoing things. The available 8-inch center touchscreen is crisp and simple to navigate. Everything about the Forester seems to have been designed right. Getting in and out is aided by tall doors and an SUV-style ride height. There's enough room for four, and possibly five, seated adults. The driver's seat offers a wide range of adjustments, and the steering wheel has plenty of telescoping range.
Subaru provides infotainment features that any owner, tech-savvy or not, can appreciate. The dual-screen center layout is attractive and easy to use. The navigation system is clear and even takes voice commands well. If Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are more your flavor, Subaru has you covered by making them standard equipment. Multiple USB ports are in both the front and rear.

We're especially fans of the driving aids included with Subaru EyeSight. The adaptive cruise control system works well and lane keeping assist, now with lane centering, prevents the Forester from drifting out of its lane. Forward collision mitigation is also included and never activated when it wasn't needed in our test.
The Forester is slightly lower in total storage capacity compared with competitors such as the Honda CR-V, but a high roof and clever cargo layout make the space usable for large items. Parents will find the Forester a little disappointing when it comes to installing child safety seats, however. The car seat anchors are buried deep in the rear seats, and fitting large rear-facing seats will be a squeeze.

With just 1,500 pounds of maximum towing capacity, towing is not the Forester's strong suit. It's better to look elsewhere if you're pulling anything substantial.
The EPA rates the Forester at 29 mpg combined (26 city/33 highway), which is near the top of the class. In testing, however, we found that the weak engine had us pinning the throttle more, which can make real-world fuel economy suffer a bit.
The Forester gives buyers a lot of options depending on how much they want to spend and how fancy they like their cars. Interior build quality is high, and in general you'll feel like you got your money's worth. Subaru offers an average warranty for the class.
Acceleration is the Forester's only notable weak point. While it's a big one, it's certainly not enough to detract from all of the vehicle's standout areas. Everything else, from comfort to technology to driver aids to storage capacity to outdoor adventure credentials, is top-notch. Its upright style and rugged components lend the Forester a unique personality, and standard all-wheel drive with a strong ride height backs it up.

Which Forester does Edmunds recommend?

While the base Forester comes with a decent list of standard equipment, including a full complement of advanced driver safety aids, we suggest stepping up to the Forester Premium trim. It adds features including a panoramic sunroof and alloy wheels that aren't available on the base model.

Subaru Forester models

The 2021 Subaru Forester is available in five trim levels: base, Premium, Sport, Limited and Touring. As with nearly all Subarus, all-wheel drive is standard on all trims. Feature highlights include:

The base Forester is reasonably equipped with:

  • 2.5-liter four-cylinder (182 horsepower, 176 lb-ft of torque)
  • Continuously variable transmission (CVT) automatic
  • 17-inch steel wheels
  • Adaptive LED headlights (swivel as you turn the steering wheel for better illumination in curves)
  • Automatic high beams
  • Subaru's Starlink app suite, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration
  • 6.5-inch touchscreen infotainment system
  • Automatic climate control

You also get Subaru's EyeSight suite of driver aids:

  • Adaptive cruise control (adjusts speed to maintain a constant distance between the Forester and the car in front)
  • Forward collision mitigation (warns if a front impact is imminent and applies the brakes if you don't respond in time)
  • Lane departure warning (alerts you if the vehicle begins to drift out of its lane)
  • Lane keeping assist (steers the Forester back into its lane if it begins to drift over the lane marker)

The Premium trim includes all of the base model's features, adding:

  • 17-inch alloy wheels
  • Raised roof rails
  • Foglights
  • Keyless entry with push-button start
  • Panoramic sunroof
  • Tinted rear windows
  • Power-adjustable driver's seat
  • 4G LTE Wi-Fi
  • All-Weather package
    • Heated front seats
    • Heated steering wheel
    • Windshield wiper de-icer
  • Multiple drive modes for improved traction in certain scenarios

Options on the Premium include:

  • Blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert (warns you if a vehicle is in your blind spot during a lane change or while reversing)
  • Power liftgate

As the name implies, this trim gets some sporty touches as well as:

  • 18-inch alloy wheels
  • Black and orange interior and exterior accents
  • LED foglights
  • Standard blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert

Options include:

  • Harman Kardon audio system
  • An integrated navigation system
  • Power liftgate
  • Rear automatic braking (brakes if sensors detect an imminent collision with an object behind the vehicle)

The Limited trim ditches the Sport's black and orange theme but adds:

  • 8-inch touchscreen display
  • Dual-zone automatic climate control
  • Leather upholstery
  • Power liftgate

Options for the Limited include:

  • Harman Kardon audio system
  • An integrated navigation system
  • Rear automatic braking
  • Heated steering wheel

The top-level Touring trim includes all of the Limited's optional feature and adds:

  • More adjustment and memory settings for the driver's seat
  • Power-adjustable passenger seat
  • Standard driver monitoring system (issues an alert if sensors determine you are becoming fatigued)
  • Heated rear outboard seats
  • Heated steering wheel

Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the 2021 Subaru Forester.

