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2020 Mazda CX-5 vs Subaru Forester

2020 Mazda CX-5 vs Subaru Forester

2020 CX-5 vs Forester - How do they stack up? Which is Better?

Compact crossovers are among the hottest vehicles in the country. They’re extremely practical. While the segment gives car shoppers more than a few options to choose from, only a handful of models offer as much driving fun as the 2020 Mazda CX-5. A premium interior makes the new CX-5 even more appealing.

The 2020 Subaru Forester is another great pick. It’s an especially great option for drivers who enjoy an outdoor lifestyle. High ground clearance and a standard AWD system give the Forester an ability to handle the wilderness. Meanwhile, a spacious cabin enables families to travel in comfort. However, how does the new 2020 Subaru Forester measure up against the 2020 Mazda CX-5?


The Powertrain

A strong four-cylinder engine with 187 horsepower is standard on the Mazda CX-5. It’s ideal for drivers who are mostly concerned with saving fuel. For drivers who yearn for more performance, Mazda offers a turbocharged version of this same engine. Total production increases to a more stimulating 250 horsepower. Sending power to the ground is a six-speed automatic gearbox.

A few years ago, the Subaru Forester was available with a formidable turbocharged engine. However, Subaru now equips every new Forester with a naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine. Its 182-horsepower output is just right for everyday commuting. All versions of the Forester also use an automatic CVT.

When equipped with its base engine, the Mazda CX-5 doesn’t accelerate any quicker than the Subaru Forester. However, moving up to the CX-5’s turbo engine truly takes performance to the next stage. It enables the CX-5 to scoot to 60 mph in 6.4 seconds, which is among the quickest times in the segment. By comparison, drivers can expect the Forester to clock a 0-60 mph time of 8.5 seconds.

Another great CX-5 feature is the SUV's six-speed automatic transmission. It does a fine job of transferring power. Drivers enjoy this transmission’s quick response. While the Forester’s automatic CVT is a smoother performer, maximizing fuel economy is its main goal. Because a continuous variable transmission doesn't feature any gears, some people find them to be less engaging.

Neither crossover can match the towing capabilities of a truck-based SUV. Nevertheless, the 2020 Mazda CX-5 is more suitable for pulling a loaded trailer. It has a maximum tow rating of 2,000 pounds. By comparison, Subaru lists the Forester with a towing capacity of 1,500 pounds.

The most efficient of these two crossovers is the Subaru Forester. It's rated by the EPA to return up to 33 mpg. This is impressive fuel economy for an AWD-equipped SUV. Meanwhile, expect the CX-5 to average around 25 mpg town/31 mpg freeway. Stepping up to the turbocharged CX-5 results in a rating of 22 town/27 mpg freeway. While Mazda programs the CX-5’s turbo engine to develop maximum power on premium gas, regular unleaded can be used without causing any damage.

In regard to handling capabilities on the street, the new CX-5 ranks ahead of the Forester. When driving the CX-5, it feels as if you’re behind the wheel of a sports sedan. Not only does the CX-5 exhibit less body roll in corners, but it also comes equipped with Mazda’s G-Vectoring Control Plus technology. This feature is engineered to further enhance stability on curvy roads.

While the CX-5 may be sportier, the Forester is a nimble SUV in its own right. It inspires confidence in virtually every driving situation. Never does the Forester feel clumsy.

Mazda has recently enhanced the CX-5’s ability to travel off the beaten path. All-wheel-drive models feature Off-Road Traction Assist. Pushing this button helps suppress wheelspin, thus promoting more grip. However, significantly higher ground clearance and standard Symmetrical AWD system make the Forester a better trail machine. Subaru also equips the Forester with multiple off-road modes and a traction-enhancing X-Mode system.

The 2020 Mazda CX-5 has a very effective braking system. It takes 123 feet for the CX-3 to come to a stop when cruising at highway speeds. This braking performance puts it right on par with a compact car. Meanwhile, tests show the 2020 Subaru Forester’s brakes are equally as effective.

Many of today’s car shoppers consider reliability to be an important factor. They’ll be happy to learn that the CX-5 received an average dependability rating from J.D Power. Results weren’t as good for the Forester, which received a poor dependability score from J.D. Power.

The CX-5 and the Forester receive the same length of warranty coverage. They come with 60,000 miles powertrain protection and a 36,000-mile basic warranty.


Despite its sporty design, the 2020 Mazda CX-5 still offers a supple ride. While models outfitted with 19-inch wheels can deliver a slightly rougher ride, most people won’t notice a big difference in comfort. You can trust the Forester to also deliver a pleasant ride. Its four-wheel independent suspension tackles rough pavement with no trouble.

The new CX-5 is quiet enough for most people. For 2020, Mazda sought to further reduce road noise. Improved cabin insulation and upgraded components help ensure a hushed interior. The Forester also keeps unwanted noise to a minimum. However, drivers may hear a bit of noise from the engine at higher RPMs.

