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2021 Subaru Forester vs Mazda CX-5

2021 Subaru Forester vs Mazda CX-5

2021 Forester vs CX-5 - How do they stack up? Which is Better?

Capable, stylish, and modern, the Subaru Forester and Mazda CX-5 are excellent options if anyone is looking for a new SUV. These vehicles can be perfect for regular commuting, and they can also be suited for more adventurous journeys. They both have a good amount of interior space and several high-tech components.

Given their comparable prices, it makes sense that many potential customers would have some trouble deciding between the 2021 Subaru Forester and the Mazda CX-5. After reading this detailed overview, a buyer should hopefully have a better sense of which would be the more ideal vehicle.

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The Powertrain

The Mazda CX-5 has two available engines, whereas the Forester only has one. It's rather interesting that all of the these engines are 2.5-liter, four-cylinder versions. Powering the Subaru Forester is an engine that delivers 182 horsepower and 176 pound-feet of torque. The lower trims of the Mazda CX-5 have almost the same performance specifications, with 187 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque.

The higher trims of the Mazda get to use turbo engines. Because they have turbochargers, they're able to generate up to 250 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of torque. While the other engines aren't weak by any means, the turbo engine is at the next level in terms of how responsive it can be. Drivers who value performance are certainly going to be drawn towards the turbo trims of the CX-5.

With the exception of the top two trims, the Mazda CX-5 will come standard with front-wheel drive. All-wheel drive is an option if anyone feels that it would be more preferable to have greater traction. On the top two trims, all-wheel drive is standard. Across the lineup of the Mazda, every trim has a six-speed automatic transmission. It has a Sport mode in case people want to have more exciting drives, and it has a manual shift mode, too.

In the Subaru Forester, there's a Lineartronic continuously variable transmission. Notably, all-wheel drive is standard. This is one of the things that Subaru is known for, and it makes the Forester more appealing to those who will likely run into difficult conditions. Most trims of the Forester also have X-MODE, a program that enhances traction even further. A fairly comparable system in the Mazda is called Off-Road Traction Assist.

Highway fuel economy in the Forester is estimated to be 33 miles per gallon. This is a pretty good number, and it's a little better than the 31 miles per gallon that the CX-5 can achieve. When driving in the city, the Forester can earn an estimated 26 miles per gallon. That's slightly more efficient than what the CX-5 can do.

It might not be common for people to tow cargo with their two-row SUVs, but it can definitely be done if they have the right models. Fortunately, the Forester and CX-5 have been built in a way that allows them to be hooked up to trailers. The Forester can haul up to 1,500 pounds, and the CX-5 can tow up to 2,000 pounds. This would be welcome news for weekend adventurers.


Either of these SUVs would be a pleasure to drive. They're athletic and agile, and they aren't too cumbersome to handle. The length of the Mazda is just under 180 inches, and the Forester is a few inches longer. These measurements are pretty standard for two-row SUVs, so no one should expect to have any difficult with parking.

In both vehicles, five people can fit comfortably. Front-seat leg room isn't an issue at all, and in the second row, the Forester has 39.4 inches of leg room while the Mazda has 39.6 inches of leg room. Adults should be happy to have space in which they can stretch out a bit.

The rear cargo area of the Forester has a volume of about 30 cubic feet, and it's a similar size in the CX-5. Both models have rear seats that can fold down. They have 60/40 split configurations, so people can lower one side if they still want to have one or two seats available in the back. If all of the rear seats are folded down, the maximum cargo capacity in the Subaru is over 70 cubic feet. It's about 60 cubic feet in the Mazda, so this would be something to pay attention to if people plan on loading up their vehicles with gear or other items.

Staying connected and entertained is a big part of the overall driving experience. The Forester comes standard with a 6.5-inch touchscreen, and its higher trims have eight-inch touchscreens. Even in the lower trims, there is smartphone compatibility plus SiriusXM. Navigation is available on one of the mid-level trims and standard on the highest trim, as is a Harman Kardon sound system with nine speakers. All of the Forester models, except for the entry-level trims, have Wi-Fi capability.

The Mazda CX-5 stands out in a crowded market because it has a great infotainment package. Every trim has a 10.25-inch touchscreen, along with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. For many people, having a larger screen is very intriguing, so Mazda definitely was strategic in giving this SUV such an impressive component. People can use voice commands to do various tasks, and every trim has HD Radio and Pandora integration. On the mid-level trims, the sound system is upgraded to one with ten Bose speakers. The top few trims have SiriusXM, with the most premium trim having integrated navigation as well.

A strength of the Forester is that it has standard SiriusXM, while the CX-5 has the larger touchscreen and other entertainment options. People on a budget will have to decide which is preferable. Anyone with the means to get a higher trim of either model should be more than pleased with all of the available technology.

Buying Tip:

To avoid overpaying on a new car, shop prices online first. Get up front pricing before you walk into a dealership. We recommend the following free services; Car Clearance Deals, NADAguides, CarsDirect & & Motortrend.
These free services will offer you the lowest prices and supply you with multiple competing price quotes. You will know the best price before you visit the dealer.