Average user rating: 4.5 stars
30 total reviews
5 star reviews: 80%
4 star reviews: 3%
3 star reviews: 6%
2 star reviews: 3%
1 star reviews: 8%

Trending topics in reviews

  • comfort
  • appearance
  • spaciousness
  • driving experience
  • ride quality
  • safety
  • maintenance & parts
  • doors
  • visibility
  • brakes
  • handling & steering
  • acceleration
  • road noise
  • interior
  • reliability & manufacturing quality
  • lights
  • emission system
  • engine
  • wheels & tires
  • fuel efficiency
  • dashboard
  • value

Most helpful consumer reviews

5/5 stars, Glad we considered it!
Nick N Nora,
4dr SUV AWD (2.5L 4cyl CVT)
Very comfortable, great head room, superb views from all windows. Substantial cargo area in hatch. Large glove compartment. Turn signals are not obnoxious, as most vehicles tend to be. Windshield and rear window wipers are large- sweep very well. Steering radius is fantastic!!!
5/5 stars, Sport handling in a SUV
Touring 4dr SUV AWD (2.5L 4cyl CVT)
So far, very pleased. Very positive handling. We have the Touring model, so it requires some skill to complete all the programming. It took a while to trust the lane centering, but it really does a great job, as does the adaptive cruise control. I was a bit concerned about the power after reading some other reviews, but I can say that the vehicle's power is more than adequate. Quality of build is absolutely superior. Can't fine one flaw anywhere in the interior or exterior of the vehicle. That's the quick review.
5/5 stars, 1st Subaru after 21 years of Honda products
Touring 4dr SUV AWD (2.5L 4cyl CVT)
Picked up my 2021 Forester Touring on Saturday and wish I had looked at Subaru years ago. A much better product than Honda. Solid in every aspect - my prior 2019 CRV was all over the road in bad weather (snow, rain and wind). Made the switch to go back to AWD and it is like night and day. IMHO there is plenty of acceleration to get on and pass on the highway (was worried when reading reviews) but it has plenty of get up and go! Comfortable and a pleasure to drive - went out on Sunday and drove over 150 miles and didn't realize it - did not want to get out of the car. The only complaint - and it is MINOR - is the placement of the lap seat belt attachment. Different placement and size compared to the Honda, but everything else is top of the line. Lots of tech (if you want to use it). As a long term Honda owner (owning the Pilot, CRV, Element and Odyssey) the Forester is hands down the best vehicle I have owned.
5/5 stars, Lovely
Premium 4dr SUV AWD (2.5L 4cyl CVT)
I'm a 6'2" man with an unusually long torso. Most new vehicles come with standard moon roof, and no height control in the passenger seat. This means I do not fit in most new vehicles without special orders. Some of the only vehicles I fit comfortably in, with the trim levels I want, are the Forester (taller headroom) and Outback (standard option to delete moon roof). Luckily I love these cars. I have a 2021 Forester Premium with the power lift gate package, which adds rear cross traffic alert. The safety is fantastic. Subaru's adaptive cruise control can follow start and stop traffic, or intelligently slow down if the car ahead slows. It can also automatically steer and change lanes, although the system requires a good amount of input. It cannot follow hard corners for instance. Android Auto means I can use my phone's Google Maps for navigation. The tech is quite good even on less-than-loaded models. Overall I think the Premium pack with power lift gate is open of the better options on the market. It has buttons! I hate the Tesla style over reliance on touchscreens. They get dirty, and they're dangerous to use while driving. The Forester Premium has all the right controls (volume, climate) on physical buttons. Once you commit those controls to muscle memory it's a superior experience. The engine rocks. Reviewers complain that the engine is smaller in class, while praising best in class fuel efficiency. The two are related. The Forester has similar EPA gas mileage to my old Civic (!), and feels if anything faster. It corners like a dream. My wife is not a performance driver and she is still commenting on the lack of body roll. The Forester comes standard with a CVT which maximizes fuel efficiency. Drivers used to harsh manual transmissions often feel CVTs are weaker because they don't jerk as much. Think of the Subaru boxer engine more like a luxury experience - the power delivery is immediately and smooth at all speeds. I spend 1/3 the amount on gas that my family spend for their Land Cruiser, yet this thing can probably race my old Civic, with similar gas mileage. It's insane. It is also a Subaru in all the right ways. Tons of storage. I packed for 2 people for a week going cross country, and barely even used the back seat. We arrived at a muddy back road and engaged the X-Mode just for fun. The vehicle had zero issues and I arrived with more energy thanks to the excellent safety features and adaptive cruise control. Equally capable rock climbing as at highway speed. Complaints? The ride is quite stiff. It feels fine on the highway, but over poorly maintained city streets where truckers have built up brake zone ruts it's like a roller coaster. The infotainment system could be faster and integrate more seamlessly with Android Auto. When I plug in my phone I want Google Maps - make it happen. The steering assist is a bit annoying. It requires such constant input that I don't feel I'm gaining much. However, up models (especially on the Outback) have even more advanced navigation that likely makes this better. The stop-start cruise control with engine cutoff for efficiency is still a winner, it's just not a Tesla autopilot. Storage could be better. The cup holders are far back to put the X-Mode button on display, and the console has fairly small bins, so you're often hunting for a spot to put things. It's not terrible, but you get the feeling if they relocated the X-Mode button you could gain the storage you need. Rear headroom is poor with the moon roof, so rear comfort is a bit of a budget experience compared to the front. Interior is worlds better than the last generation Subaru, but they still need a design expert to to get rid of those last vestiges of awful cheap plastic where your hands go (especially around the door handle, and around the shifter, for me personally). Overall. Zero issues after a six-hour trip into mountains and dirt roads and mud. Dealership experience was ideal. Fuel consumption is beautiful. Subaru cruise control means you arrive at your destination fresher. Covid financing and warranty options mean I'll be seeing my dealer if anything happens, and right now that seems wonderful. This car makes me and my wife happy. We literally drove it from the lot to a bike shop. Subaru lifestyle is real.

