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It seems that the SUV's reign as the ultimate family vehicle has no ending in sight. Within that category are options in many different sizes and styles. Some of them do a better job of putting the "Sport" in "Sport Utility Vehicle" than others.
All models in the Subaru lineup are rugged and athletic. The 2021 Forester is a compact SUV that is ideal for drivers who like a little more adventure. Contributing to this is the higher-than-average ground clearance as well as the standard all-wheel drive. The Forester is slightly smaller than the popular Subaru Outback.
There are five trim levels for consumers to check out if they are interested in the 2021 Subaru Forester. The entry-level model is more than adequately equipped and may be enough to satisfy most drivers. That said, Subaru adds even more safety, convenience, and comfort as they move up the trim ladder. The top-of-the-line Touring trim has nearly every advanced feature out there today, either standard or available.
The following is a thorough breakdown of the different trim levels. Differences in performance and equipment are highlighted. It was created to help consumers find the right model of the Forester for both their needs and their budget without overspending.
Compare the 2021 Subaru Forester Base vs Forester Premium - What is the Difference?
The base variation of the 2021 Subaru Forester uses the same engine that is found on all five trim levels. It is a 2.5L four-cylinder and it has the capability to make 182-horsepower along with 176 lb-ft of torque. To keep the Forester moving, Subaru gives it a continuously variable transmission. Like all models, the base Forester can tow up to 1,500 pounds.
The engine includes stop/start technology to help increase fuel economy. It shuts down the engine when the driver comes to a stop to reduce emissions and idle time. The engine then automatically starts back up as soon as the driver hits the gas. As a result, the Forester gets you 26mpg in the city along with 33mpg on the highway, respectable numbers for this vehicle class.
Like always, the Forester comes standard with all-wheel drive in 2021. The SUV also has 8.7-inches of ground clearance, giving it respectable off-roading capability. For even more performance-enhancing features, however, you will have to go higher than the base model.
Sitting underneath the base model of the Forester are 17-inch steel wheels. You can upgrade to aluminum-alloy wheels of the same size if you prefer. LED steering responsive headlights are standard across the board in 2021. Otherwise, there are very few noteworthy exterior features. Roof rails are available but not standard on this trim only.
The base model of the 2021 Forester is the only one without a moonroof. On the plus side, this gives it an inch more headroom in the front when compared to the rest of the lineup. It has almost two extra inches when looking at rear headroom. That said, even models with the moonroof have a good deal of headroom and this is unlikely to be a deciding factor for most consumers.
The overall cargo volume of the base model is larger as well, measuring in at 31.1 cubic feet compared to the 28.9 cubic feet found in all other trims. The maximum cargo capacity is 76.1 cubic feet for the base, which is significantly larger than the 70.9 cubic feet offered by all others. Unlike with the headroom, this difference in cargo space is likely to give drivers pause.
Drivers will have to manually adjust the front seats in the entry-level model to find a comfortable position. This model has cloth upholstery and convenient 60/40-split flat-folding rear seats. Buyers get a multifunction display that gives them handy information such as average vehicle speed, journey time, and distance to empty.
Automatic climate control is standard. Other useful interior features found here include under-floor storage in the cargo area as well as tie-down and grocery bag hooks back there. A multi-function front console, also standard, includes an illuminated front storage tray and dual storage cups.
A 6.5-inch touchscreen runs the user-friendly infotainment system. It includes Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and Bluetooth as methods for connecting your smartphone to the Forester. This is the only model to come with only four speakers for the stereo system. Two USB ports are found in the front.
EyeSight Driver Assistance Technology is a package found on all models of the 2021 Subaru Forester. This means you get advanced adaptive cruise control with lane-centering on the entry-level model. They also get pre-collision throttle management, lane departure, a pre-collision braking system, and sway warning.
Many of the Forester's available add-ons can be had on the base model. Highlights include an auto-dimming rearview mirror, cargo net, and a trailer hitch. This model can also have a bike carrier with room for two bikes equipped.
The first thing that shoppers will notice when looking at the Premium trim level is that it adds that power moonroof. Although this model sticks with the same engine underneath the hood, it does add X-Mode. This is a feature that further optimizes traction for the all-wheel-drive system. Hill descent control is also a standard feature for the Premium trim.
This trim also gets 17-inch wheels but they are aluminum-alloy with a black finish. No optional wheels for the Premium model exist. It does manage to look sportier overall, however, with features like a rear roof spoiler and fog lights. Also distinguishing this trim are the body-colored side mirrors instead of the black ones found on the base model. Roof rails are now standard.
