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The Subaru Forester has been hailed as an industry-leading off-roading SUV with rugged good looks since its inception in 1998. Ever since then, drivers have been buying these vehicles and driving them for years on end. They are sturdy as can be with standard all-wheel-drive, and the 2021 Subaru Forester iteration is no exception to the rule.
This small SUV comes at a reasonable price, and this price tag comes with a massive list of standard driver aids and infotainment features. Even some luxury SUVs cannot come close to touching what the Forester offers in this regard. With a rumored turbo engine and a styling refresh in the works, the Forester is going to make quite the splash.
The Forester has a few pitfalls though. The max tow rating is somewhat low, and the base engine is a tad underwhelming. Still, you can expect the new turbo engine that is rumored to be coming out this model year to up the ante in terms of power output.
So, is the 2021 Subaru Forester the right vehicle for you? Time to find out. We will go over what is new on the Forester, what we like about it, what we would like to see be improved upon, and how it stacks up against the competition before handing out our final verdict on this small SUV.
What's New for 2021?
The 2021 Subaru Forester receives a style upgrade this model year, making it look more athletic and aerodynamic than before. It is not a full redesign, but you will see some chic exterior and interior changes. Some features are liable to be shuffled about on the trim levels, and more options will likely be standardized. Also, there is a good possibility that this model year will see the introduction of a new turbocharged engine in addition to the base engine.
Top 10 Reasons to Buy a 2021 Subaru Forester – The Pros
1. All-wheel-drive is Standard Issue
One of the things that Subaru owners love is that Subaru gives their vehicles standard all-wheel-drive. Many of their rivals do not. Standard all-wheel-drive means that buyers do not have to spend extra on an upgrade and get plenty of added security while driving. AWD can come in handy while driving on dirt roads or while going across slick road surfaces, which is why people living in climates where inclement weather is frequent appreciate the standard AWD on the Forester.
2. The Subaru EyeSight Suite of Driver Aids
Subaru includes as standard a huge suite of driver aids known as the EyeSight bundle. This suite includes features like adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist with a sway warning function, pre-collision braking and throttle management, and advanced adaptive cruise control. These features are known to work well and are worth having available for when you do need them.
3. 8.7 Inches of Ground Clearance
8.7 inches of ground clearance helps make the 2021 Subaru Forester a capable off-roading vehicle. Not a lot of vehicles in this segment manage to achieve that. In addition, you get hill descent control and the X-MODE driving mode that has a trail management system. With AWD equipped, that makes the Forester one solid off-roading vehicle.
4. A Ton of Cargo Space
Cargo space abounds inside of the Forester. In fact, cargo space is something that Subaru usually gets right in its vehicles. While it trails slightly behind the Honda CR-V, the Forester offers 35.4 cubic feet of cargo space with all seats left in place. When the rear seats are folded down, you can get a lot more space for lugging bulky cargo. The layout is smartly designed, and with the high roofline, you get plenty of usable space inside of this SUV's cargo area.
5. Secure Braking, Steering, and Handling
As is customary with most Subarus, the brakes, steering, and handling do a lot to inspire driver confidence. The brakes modulate well in virtually any situation and can certainly handle slick road surfaces. Steering might not be sporty (and it is not meant to be), but it gives a good amount of feedback through the steering wheel. And, as for the handling, a well-tuned suspension and standard AWD work together to ensure that the Forester is able to easily round through turns. Navigating tight parking spaces is even easier than you might anticipate. This vehicle feels grounded at all times but can change directions as soon as you give it the input.
6. Plenty of Seat Comfort
The 2021 Subaru Forester has seats that are padded for comfort during long drives. The lumbar support and bolstering on the front seats helps keep the driver and front seat passengers cozy and securely planted in their seats. Even the rear seats feel nice and relaxing. There is not an uncomfortable seat inside of this cabin. The heated front and rear seats that come on the higher trim levels do a lot to boost overall comfort too.
7. An Expansive Outward View
This vehicle has a tall profile, and the high ride height - coupled with slender roof pillars - means that the driver gets a commanding outward view. Blind spots are relatively small, and the blind spot monitoring system can help with those. The windshield and rear window are also fairly large, which helps with visibility, and the side mirrors are appropriately sized.