2021 Subaru Forester video

[MUSIC PLAYING] SPEAKER 1: We've hit the trail to answer two questions. Is the new Forester really worthy of the Bronco badge? And how does it function in the real world? To find out, we're putting it to the test alongside that other small SUV with all terrain pretensions, the Subaru Forester. Let's get on with it. Now this might just be the Forester and not the Subaru Bronco. But it does have an impressive lineup of hard and software. All wheel drive, as you'd expect, is standard. And then it features what Subaru calls its goat system. Now in my opinion Muhammad Ali was the GOAT, the greatest of all time. But for Subaru, it means, Go Over Any Terrain, which is a pretty ballsy claim for escape based SUV. In this the more hardcore Badlands edition, you get seven different modes, everything from eco to rock crawl. You also get uprated suspension in the Badlands, increased ground clearance with the bigger tires, and a trick system that employs two different clutches at the back to give you a kind of de facto locking rear differential. So we'll get to play with that. And we've chosen a hill that might not look that hardcore on camera. But what it allows us to do is to show the wheel articulation of this and the Forester and to get a sense of what each vehicle is capable of. So at the moment, we've got all the fancy systems off. We're just relying on the grip from the tires. And then my immense, let's be right about it, immense talent. And one thing this car doesn't have is a low ratio gearbox, which means that you've got to be pretty delicate with the throttle. Now what we're trying to do is go across this articulation. And immediately you can see it's starting to spin things up. A little bit more momentum. Here we go. A little bit more momentum. And up she goes. But to be honest, it's probably not the best if it's your car. What are we going to do now is we're going to go back up the same hill using the same route. But I'm actually going to deploy the goat. So here we go. I'm going to put it into, you know what drives me mad, is as you turn it right, the screen goes left. Drives me nuts. So we're going to go all the way through to rock crawl. Now what that's done is activate this fancy system at the rear, which allows us to send almost all the torque to either the right or the left tire. I'm also going to put it into manual mode on the gearbox and just lock it into first gear. And then away we go. So we're going to take the same path. I've got the front camera to show me the terrain coming up. Let's have a go. You see actually straight away feel the car doing its work. And she just glides up. From a driver's perspective, not as exciting. From a vehicle preservation perspective, really rather good. I have to say, this is quite an impressive toy. So now we're in the Subaru. On the face of it, it's actually quite a lot simpler. But it does have an X Mode system and a choice between snow and dirt or deep snow and mud or indeed normal which you're in most of the time. We have a continuously variable transmission, automatic, which also has an additional function, which gives you sort of lower ratio kind of thing. So we're going to try and do what we did in the Subaru, which is take this sort of fairly aggressive line up this hill. And at the moment, all the systems are off. We're just in normal. So into drive. Let's give it a whirl. Should also say that Subaru is on far less aggressive tires than the Subaru. These are all-- immediately we've got stuck. I would call these all season tires, whereas the Subaru is very much on all terrain tires. So I'm going to back up a little bit and see if we can't give another go. Now the Subaru as you expect does have a reversing camera. But it doesn't have the forward facing camera that the Subaru does that I think is particularly useful. So here we go. Give it a little bit more momentum. And-- OK. So I'm going to try to steer away around this a little bit. Here we go. Let's get a bit of momentum. And as you can see, we are struggling. And up we go. So what are we're going to do now is we're going to take it back round, try again using all the extra gizmos, use this sort of low ratio tight mode on the gearbox. And let's see if we can't restore a bit of Scooby pride. We're going to activate X Mode, turn it into deep snow and mud. What that also does is activate a little screen at the top here, which gives me some guidance about the angle of the car, both from a lateral and a fore and after, whatever you call it, perspective. So just try and use a little bit of momentum, nothing too serious. Let's see how we get on. Actually see the car instantly working harder. That's impressive. That is impressive because these tires have nothing like the grip of the Subarus. Shows how clever electronics are getting, eh? This has always been the