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$24,795 - 34,895 MSRP
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The 2021 Subaru Forester finishes in the top third of our compact SUV rankings. It's both spacious and comfortable, and it offers capable handling both on- and off-road.
The 2021 Subaru Forester's #3 ranking is based on its score within the Compact SUVs category. Currently the Subaru Forester has a score of 8.4 out of 10, which is based on our evaluation of 29 pieces of research and data elements using various sources.
out of 10
|Quality & Reliability:||81/100|
$25,350 - $35,150 MSRP
$25,270 - $37,405 MSRP
#3 2021 Subaru Forester
$24,795 - $34,895 MSRP
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Yes, the Subaru Forester is a good SUV. It gets good gas mileage, has a smooth ride, and can handle some light off-roading. Inside, the Forester is well-built, and it has plenty of room for passengers and cargo. It also has intuitive tech features. That said, the Forester’s four-cylinder engine, while not weak, is uninspiring.
Our car reviews include everything you need to know before heading to the dealership. We combine the opinions of the automotive press with quantifiable data like crash test results and reliability scores to form a complete picture of every vehicle we rank.
This 2021 Forester review incorporates applicable research for all models in this generation, which launched for 2019.
U.S. News & World Report has been ranking the best cars, trucks, and SUVs since 2007, and our staff has more than 75 years’ worth of auto industry experience combined. To keep our reviews unbiased, we don’t accept expensive gifts or trips from car companies, and an outside company manages our advertising.
If you don't mind the uninspiring engine, then the Forester is a solid choice in the compact SUV class, as it offers just about anything else you could want in a small crossover.
The 2021 Subaru Forester is nearly identical to the 2020 model. The only real changes for the new model year involve some slight feature shuffling between trims.
Here are the key changes for the Subaru Forester over the last few years:
If you're considering an older model, be sure to read our 2018 Forester, 2019 Forester, and 2020 Forester reviews to help make your decision. Also, check out our Best New Car Deals and Best New Car Lease Deals pages to learn about savings and discounts you can find on new vehicles.
The base Forester carries a starting MSRP of $24,795. That's in the middle of the pack among compact SUVs. The range-topping Touring trim starts at $34,895, which is a bit more expensive than many class rivals' top-trim price. Keep in mind that every Forester comes with all-wheel drive, which is an extra-cost option in most rivals.
The Subaru Crosstrek is a subcompact SUV, which makes it the Forester's smaller sibling. The same engine that powers the Forester is optional in the Crosstrek, though it feels livelier in the smaller Subaru. The Crosstrek isn't quite as spacious inside as the Forester, though it has similar build quality and at a lower starting price. Still, the Forester is a better choice because it gives you more legroom, a larger cargo area, and more standard features.
The Toyota RAV4 is another solid choice in the compact SUV class. It has more cargo space behind the rear seats than the Forester does, and it can tow up to 3,500 pounds (2,000 more than the Subaru). The Forester, however, has a higher maximum cargo capacity and more passenger space. Both have user-friendly technology, but the Subaru has a higher predicted reliability score.
Few other vehicles in the class provide as much cargo room as the Forester. The base model gives you 31.1 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats and 76.1 cubic feet with the rear seats folded down. In all other models, those totals drop slightly to 28.9 cubic feet and 70.9 cubic feet, respectively.
This Subaru seats five people, and unlike some class rivals, you can actually fit five people in it without them feeling too cramped. Its cabin is very roomy for the class, and both rows provide generous amounts of head- and legroom. The driver has an unobstructed view of the road, and the Forester has wide-opening rear doors for easy entry and exit.
There are two complete sets of LATCH connectors for the rear outboard seats. The Forester also has a tether anchor and a single lower anchor for the rear middle seat, and the middle seat can borrow a lower anchor from the passenger-side rear seat. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave this setup the highest rating of Good+, which indicates that it's among the easiest and most versatile to use.
The Forester has an attractive interior that incorporates plenty of quality materials. There are some hard plastics mixed in, but they don't look or feel cheap.
The Forester's Starlink infotainment system has a quick learning curve, and the touch screen is responsive and easy to read from the driver's seat. The interface is user-friendly, making it easy to navigate through the menus. The only bugaboo with the Forester's controls are that it has a secondary display at the top of the dashboard, and it can take some time to figure out which screen shows what information.
All Forester models feature the same 182-horsepower four-cylinder engine. It's mated with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). The engine has enough power to easily get up to speed in the city or out in the countryside, though it sometimes takes a moment to respond when you press the throttle. As long as you don't expect the Forester to be quick, you won't be disappointed. The CVT works pretty well and generally operates smoothly.
