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2021 Subaru Forester vs Mazda CX-5

2021 Subaru Forester vs Mazda CX-5
Reviewed & fact checked by
James Murdoch

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

Shoppers hunting for the perfect SUV need look no further than the 2021 Subaru Forester and Mazda CX-5. Both offer a modern aesthetic, impressive capability, ample interior space, and state of the art tech - all available at comparable prices. Making an informed decision has never been easier; this overview will give anyone interested in either vehicle valuable insight into which one is best suited to their lifestyle needs.

The Powertrain

The Mazda CX-5 and Subaru Forester are both renowned for their top performance capabilities, especially when it comes to engines. Both models come with 2.5L four-cylinder versions; the lower trims of the Mazda produces an impressive 187 horsepower and 186 pound/feet of torque whereas the Subaru Forester has slightly less output at 182 hp & 176 lb./ft - however its higher trim packs more muscle thanks to a turbocharged engine that adds up 250hp & 320lb/feet.

The Mazda CX-5 offers an impressive variety of drivetrains, with front wheel the default option for most trims and all-wheel available as a choice or standard for the highest two trim levels. All models are likewise equipped with a six speed automatic transmission that includes both Sport Mode to liven up your driving experience and Manual Shift mode if you'd like more control over gear selection.

The Subaru Forester has become a hallmark in its field for offering standard all-wheel drive, ready to take on even the toughest of conditions. And with its innovative X-MODE program providing improved traction options over tough terrain, it's no wonder why this vehicle is so widely chosen by those who don't shy away from an adventure. Comparable offerings include Mazda’s Off-Road Traction Assist system.

With its impressive fuel economy, the Forester is a great choice for any driver looking to save money at the pump. It has an estimated highway efficiency of 33 mpg - that's two miles better than its closest competitor, the CX-5! And if city driving is more your forte then you're in luck too; this reliable ride can get up to 26 mpg.

With the right two-row SUV, weekend warrior dreams can come true! Subaru Forester and Mazda CX-5 are designed to hook up to trailers for an offbeat adventure - these trusty models boast a powerful hauling capacity; up to 1,500 pounds with the Forester and a whopping 2,000 pounds with the CX-5. For all those eager explorers out there who want more than just regular car trips - the possibilities of what you can tow have officially been unlocked.


Both of these SUVs provide an exhilarating driving experience. Their athletic, agile nature allows for maneuverability without the feeling that you're piloting a tank. Although slightly larger than average two-row vehicles at just under 180 inches (Mazda) and a few inches more (Forester), parking should be relatively hassle free in both models.

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 Subaru Forester and Mazda CX-5 both boast generous rear cargo capacities for a comfortable driving experience. With their 60/40 split foldable rear seats, the area can be adapted to accommodate various sizes of items. When all backseats are folded down, the maximum capacity in the Forester is over 70 cubic feet while it's around 60 cubic feet in its rival - an important detail worth considering if you need additional space for belongings or equipment.

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.

If you're looking for a vehicle with the latest in technology, but have to stay within your budget, then do not despair! The Forester and CX-5 both offer something special – SiriusXM radio included standard on the Forester or an upgraded touchscreen system as part of higher trim packages on the latter. With either option available at their disposal, anyone who can manage it will be able to get more than satisfied with all that's offered.


Subaru and Mazda have gone the extra mile in their commitment to safety, integrating a wealth of features into every SUV model. Drivers can rest assured with three-point seatbelts at all positions, traction enhancement systems for increased control on slippery surfaces, multiple airbags for passengers' protection – plus advanced active components that reduce chances of accidents before they even occur.

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.

The Mazda CX-5 offers a suite of safety features that make driving stress free and easy. From Advanced Smartphone City Brake Support to lane centering assistance, drivers can feel at ease behind the wheel knowing they are in safe hands. Adaptive cruise control is also available on this model, as well as high beams capable of switching off or on depending upon the surroundings - giving you peace-of-mind during your commute.

The CX-5 offers an extra layer of visibility with its standard blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert components - perfect for when you can't keep watch on every angle. And if that's not enough, the higher trims in the Forester provide even more protection through these safety features.

Both models come with a variety of features to help ensure driver safety. The higher trims feature automatic braking for when vehicles are in reverse, plus the Forester has added protection from distractions. For maximum peace-of-mind, Mazda CX 5's highest trim offers an impressive 360 degree monitor and helpful parking sensors both front and back.

Which Has the Best Value

Subaru offers a wide selection of trims for the Forester, ranging from an entry-level trim priced at $24,795 to its top-tier Touring model that comes in at just under $35K. If customers are looking for even more options and flexibility when it comes to price points however, they may want to consider Mazda's CX-5 which runs seven different trims—from Sport up through Signature—with prices between around $25k and almost reaching the mid-$37K mark. That makes it slightly pricier than what you get with the highest end Subarus but also gives shoppers plenty of room within their budget bounds depending on how many bells & whistles they're after.

The Forester Premium offers superior convenience with a power panoramic moonroof and keyless access, along with the comfort of heated, adjustable front seats. Adventure seekers will be thrilled at the addition of paddle shifters on Sport models as well as two charging ports in both rows and 18-inch wheels. Upgrade to Limited for leather seating and hands free rear gate operation; then move up to Touring - where you'll find helpful amenities like navigation systems, an upgraded audio system plus added luxuries such a heated steering wheel & rear seats.

The Mazda offers several higher trims that boast turbo engines, certain to captivate buyers. Of these, the Signature trim stands out with features like navigation and a 360-degree camera; LED exterior lighting; 19" wheels; heated & ventilated front seats as well as heating for both rear seats and the steering wheel - all of which surpasses what is available from competitors such as Forester.

If you're looking for a balance between luxury and performance, the Grand Touring Reserve would be an excellent option. With its leather seats and power liftgate, it's sure to give any driver that extra bit of feel-good indulgence in their ride. But if style is your priority above all else, then take a look at either the Carbon Edition or Turbo - both feature striking exteriors with red or black leather seating options so you can create just the right image while driving around town.

The Sport and Touring models of the lineup offer many luxurious features despite their competitive pricing. Keeping your safety in mind, each model is equipped with advanced packages boasting remote entry access, LED turn signals embedded into side mirrors as well as LED headlights for that extra bit of sophistication. Not to mention dual-zone climate control and heated front seats upholstered in leatherette for a comfortable ride every time.

Which is Better?

The Forester impresses with its standard all-wheel drive and X-Mode, offering plenty of power to tackle anything the driver might encounter. Comparatively, the CX-5 takes it up a notch - turbo engines boost horsepower for an exhilarating driving experience that's sure to excite.

The Forester and the Mazda CX-5 offer a variety of features that cater to different customer preferences. While each offers spacious passenger seating, the Forester stands out with its superior cargo capacity - an ideal choice for those who prioritize practicality. Alternatively, customers seeking style will appreciate the extra touches offered by the CX-5 such as its elegant cabin design, exterior components and larger touchscreen display. Ultimately both vehicles provide quality performance leaving it up to individual drivers which one is right for them.

If you're after a stylish and sophisticated SUV with athletic capabilities, the Mazda CX-5 is worth considering - especially if you can get your hands on one of its mid-level trims or above. For those seeking dependability coupled with added bonuses, look no further than Subaru's Forester model.

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