Scooby's sort of trump card really in the small SUV class. It might not look like the fiercest of off roaders. And it might not make bold claims with fancy go faster stripes like the Subaru. But honestly, both these cars are actually better than I expected. And while I think ultimately the Subaru will go a little bit further, they Subaru is definitely not disgraced. In fact, in terms of ground clearance, there's only 0.1 of an inch in the Subaru's favor. While we cross the trail, why not click Subscribe to our channel and remember to turn on notifications for future films like this. And if you're looking for a change, head to edmunds.com/sellmycar for a cash offer on your current vehicle. The Forester started at around $28,000. But this top spec Badlands costs almost $36,000. It's based on the Subaru Escape SUV but has been beefed up both technically and aesthetically to appeal to outdoorsy types, or at least those who like to pretend they're outdoorsy. The Forester's a lot less extrovert in the best Subaru tradition. Rally specials aside, Scooby's have always been bought by people comfortable in their own skin. It's an anti statement car. But it has the tech to go head to head with the Sport. And at just under $34,000 in this limited trim, it's a couple of grand cheaper. Inside, you can really see the Escape influence. It's not nearly as funky as the big Bronco. And in places, it does feel a little bit cheap. I can't remember the last time that I drove a $35,000 car with a hard plastic steering wheel, probably a rental. There's plenty of evidence of cost cutting to make space for all that off-road hardware. The perception of quality is actually better in the Subaru. It all works well, there's no shortage of tech. But it's not going to win any design awards. If you're a Subaru fanboy, you might call it utilitarian chic. But for me, it's just a bit dull. The Forester does at least try and liven things up with some neat detailing. I love this little zipper pocket here on the seat back. And yes, it will fit an iPad. You get this little webbing here on the back for hanging stuff from, 110 volt power supply for charging something like a laptop, and my favorite feature under this passenger seat, a sort of cubbie for dirty shoes with enough room for my filthy size 11 Nikes. Neat. But there is a problem. And it's this. Yes. I know I'm 6 foot 4, but it really is tight back here. But tough on the old crotch. This Forester's also set up for my driving position. And as you can see, there's a load more room. Seriously, if you're thinking about buying one of these vehicles as a family car and you've got teenage kids, well worth thinking about. Cargo space I hear you say. Well, with both rear seats up, there's very little to choose between them. But with the rear seats folded down, the Subaru has over 10 cubic feet more space. That's a big difference. [MUSIC PLAYING] To be honest, a path like this up to a trailhead is probably the type of off-roading that these vehicles will do most of the time. And both of them handle it with complete aplomb, we're in normal mode, all the fancy gadgets switched off, and cruising along listening to the love channel. Because as we film, it's almost Valentine's Day. Feeling a bit romantic. Beautiful scenery, sun is shining. Hard to believe we're only about half an hour outside of LA. Honestly though, I could probably get a sedan up here. It's not so tough, this bit. At least I feel a bit tougher in the Bronco. I feel a little bit more alpha, macho, manly. [MUSIC PLAYING] Let's be honest about it. Even if you are a weakened adventurer like the beautiful people on Subaru's website, you're still going to spend most of your time on the road. And on the terra firma, the Forester is all right. Don't expect Honda CRV levels of comfort, or Mazda CX5 style driving finesse. But it's still better than more dedicated off roaders like the Jeep Wrangler. The ride can be a bit choppy and the steering lacks a bit of precision. But we suspect that's exaggerated in the Badlands edition by the off-roader focus suspension and tire setup. Be interesting to drive a standard Forester. The Forester has a nicer ride quality and steers better too. But it's still no Mazda CX5. It's also badly let down by its engine. The 2 and 1/2 liter naturally aspirated boxy unit develops just 182 horsepower and 176 pounds feet of torque and works with a CVT automatic. By contrast, the Subaru's 2 liter turbo develops 245 horsepower and 277 pounds feet of torque and works with a more traditional eight speed automatic that we much prefer. On the road, the Subaru can feel genuinely sluggish. And the difference was confirmed when we took both vehicles to the Edmunds test track. In the hands of our expert test drivers, the Forester recorded zero to 60 in 7.2 seconds, a full 2.1 seconds faster than the Forester. But at