Both of these crossovers were built to accommodate five people. However, the Mazda CX-5 is more spacious. It provides 111.9 cubic feet of passenger space, which is more than the CX-5’s 103.6 cubic feet of passenger room.

There’s not a notable difference in rear-seat legroom between these vehicles. However, taller occupants will find the CX-5’s front seats to be more pleasing. They will have an additional 2.3 inches of legroom. A boxier design also enables the Forester to offer more headroom.

In terms of storage space, the new Forester only slightly edges out the CX-5. It can gobble just a few more shopping bags.

When it comes to outward visibility, the Subaru Forester outperforms the CX-5. In fact, some automotive critics consider the Forester to offer the best visibility in the class. Whether looking out the front windshield or glancing through the rear glass, drivers will be able to clearly see their surroundings. The CX-5’s rearward visibility is not quite as good. There are simply fewer blind spots in the Forester.

The Forester’s simple interior controls enhance its drivability. Drivers can make adjustments without taking their attention off the road. Using the Forester's infotainment system is also a hassle-free experience. While the CX-3’s infotainment display gets extra points for high placement atop the dash, it takes a while to learn how to use the system’s console-mounted controller.

One noteworthy feature not available on the Forester is the CX-5’s head-up display. It enhances driver focus by putting the speedometer’s info directly onto the lower windshield.

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The 2020 Mazda CX-5 aced every one of the NHTSA's crash tests, thus receiving a perfect overall safety rating. However, car shoppers will find the Forester’s crash-test results to be just as impressive. It also earned a flawless overall safety rating from the NHTSA.

Like the CX-5, the Forester was named an IIHS Top Safety Pick +. This award puts these crossovers among the segment’s most secure. However, a better headlight rating gives the Forester the upper hand.

For 2020, Mazda updated the CX-5 by adding a standard i-Activsense safety package. It provides low-speed automatic emergency braking, radar cruise control, lane departure intervention, and blind-spot warning. Aside from blind-spot warning, all of these safety innovations also come standard on the new Forester.

Keep in mind that the Forester’s adaptive cruise control system is a bit more advanced. It’s designed with lane-centering technology, which helps further lower the risk of a highway crash. Subaru also equips the Forester with pre-collision throttle management. The purpose of this feature is to reduce the seriousness of an impact.

Subaru’s DriverFocus Distraction Mitigation system is only offered on the Forester. It uses special software to recognize a tired driver behind the wheel. Meanwhile, reverse automatic braking gives Forester owners yet another level of protection.

The CX-5 makes parking easier with its optional surround-view camera. Drivers will be able to check every angle for obstacles. Forester owners must make do with a traditional backup camera.

Both of these crossovers offer adaptive headlights. By automatically swiveling when taking curves, these headlights are able to provide a more complete view of the road after dark.

Which Has the Best Value?

The new 2020 Mazda CX-5 is stamped with an MSRP of $25,090. This is more than the 2020 Subaru Forester’s starting price, which stands at $24,495. When buying a base Forester, there’s potential to save more than $500. However, value is a strong point for both vehicles.

The Forester’s satisfying list of standard equipment makes it a serious bang for the buck. Subaru’s standard touchscreen interface features built-in Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. These smartphone integration technologies aren't accessible on the base CX-5. Satellite radio also gives the Forester more standard entertainment. However, keep mind that the CX-5 receives standard blind-spot monitoring for 2020.

Drivers who demand the utmost luxury will be looking at the CX-5 Signature and the Forester Touring. While CX-5 Signature is priced at a little more than $37,000, the Forester's Touring trim has a retail price of $34,595. Some of the similar upgrades include heated rear seats, integrated navigation, and a premium audio system. However, front-seat ventilation and Nappa leather upholstery give the CX-5 Signature an even more luxurious atmosphere.

What is Better?

Before choosing between the 2020 Mazda CX-5 and the 2020 Subaru Forester, car shoppers should consider their more desired qualities. If quick acceleration and sporty handling are top priorities, drivers will find the CX-5 to be more appealing. Meanwhile, outdoor lovers will be more interested in the Forester’s ability to conquer off-road trails.

In terms of styling, the Mazda CX-5’s sleek and elegant styling can’t be ignored. While the Forester’s exterior styling will age gracefully, it doesn’t attract nearly as much attention. Even the base CX-5 Sport stands out with its sharp-looking alloy wheels and dual exhaust finishers.

When it comes to overall passenger comfort, these SUVs prove to be a good match. However, there’s more legroom in the Forester's front-seating area. Cargo space also slightly favors the Forester.

At the end of the day, both of these compact crossovers are deserving of a test drive. However, the 2020 Mazda CX-5 is the best choice for drivers who desire a fun crossover. Its optional turbocharged engine really amplifies performance. There are also a few more luxury features available for the CX-5, including ventilated front seats and a head-up display with traffic sign recognition.

On the other hand, adventurous drivers should not hesitate to buy a new 2020 Subaru Forester. It ranks about the best crossovers in the class for off-roading. A standard AWD system and class-leading ground clearance also make the Forester a great winter vehicle.

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