Safety has been a priority at the Subaru and Mazda companies, and this is evident when looking at the safety packages in their SUVs. The Forester and CX-5 have three-point seatbelts in every position, traction enhancement systems, multiple air bags, and more devices in place to protect people. They also have advanced components that can actively work to reduce the chances of getting involved in accidents.

Every trim of the Subaru Forester has EyeSight Driver Assist Technology. The components in this package can watch out for potential problems related to frontal collisions or inadvertently drifting out of a lane. If an issue is detected, the vehicle will warn the driver, and it could take corrective measures in the form of braking or steering. The safety package has adaptive cruise control as well. This program allows the vehicle to speed up or slow down, depending on what the vehicle in front of it is doing.

Similarly, the Mazda CX-5 has several mitigation and monitoring systems. Its automatic braking system is called advanced smartphone city brake support, and it comes with pedestrian detection. Like the Forester, the CX-5 can keep itself centered in a lane, and it has adaptive cruise control. Plus, the two models have high beams that can automatically turn themselves on and off when necessary.

Two components that are standard in the CX-5 are blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. These can be useful, as it's impossible to see everywhere at once. In the Forester, these components are not part of the base model's safety package, but they are found in the higher trims.

In both models, the higher trims have automatic braking that can engage when the vehicles are in reverse. The Forester has a distraction mitigation feature that can gently remind people when they should re-focus their attention on driving. The highest trim of the Mazda CX-5 has a 360-degree monitor as well as parking sensors in the front and rear.

Which Has the Best Value?

Subaru makes five trims of the Forester. The entry-level trim costs $24,795, and the top-level trim called the Touring costs $34,895. This is a pretty wide range, and it gives customers a lot to consider.

The number of trims of the CX-5 is even greater. There are seven total trims, starting with the Sport and ending with the Signature. The Sport costs $25,370, while the Signature is priced at $37,505. Again, customers have plenty of options to think about. The lower trims are priced similarly to how the Forester is, but the top trims of the CX-5 are a little more expensive than anything the Forester has to offer.

Of course, one has to look at the various amenities that come with every trim. It can be overwhelming to examine every last detail, so here, some highlights will be provided.

The Forester Premium has a power panoramic moonroof that many people will appreciate, and it has keyless access and heated, power-adjustable front seats. At the Sport level, there are paddle shifters, a pair of charging ports in the front and back rows, and 18-inch wheels. The Limited's notable upgrades are leather seats, a power rear gate, and the larger touchscreen. Finally, the Touring's high price is justified since it has navigation, an enhanced audio system, a heated steering wheel, and heated rear seats.

With the Mazda, remember that the higher trims have turbo engines, and this is going to help them attract attention from certain buyers. The trims that have turbo engines are the Carbon Edition Turbo, Grand Touring Reserve, and Signature. The Signature shines in many ways, as it has navigation, a 360-degree camera, a full set of LED exterior lights, 19-inch wheels, leather seats. The seats in front are heated and ventilated, and the seats in the back are heated, like the steering wheel is. This is a level of sophistication that the Forester just doesn't have.

The Grand Touring Reserve comes pretty close to this mark. However, it doesn't have navigation or some of the high-end features that the Signature has. The Grand Touring, even though it has the standard engine, is still quite refined. It treats people to leather seats, a memory function in the driver's seat, LED fog lights, and a power liftgate. The Carbon Edition Turbo, and its counterpart (the Carbon Edition) that has the standard engine both have aggressive stylings and red or black leather seats.

At the beginning of the lineup, even the Sport and Touring have many attractive qualities. The safety and technology packages in the Sport are advanced, and the remote entry, LED turn signals built into the side mirrors, and LED headlights make it seem more expensive than it really is. The same is true of the Touring. It has dual-zone climate control, heated front seats, and leatherette upholstery.

Which is Better?

Prospective buyers will likely be drawn to these SUVs because they have generously sized cabins, can handle themselves confidently, and have modern technology. When deciding between the two, a few things have to be considered.

The available powertrains are going to be important. The Forester does well for itself, especially since it has standard all-wheel drive and the available X-Mode. It has almost the same amount of horsepower and torque as the lower trims of the CX-5 has. However, the CX-5s with turbo engines are going to be noticeably quicker and more exciting to drive.

Passenger space in the two models is at about the same level. When looking at cargo capacity, though, the Forester comes out as the winner. This may be a deciding factor for some customers.

The other areas to keep in mind are safety, technology, and the quality of the exterior and interior features. In many ways, the Mazda CX-5 offers more than the Forester does. It can have a more elegant cabin, it can have nicer exterior components, and it has a larger touchscreen. That being said, the Forester is still going to be popular amongst customers who like its practical sensibility.

Those who want a sleek, athletic SUV that's upscale and sophisticated may be more inclined to go with the Mazda CX-5, especially if they're able to get one of the mid-level trims or higher. Those who are happy with a durable, reliable SUV that comes with some extra benefits will likely be satisfied with the Subaru Forester.

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