The Forester gets better gas mileage than many of its classmates, earning ratings of 26 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway. Those good ratings look even better when you consider that most competitors don't come standard with all-wheel drive, which typically drops fuel economy ratings by 1-2 mpg.
The Forester is smooth, composed, and balanced. Its steering is light and accurate, and the brakes provide strong stopping power. There isn't too much body roll when going around turns, but in general the Forester is not a sporty vehicle.
Unlike most class rivals, the Forester comes standard with all-wheel drive, but that's not the only reason that it's a decent off-roader. It has almost 8.7 inches of ground clearance, which, combined with features like hill descent control and X-Mode traction enhancement, makes the Forester capable of tackling some light trails.
A properly equipped Forester can tow up to 1,500 pounds.
The 2021 Forester has a predicted reliability score of 81 out of 100. A J.D. Power predicted reliability score of 91-100 is considered the Best, 81-90 is Great, 70-80 is Average, and 0-69 is Fair and considered below average.
Subaru covers the Forester with a three-year/36,000-mile limited warranty and a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the 2021 Subaru Forester an overall safety rating of five out of five stars, with five stars in the frontal and side crash tests and four stars in the rollover test.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the 2021 Forester the highest rating of Good in all six crash tests. The Forester also received a Good rating for how well its headlights illuminate the road ahead. The IIHS uses a different scale for grading collision avoidance features. The Forester received the highest rating of Superior for its standard vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-pedestrian front crash prevention systems.
Standard advanced safety features:
Available advanced safety features:
The Forester is 15.2 feet long. Its curb weight ranges from 3,453 to 3,589 pounds.
Subaru builds the 2021 Forester in Japan.
The 2021 Subaru Forester comes in five trims: base, Premium, Sport, Limited, and Touring. All models come with a 2.5-liter engine, a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), and all-wheel drive.
Most buyers should look to the Premium trim, which is a good value. It has amenities like heated front seats, a power-adjustable driver's seat, and reclining rear seats, and it offers an option package with a few additional features. The Limited trim is a fine choice for those who want a few more luxury and comfort features, such as leather upholstery and dual-zone automatic climate control.
The base trim carries a starting MSRP of $24,795. Standard features in the Forester include automatic climate control and the Starlink infotainment system with a 6.5-inch touch screen, two USB ports, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, satellite radio, HD Radio, Bluetooth, and four speakers.
Standard driver assistance features include a rear-seat reminder, adaptive cruise control, pre-collision braking, pre-collision throttle management, lane departure warning, lead vehicle start alert, and lane keep assist. Some of these features are part of the EyeSight suite of safety technology.
The Premium trim costs $27,795. In addition to the base trim's features, the Premium comes with a panoramic moonroof, a power-adjustable driver's seat, heated front seats, reclining rear seats, push-button start, a Wi-Fi hot spot, and a six-speaker audio system. This trim also comes with X-Mode with hill descent control.
One option package is available. It costs $1,095 and adds a power liftgate, blind spot monitoring, lane change assist, and rear cross traffic alert.
The Sport model starts at $29,395. On top of the lower trims' features, the Sport adds unique styling elements, paddle shifters, sport cloth upholstery, blind spot monitoring, lane change assist, rear cross traffic alert, and two additional USB ports.
A $1,695 option package adds a power liftgate, reverse automatic emergency braking, an 8-inch touch screen, and a nine-speaker Harman Kardon audio system.
The Limited has a starting price of $31,395. The Limited trim adds leather upholstery, a power liftgate, dual-zone automatic climate control, and an 8-inch touch screen.
A $1,695 option package adds a heated steering wheel, reverse automatic emergency braking, navigation, and a nine-speaker Harman Kardon audio system.
The range-topping Touring trim starts at $34,895. The Touring comes standard with almost every feature you can get in a Forester, including a power-adjustable front passenger seat, heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel, one-touch folding rear seats, a nine-speaker Harman Kardon sound system, navigation, driver drowsiness monitoring, and reverse automatic emergency braking.
The 2021 Subaru Forester has a lot going for it. Few class rivals have as much passenger space or cargo room as the Forster, and this crossover comes standard with all-wheel drive, a rarity among compact SUVs. It also gets good gas mileage, and it isn't afraid of a little mud or snow. It's a solid choice in this class.
Don't just take our word for it. Check out comments from some of the reviews that drive our rankings and analysis.
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