least a Subaru stopped more quickly than the Subaru. The Forester needed 120 feet to stop from 60 miles an hour, seven feet less than the Bronco. Anyway, enough with the facts and figures. And I'm now full of caffeine. Let's head back to the trails. But before we do that, I wanted to demonstrate another neat feature of the old Forester. You have the option here of either opening the whole tailgate, or get this, just the glass. Like that. Even if getting a rucksack out is a bit of a challenge. So remember that hill that we came up earlier today? Well, we're now at the top of it looking down. And we're going to test out the car's hill descent control systems or whatever Subaru and Subaru actually call them. So in the Scooby-Doo X Mode into deep snow and mud, using the transmission into its little low mode. And away we go. Now one thing that Subaru struggles with relative to Subaru, you have to look at them to see, is the approach and departure angle. In other words, how much the bodywork's kind of hanging over the front and rear of the tires. And that means you're far more likely to whack a rock at the front or whack a rock at the rear. And that's particularly pertinent going downhill when sometimes it's actually quite difficult to see what you're doing. I'm actually just going to use the brakes a little bit to control the speed. You can feel the ABS doing its thing. I'm actually working with the hill descent control just because I want to manage the speed because I can see with my human eyes that we have a pretty big obstacle ahead. Feel articulation, just easing it down. And again, I'm kind of working with the systems. But I am putting in quite a bit of manual input. I think if we just let it do its thing on its own, we've probably got too much momentum for those big articulations. But we made it down. Now we should make it up the other side. Let's swap to the Subaru. So jumping into the Subaru, I'm into goat mode rock crawl. I'm going to use manual on the gearbox and lock it down into first. But then I'm going to use what Subaru calls trail control. What this effectively is is a kind of cruise control for off road work. And I can actually buy using these little set buttons here on the steering wheel control the speed I want to go. So I'm going to lock it into the lowest possible speed. That's one, take my foot off the brake, and away we go very slowly. So immediately, you've got more control than you had in the Subaru. And if I now I can turn that up to two or three and actually manage my speed electronically. I also love this front camera. I can see where I am. So now I'm going exceptionally slowly. As you can see, all my feet are off the pedals. And down we go. Super easy. Super controlled. Now this would be useful not only if you're doing serious off road work like this, but also if it suddenly snows and you've got to go down a tricky descent. That's really impressive. I've also been playing with this system going uphill. And there I like it less, the reason being that sometimes when you look ahead to different terrain, you actually want to use a bit of momentum. So for me, and I've done quite a bit of off roading, I tend to use it for the downhills and then control the throttle myself on the uphill sections. But it's kind of a personal preference. But it's really good. Really good system. And this is the same system that's now on things like the Ranger Tremor. And we expect it to be rolled out as part of the off road arsenal. Definitely a win for the Subaru. And so to the conclusion. What have we learned both on and off road? Well, let's start with question one. Is the Sport worthy of the Bronco badge? Is Baron Von Bronco really happy? And the answer to that is a resounding yes. Honestly, we've all been super impressed with what this vehicle can do off road, particularly in this Badlands trim. But its ability comes with some compromises, which is a neat segue into question two. Is it a good SUV? We'd be willing to trade a bit of on road refinement and even a bit of interior quality for that off-road capability. But the lack of rear room and rear leg room in particular should be a big concern for families. The Subaru Forester isn't as cool and isn't as new. And that engine's a real let down. But it arguably offers a better compromise of some off-road ability with on road refinement and space. So here's what I think. If you want a fund junior off-roader at a pretty accessible price, then buy a Forester. If you warm a comfortable, spacious, family SUV, then perhaps go for our top ranked Honda CRV. And if you want a bit of both, then by all means choose the Subaru Forester. If you enjoyed this film and if you want to see more like it, then subscribe to our channel, and Baron. Head to edmunds.com for all your car shopping needs. You won't regret it. There's no horseplay. [MUSIC PLAYING]

