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2021 Subaru Forester Review

The 2021 Subaru Forester finishes in the middle of our compact SUV rankings. It's spacious and comfortable, but its rock-bottom predicted reliability rating drags down its overall score.

Pros & Cons

  • Plenty of passenger and cargo space
  • User-friendly infotainment system
  • Good fuel economy ratings
  • Standard all-wheel drive
  • Lowest-possible predicted reliability rating
  • Mediocre engine power

Rankings & Research

The 2021 Subaru Forester's #8 ranking is based on its score within the Compact SUVs category. Currently the Subaru Forester has a score of 7.7 out of 10, which is based on our evaluation of 20 pieces of research and data elements using various sources.

7.7

Overall

Scorecard

Critics' Rating: 8.6
Performance: 7.1
Interior: 7.9
Safety:
This rating isn’t available yet for the current model year. In the meantime, last year’s rating of 9.8 for safety is being used to calculate this vehicle’s overall score.
TBD
Reliability:
J.D. Power Ratings Logo

Thinking of leasing a Subaru Forester?

The U.S. News Best Price Program saves users an average of $3,206 off the MSRP, and a lower price equals lower monthly lease payments. That means you could see a savings of $90 a month on a 36-month lease.

Is the Subaru Forester a Good SUV?

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. The engine is uninspiring, though not weak, but this Subaru's biggest drawback is its terrible predicted reliability rating.

Why You Can Trust Us: 20 Reviews Analyzed

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 ratings 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.

Should I Buy the Subaru Forester?

If you don't mind the aforementioned predicted reliability rating, 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.

Find a 2021 Subaru Forester for sale near you »

2020 vs. 2021 Subaru Forester: What's the Difference?

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.

Compare the 2020 and 2021 Forester »

Here are the key changes for the Subaru Forester over the last few years:

  • 2017: lane departure warning and blind spot monitoring added to EyeSight safety suite; adaptive headlights and reverse automatic emergency braking became available
  • 2018: EyeSight safety suite gained reverse automatic emergency braking
  • 2019: fully redesigned with more space and more standard features (Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, forward automatic emergency braking, and adaptive cruise control); 250-horsepower turbocharged engine and six-speed manual transmission discontinued
  • 2020: rear seat reminder became standard; gained available lane centering system
  • 2021: no notable changes

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.

How Much Does the Subaru Forester Cost?

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.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local Subaru dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our Subaru deals page.

Subaru Forester Versus the Competition

Subaru Forester vs. Subaru Crosstrek

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.

Compare the Forester and Crosstrek »

Subaru Forester vs. Toyota RAV4

The Toyota RAV4 finishes a bit ahead of the Forester in our compact SUV rankings. It has more cargo space behind the seats, and it can tow up to 3,500 pounds, 2,000 more than the Forester can manage. The Subaru, however, has a higher maximum cargo capacity and more passenger space. Both have user-friendly technology, but the RAV4 has a higher predicted reliability rating.

Compare the Forester and RAV4 »

Compare the Forester, Crosstrek, and RAV4 »

Forester Interior: No Shortage of Space

Forester Cargo Space

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.

How Many People Does the Forester Seat?

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.

Forester and Child Car Seats

There are two complete sets of LATCH connectors for the rear outboard seats and a tether anchor for the rear middle seat. The rear middle seat has a tether anchor and one lower anchor, and it can borrow a lower anchor from the adjacent seat.

Forester Interior Quality

The Forester has an attractive interior that incorporates plenty of quality materials. There are some plastics mixed in, but they don't look or feel cheap.

Forester Infotainment, Bluetooth, and Navigation

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.

  • Standard infotainment features: a 6.5-inch touch screen, two USB ports, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, satellite radio, HD Radio, Bluetooth, and four speakers
  • Available infotainment features: an 8-inch touch screen, a six-speaker audio system, a nine-speaker Harman Kardon sound system, a Wi-Fi hot spot, two additional USB ports, and navigation
  • Additional standard features: automatic climate control
  • Other available features: a panoramic moonroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, and push-button start

For more information, read What Is Apple CarPlay? and What Is Android Auto?

Read more about interior »

Forester Performance: Efficient and Comfortable

Forester Engine

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.

Forester Gas Mileage

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.

Forester Ride and Handling

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.

Forester Off-Road Performance

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.

Forester Towing Capacity

A properly equipped Forester can tow up to 1,500 pounds.

Read more about performance »

Forester Reliability

Is the Subaru Forester Reliable?

The 2021 Subaru Forester has the lowest-possible predicted reliability rating of two out of five.

Subaru Forester Warranty

Subaru covers the Forester with a three-year/36,000-mile limited warranty and a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Read more about reliability »

Forester Safety

Forester Crash Test Results

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.

At the time of writing, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has not crash tested the 2021 Forester.

Forester Safety Features

Standard advanced safety features:

  • Rear-seat reminder
  • Rearview camera
  • Adaptive cruise control
  • Forward collision warning
  • Forward automatic emergency braking
  • Lane departure warning
  • Lead vehicle start alert
  • Lane keep assist

Available Advanced Safety Features:

  • Driver drowsiness monitoring
  • Blind spot monitoring
  • Lane change assist
  • Rear cross traffic alert
  • Reverse automatic emergency braking

Read more about safety »

Forester Dimensions and Weight

The Forester is 15.2 feet long. Its curb weight ranges from 3,453 to 3,589 pounds.

Where Is the 2021 Subaru Forester Built?

Subaru builds the 2021 Forester in Japan.

Which Subaru Forester Model Is Right for Me?

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.

Subaru Forester

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.

Subaru Forester Premium

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.

Subaru Forester Sport

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.

Subaru Forester Limited

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.

Subaru Forester Touring

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.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local Subaru dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our Subaru deals page.

See 2021 Subaru Forester specs and trims »

The Final Call

The 2021 Subaru Forester has a poor predicted reliability rating, but it has a lot going for it. Few class rivals have as much passenger space or cargo room. The Forester also comes standard with all-wheel drive – a rarity among compact SUVs – it 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.

  • "Get into a 2021 Subaru Forester and take it for a drive. It will quickly become apparent why the Forester has been one of Subaru's most popular SUVs year after year." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The 2019 Subaru Forester is an affordable, well-constructed small crossover that doubles down on safety tech and all-weather capabilities. Make sure to put it on your short list if you're in the market." -- Edmunds (2019)
  • "With the 2019 Forester, Subaru has managed to develop a vehicle that stays true to the brand's core values while also providing the kind of features demanded by today's small SUV buyers. The 2019 Forester is bigger but still small enough to maneuver in tight spaces, loaded with standard safety tech and extremely fuel efficient for an all-wheel drive model. If you can look past the lack of a turbocharged engine, you'll find a Forester that's better in every other way." -- Left Lane News (2019)

Buying

Expert Advice

Last Updated: October 22, 2020

Steady Sales: Sales of the redesigned Forester have remained consistent this year compared to the same span in 2019. The Forester currently places in the upper half of the compact SUV segment sales race. However, the Forester still lags far behind the class-sales leading Toyota RAV4, which is outselling the Forester by more than 2 to 1.

Research more buying advice »
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