Power-adjustment for the front seats is found in the cabin of the Premium trim. The driver gets 10-way adjustment while the passenger gets four. As a bonus, these seats also gain heat. The Premium trim lives up to its name by adding leather to the steering wheel as well as the shifter knob. Rear passengers also get a major upgrade in the form of a reclining rear seatback.
The Premium has the option of upgrading to a color multi-function display. It automatically jumps up to six speakers rather than the four found in the prior model. Perhaps the biggest tech upgrade is the inclusion of a WiFi hotspot.
Compare the 2021 Subaru Foreter Premium vs Forester Sport - What is the Difference?
Going with the Sport trim will mean getting an upgraded transmission. It is still a CVT, but it adds a seven-speed manual mode. Paddle shifters located on the steering wheel help to control this new feature and add more thrill to the driving experience. The brakes are larger for the Sport trim when compared to the base and Premium models. X Mode also adds both deep snow and mud modes when you opt for the Sport trim or higher.
This model gets 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels standard. It is the first model to show off a single chrome exhaust outlet and to upgrade the foglights to LED. The Sport still has cloth upholstery but gains orange stitching on the seats for a little added flair. The previously optional color multi-function display joins the list of standard equipment for the Sport trim. This screen measures in at 6.3-inches and is significantly easier to read.
Back passengers get two USB ports in the Sport trim but they are only for charging. The cargo area gets more practical and convenient with the addition of a removable tray and gate light. Tech features do not change, but this is the first trim to offer an 8-inch touchscreen and premium audio system as available upgrades.
There are a few important driver aids added to the Sport trim. Automatic high beams are one. Blind-spot detection with rear cross-traffic alert and lane change alert is another. This is the first trim that can have reverse automatic braking equipped for a little extra.
Compare the 2021 Subaru Forester Sport vs Forester Limited - What is the Difference?
Mechanically, the Limited trim is identical to the Sport. It keeps the upgraded brakes as well as transmission. It sits on 18-inch wheels like the Sport, but the Limited trim's are black with a machine finish. It is worth noting that this trim level does not have the paddle shifters and the LED foglights, although traditional foglights are still standard.
Sitting down inside the Limited trim, you will find leather-trimmed upholstery that adds a bit more sophistication. A heated steering wheel is available for this version of the 2021 Forester. The rear gate gets fancy for this nearly-top trim. It gains power, an automatic close feature, and a memory function so that it always opens to just the right height.
Choosing the Limited trim means getting dual-zone automatic climate control. This model comes automatically with the 8-inch touchscreen. Navigation becomes an available option. The six-speaker audio system remains standard while the premium model from Harman Kardon is optional. The standard and available driver aids are the same when looking at the Sport and Limited trim.
Compare the 2021 Subaru Forester Limited vs Forester Touring - What is the Difference?
The same mechanical features are found in the Touring as were in the Limited. Paddle shifters do make a comeback for this top-of-the-line model. Like the Sport, the Touring also has LED fog lights. This top trim is the only one to feature satin chrome side mirrors with integrated turn signals.
Like most models, the Touring has power-adjustment for the front seats. The upgrade here, however, is that the front passenger gets eight-way rather than four-way adjustment. Heated rear outboard seats are also added to the Forester if you choose the Touring. Another nifty feature found here are one-touch folding rear seatbacks.
Subaru does not stop there with the cabin upgrades. The Touring has two-position driver's seat memory. Both the navigation with the larger 8-inch touchscreen and the premium audio system become standard.
One major appeal of the Touring trim is the DriverFocus distraction mitigation system. Most driver distraction monitors rely on monitoring driving behavior. Subaru's system is more advanced. There is a camera mounted in the dashboard that uses facial recognition technology to monitor changes in head and eye movements. The Touring trim also is the only one to add reverse automatic braking as a standard feature.
Which Trim to Choose?
It truly seems that there is a 2021 Subaru Forester for every driver. The entry-level model is decently equipped and might be the right call for those trying to stick to a budget. That said, going up just one trim to the Premium model adds things like heated and power-adjustable front seats without adding too much to the cost.
The 2021 Subaru Forster Touring is a fully-loaded SUV. Those who often go on long road trips may decide to choose this model for the driver distraction mitigation system alone. Otherwise, the upgrades found here fall more on the frivolous side.
Most buyers will find that the Premium trim level of the 2021 Subaru Forester has everything need in an SUV.
• Compare the 2020 Subaru Forester Trim Levels