2021 Subaru Forester vs. 2021 Subaru Forester | Off-Road Crossover Comparison

Features & Specs

MPG & Fuel
26 City / 33 Hwy / 29 Combined
Fuel Tank Capacity: 16.6 gal. capacity
5 seats
Type: all wheel drive
Transmission: Continuously variable-speed automatic
Flat 4 cylinder
Horsepower: 182 hp @ 5800 rpm
Torque: 176 lb-ft @ 4400 rpm
Basic Warranty
3 yr./ 36000 mi.
Length: 182.1 in. / Height: 67.5 in. / Width: 71.5 in.
Curb Weight: 3453 lbs.
Cargo Capacity, All Seats In Place: 31.1 cu.ft.

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Our experts’ favorite Forester safety features:

EyeSight Driver Assist Technology
Helps prevent accidents, with features such as lane departure warning, lane keeping assist and automatic emergency braking.
Reverse Automatic Braking
Helps reduce collisions by applying the brakes if an automobile is detected crossing the Forester's path while it's in reverse.
Sounds an alert when the head-tracking system detects that the driver is distracted.

NHTSA Overall Rating 5 out of 5 stars

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration offers independent analysis.

Frontal Barrier Crash RatingRating
Overall5 / 5
Driver5 / 5
Passenger5 / 5
Side Crash RatingRating
Overall5 / 5
Side Barrier RatingRating
Overall5 / 5
Driver5 / 5
Passenger5 / 5
Combined Side Barrier & Pole RatingsRating
Front Seat5 / 5
Back Seat5 / 5
Rollover4 / 5
Dynamic Test ResultNo Tip
Risk Of Rollover16.9%

IIHS Rating

The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety uses extensive crash tests to determine car safety.

Side Impact Test
Roof Strength Test
Rear Crash Protection / Head Restraint
IIHS Small Overlap Front TestNot Tested
Moderate Overlap Front Test

Subaru Forester vs. the competition

2021 Subaru Forester

2021 Subaru Forester

2020 Honda CR-V

2020 Honda CR-V

Subaru Forester vs. Honda CR-V

The Honda CR-V is our top-ranked small SUV. We like the CR-V's comfortable and spacious interior that features plenty of storage space. It drives well, too, with a refined ride and peppy engine that provides ample power without greatly hurting fuel economy. The Honda's tech, however, is somewhat dated, especially compared to what you'll find in the Forester.

Compare Subaru Forester & Honda CR-V features 

Subaru Forester vs. Mazda CX-5

The Mazda CX-5 is one the sportiest models in this class thanks to athletic handling and a strong (but optional) turbocharged engine. Its premium cabin design also outclasses the Forester's interior. In the Forester's favor are its roomier rear seating and superior off-road ability.

Compare Subaru Forester & Mazda CX-5 features 

Subaru Forester vs. Toyota RAV4

The Toyota RAV4 is a closely matched competitor. Both of these SUVs offer a comfortable ride and plenty of standard safety features. The RAV4 can even hang with Forester when going off-road, or at least in its Adventure and TRD Off-Road trim levels. The Forester offers more maximum cargo space, while the RAV4 counters with a higher maximum towing capacity.

Compare Subaru Forester & Toyota RAV4 features 

2021 Subaru Forester First Impressions

What is the Forester?

Like much of the Subaru lineup, the Forester represents a slightly more rugged and outdoorsy option compared to your typical family SUV. Its taller ground clearance and standard all-wheel drive have a lot to do with that, as does Subaru's reputation. In a class of small SUVs led by the Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-5 and Hyundai Tucson, the Forester ranks a respectable fourth place, a mere 0.3 point behind the top-rated CR-V.

Considering Subaru's history of redesigning vehicles every five years on average, the Forester is likely due for a mild refresh rather than a full redesign. We're expecting a few styling changes inside and out, as well as a shuffling of features from the options column over to the standard list. And there are strong indications a new turbocharged engine is coming. If that's true, that could eliminate one of our biggest complaints: a lack of power.

With that in mind, it's possible the Forester could break into the top three in Edmunds' small SUV rankings. That means if you value performance, it may be worth waiting for the 2021 model rather than going with the 2020 Forester. We hope to know for sure this summer.

EdmundsEdmunds says

We like the Subaru Forester as a small SUV with better-than-average off-road abilities, and we award it points for its standard all-wheel drive. A large cargo space and comprehensive list of advanced safety features bolster its strengths, but we've been disappointed by its weak engine.

That may change in 2021 since there's a good chance the Forester could add a more powerful turbocharged engine to its roster. It may also be due for a styling update, so stay tuned.


Is the Subaru Forester a good car?

The Edmunds experts tested the 2021 Forester both on the road and at the track, giving it a 7.8 out of 10. You probably care about Subaru Forester fuel economy, so it's important to know that the Forester gets an EPA-estimated 29 mpg. What about cargo capacity? When you're thinking about carrying stuff in your new car, keep in mind that carrying capacity for the Forester ranges from 28.9 to 31.1 cubic feet of trunk space. And then there's safety and reliability. Edmunds has all the latest NHTSA and IIHS crash-test scores, plus industry-leading expert and consumer reviews to help you understand what it's like to own and maintain a Subaru Forester. Learn more

What's new in the 2021 Subaru Forester?

According to Edmunds’ car experts, here’s what’s new for the 2021 Subaru Forester:

  • Automatic high beams and turn-swiveling headlights are now standard
  • Other minor revisions to standard feature availability
  • Part of the fifth Forester generation introduced in 2019
Learn more

Is the Subaru Forester reliable?

To determine whether the Subaru Forester is reliable, read Edmunds' authentic consumer reviews, which come from real owners and reveal what it's like to live with the Forester. Look for specific complaints that keep popping up in the reviews, and be sure to compare the Forester's average consumer rating to that of competing vehicles. Learn more

Is the 2021 Subaru Forester a good car?