8. User-friendly Controls
Subaru gives the Forester's cockpit an incredibly user-friendly layout. The controls are all properly placed along the dash, and there are plenty of physical controls. You do not have to be a tech nerd to figure out the touchscreen either. The controls for the navigation system are simple enough, and it even manages to respond well to natural speech used in voice commands. Smartphone app integration is standard, so you can always just switch over to your favorite app if you don't care for the native features.
9. Plenty of Adjustability for the Driver
The driver gets a lot of leeway to configure their preferred sitting arrangement. The tilting and telescoping steering wheels offers plenty of adjustment, as does the driver's seat. The lower trim levels have manual adjustability, but the higher trim levels get power adjustment for even easier movement. The line-topping Touring trim level even gets a power-adjustable front passenger seat.
10. A Lot of Standard Infotainment Features
The list of standard infotainment features in the 2021 Subaru Forester is fairly impressive. You get multiple USB ports for both the front and rear seats, and as we already mentioned, smartphone app integration comes standard. You also get Bluetooth connectivity for hands-free calling and audio streaming and a rear-view camera. On the second trim level up (the Premium), you get 4G LTE WiFi hot spot connectivity added on.
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Reasons Not to Buy a 2021 Subaru Forester – The Cons
1. Sluggish Acceleration
The biggest issue you might take with the 2021 Subaru Forester is that its base engine is sluggish to accelerate. This 2.5-L 4-cylinder engine generates 182 hp and 176 lb-ft of torque, which really is not enough to get this vehicle up to highway speed in a reasonable time. It takes the Forester a miserable 9.3 seconds to get from 0 to 60 mph. This makes merging and passing a bit more effortful.
2. Might Not Meet EPA Estimates
EPA estimates for the Forester are reasonable enough: 29 mpg combined (with 26 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway). This puts the Forester at the top of its class. But real-world tests have shown that the engine requires you to push the throttle so much that the fuel economy is significantly lower than expected. Here is hoping that the rumored turbo engine could change this.
3. Low Towing Capacity
The only other qualm that we take with the 2021 Subaru Forester is that it has a towing capacity that is lower than many of its competitors. The Forester can tow up to 1,500 pounds. With the base engine being as weak as it is, towing at this capacity could feel like a real drag and be a real drag on fuel economy.
How it Stacks Up to the Competition:
2021 Subaru Forester vs. 2021 Honda CR-V
The 2021 Subaru Forester's top rival is undoubtedly the 2021 Honda CR-V. This small SUV packs a punch with a zippy turbocharged engine option that accelerates without a problem. The CR-V has an absolutely cavernous interior with smartly designed storage elements. Also, the ride quality is athletic while managing to maintain a high level of comfort. It has a few pitfalls though. For starters, the touchscreen can be wonky and is not the easiest to use. You might also want to skip over the base LX trim level and its bland engine. The turbo does much better, and the cost to upgrade is reasonable.
2021 Subaru Forester vs. 2021 Mazda CX-5
The 2021 Mazda CX-5 is another top contender for the model year. Its handling is a stand-out in this segment, as is its steering capability. The cabin looks high-end and is spacious, and it remains quiet even at highway speeds. In addition, there is a turbocharged engine that was introduced a few years ago that provides a strong performance. On the downside, the CX-5 has a boring base engine that does not accelerate with ease. It also has a too-firm ride quality for a vehicle in this segment, and its cargo room and rear seat leg space trail behind the Forester and other chief rivals.
The 2021 Subaru Forester is a top-notch vehicle with a lot of features to offer. Its comfort level is high, and the amount of cargo space you get is a real bargain. The one obvious drawback is the base engine, so let us hope that Subaru will finally drop that all-too-desirable turbo engine into the line-up sooner rather than later. Despite the lack of power, everything else makes for a great performance, and this vehicle should rank near the top of its segment yet again this model year.
• Why buy a 2020 Subaru Forester? w/ pros vs cons