There's a lot to consider if you're wondering whether the 2021 Subaru Forester is a good car. Edmunds' expert testing team reviewed the 2021 Forester and gave it a 7.8 out of 10. Safety scores, fuel economy, cargo capacity and feature availability should all be factors in determining whether the 2021 Forester is a good car for you. Learn more

How much should I pay for a 2021 Subaru Forester?

The least-expensive 2021 Subaru Forester is the 2021 Subaru Forester 4dr SUV AWD (2.5L 4cyl CVT). Including destination charge, it arrives with a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of about $24,795.

Other versions include:

  • Limited 4dr SUV AWD (2.5L 4cyl CVT) which starts at $31,395
  • Sport 4dr SUV AWD (2.5L 4cyl CVT) which starts at $29,395
  • Premium 4dr SUV AWD (2.5L 4cyl CVT) which starts at $27,795
  • Touring 4dr SUV AWD (2.5L 4cyl CVT) which starts at $34,895
  • 4dr SUV AWD (2.5L 4cyl CVT) which starts at $24,795
Learn more

What are the different models of Subaru Forester?

If you're interested in the Subaru Forester, the next question is, which Forester model is right for you? Forester variants include Limited 4dr SUV AWD (2.5L 4cyl CVT), Sport 4dr SUV AWD (2.5L 4cyl CVT), Premium 4dr SUV AWD (2.5L 4cyl CVT), and Touring 4dr SUV AWD (2.5L 4cyl CVT). For a full list of Forester models, check out Edmunds’ Features & Specs page. Learn more

More about the 2021 Subaru Forester

2021 Subaru Forester Overview

The 2021 Subaru Forester is offered in the following submodels: Forester SUV. Available styles include Limited 4dr SUV AWD (2.5L 4cyl CVT), Sport 4dr SUV AWD (2.5L 4cyl CVT), Premium 4dr SUV AWD (2.5L 4cyl CVT), Touring 4dr SUV AWD (2.5L 4cyl CVT), and 4dr SUV AWD (2.5L 4cyl CVT). Subaru Forester models are available with a 2.5 L-liter gas engine, with output up to 182 hp, depending on engine type. The 2021 Subaru Forester comes with all wheel drive. Available transmissions include: continuously variable-speed automatic. The 2021 Subaru Forester comes with a 3 yr./ 36000 mi. basic warranty, a 3 yr./ 36000 mi. roadside warranty, and a 5 yr./ 60000 mi. powertrain warranty.

What do people think of the 2021 Subaru Forester?

Consumer ratings and reviews are also available for the 2021 Subaru Forester and all its trim types. Overall, Edmunds users rate the 2021 Forester 4.5 on a scale of 1 to 5 stars. Edmunds consumer reviews allow users to sift through aggregated consumer reviews to understand what other drivers are saying about any vehicle in our database. Detailed rating breakdowns (including performance, comfort, value, interior, exterior design, build quality, and reliability) are available as well to provide shoppers with a comprehensive understanding of why customers like the 2021 Forester.

Edmunds Expert Reviews

Edmunds experts have compiled a robust series of ratings and reviews for the 2021 Subaru Forester and all model years in our database. Our rich content includes expert reviews and recommendations for the 2021 Forester featuring deep dives into trim levels and features, performance, mpg, safety, interior, and driving. Edmunds also offers expert ratings, road test and performance data, long-term road tests, first-drive reviews, video reviews and more.

Our Review Process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.

What's a good price for a New 2021 Subaru Forester?

2021 Subaru Forester 4dr SUV AWD (2.5L 4cyl CVT)

The 2021 Subaru Forester 4dr SUV AWD (2.5L 4cyl CVT) can be purchased for less than the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (aka MSRP) of $27,090. The average price paid for a new 2021 Subaru Forester 4dr SUV AWD (2.5L 4cyl CVT) is trending $1,241 below the manufacturer’s MSRP.

Edmunds members save an average of $1,241 by getting upfront special offers. The estimated special offer price in your area is $25,849.

The average savings for the 2021 Subaru Forester 4dr SUV AWD (2.5L 4cyl CVT) is 4.6% below the MSRP.

2021 Subaru Forester Premium 4dr SUV AWD (2.5L 4cyl CVT)

The 2021 Subaru Forester Premium 4dr SUV AWD (2.5L 4cyl CVT) can be purchased for less than the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (aka MSRP) of $30,351. The average price paid for a new 2021 Subaru Forester Premium 4dr SUV AWD (2.5L 4cyl CVT) is trending $1,288 below the manufacturer’s MSRP.

Edmunds members save an average of $1,288 by getting upfront special offers. The estimated special offer price in your area is $29,063.

The average savings for the 2021 Subaru Forester Premium 4dr SUV AWD (2.5L 4cyl CVT) is 4.2% below the MSRP.

2021 Subaru Forester Sport 4dr SUV AWD (2.5L 4cyl CVT)

The 2021 Subaru Forester Sport 4dr SUV AWD (2.5L 4cyl CVT) can be purchased for less than the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (aka MSRP) of $33,033. The average price paid for a new 2021 Subaru Forester Sport 4dr SUV AWD (2.5L 4cyl CVT) is trending $1,504 below the manufacturer’s MSRP.

Edmunds members save an average of $1,504 by getting upfront special offers. The estimated special offer price in your area is $31,529.

The average savings for the 2021 Subaru Forester Sport 4dr SUV AWD (2.5L 4cyl CVT) is 4.6% below the MSRP.

2021 Subaru Forester Limited 4dr SUV AWD (2.5L 4cyl CVT)

The 2021 Subaru Forester Limited 4dr SUV AWD (2.5L 4cyl CVT) can be purchased for less than the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (aka MSRP) of $35,131. The average price paid for a new 2021 Subaru Forester Limited 4dr SUV AWD (2.5L 4cyl CVT) is trending $1,293 below the manufacturer’s MSRP.

Edmunds members save an average of $1,293 by getting upfront special offers. The estimated special offer price in your area is $33,838.

The average savings for the 2021 Subaru Forester Limited 4dr SUV AWD (2.5L 4cyl CVT) is 3.7% below the MSRP.

2021 Subaru Forester Touring 4dr SUV AWD (2.5L 4cyl CVT)

The 2021 Subaru Forester Touring 4dr SUV AWD (2.5L 4cyl CVT) can be purchased for less than the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (aka MSRP) of $37,084. The average price paid for a new 2021 Subaru Forester Touring 4dr SUV AWD (2.5L 4cyl CVT) is trending $1,715 below the manufacturer’s MSRP.

Edmunds members save an average of $1,715 by getting upfront special offers. The estimated special offer price in your area is $35,369.

The average savings for the 2021 Subaru Forester Touring 4dr SUV AWD (2.5L 4cyl CVT) is 4.6% below the MSRP.

Which 2021 Subaru Foresters are available in my area?

Shop Edmunds' car, SUV, and truck listings of over 6 million vehicles to find a cheap new, used, or certified pre-owned (CPO) 2021 Subaru Forester for sale near. Simply research the type of car you're interested in and then select a car from our massive database to find cheap vehicles for sale near you. Once you have identified a used vehicle you're interested in, check the AutoCheck vehicle history reports, read dealer reviews, and find out what other owners paid for the 2021 Subaru Forester.

Can't find a new 2021 Subaru Foresters you want in your area? Consider a broader search.

Find a new Subaru for sale - 5 great deals out of 9 listings starting at $21,978.

Why trust Edmunds?

Edmunds has deep data on over 6 million new, used, and certified pre-owned vehicles, including rich, trim-level features and specs information like: MSRP, average price paid, warranty information (basic, drivetrain, and maintenance), features (upholstery, bluetooth, navigation, heated seating, cooled seating, cruise control, parking assistance, keyless ignition, satellite radio, folding rears seats ,run flat tires, wheel type, tire size, wheel tire, sunroof, etc.), vehicle specifications (engine cylinder count, drivetrain, engine power, engine torque, engine displacement, transmission), fuel economy (city, highway, combined, fuel capacity, range), vehicle dimensions (length, width, seating capacity, cargo space), car safety, true cost to own. Edmunds also provides tools to allow shopper to compare vehicles to similar models of their choosing by warranty, interior features, exterior features, specifications, fuel economy, vehicle dimensions, consumer rating, edmunds rating, and color.

What is the MPG of a 2021 Subaru Forester?

2021 Subaru Forester Limited 4dr SUV AWD (2.5L 4cyl CVT), continuously variable-speed automatic, regular unleaded
29 compined MPG,
26 city MPG/33 highway MPG

2021 Subaru Forester Sport 4dr SUV AWD (2.5L 4cyl CVT), continuously variable-speed automatic, regular unleaded
29 compined MPG,
26 city MPG/33 highway MPG

2021 Subaru Forester Premium 4dr SUV AWD (2.5L 4cyl CVT), continuously variable-speed automatic, regular unleaded
29 compined MPG,
26 city MPG/33 highway MPG

EPA Est. MPG29
TransmissionContinuously variable-speed automatic
Drive Trainall wheel drive
Displacement2.5 L
Passenger Volume136.7 cu.ft.
Wheelbase105.1 in.
Length182.1 in.
Width71.5 in.
Height68.1 in.
Curb Weight3541 lbs.

Should I lease or buy a 2021 Subaru Forester?

Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.

Check out Subaru lease specials