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2022 Subaru Forester vs Mazda CX-5

2022 Subaru Forester vs Mazda CX-5

2022 Forester vs CX-5 - How Do They Stack Up? Which is Better?

As far as two-row SUVs go, there are a lot of choices. The market is very competitive, but two vehicles have managed to do pretty well. The Subaru Forester and Mazda CX-5 have much to offer, and they do so while still being fairly affordable.

There are many trims to consider with these vehicles. Subaru makes six trims of the Forester, and Mazda makes eight trims of the CX-5. This allows these models to have a wider appeal; they can attract people on more limited budgets as well as those who are interested in getting more sophisticated SUVs with advanced equipment.

The Powertrain

Both vehicles come standard with all-wheel drive. This is a recent change for the CX-5, which used to offer the option of getting front-wheel or all-wheel drive. It's not anything new for the Forester, though, as it's a model that's been associated with all-wheel drive for some time.

With both of these vehicles, the AWD system is always ready to make adjustments whenever necessary. There's no need for the driver to adjust a dial or push a button in order to engage all-wheel drive. The CX-5 does have a button that can be pressed to engage the off-road traction assist feature. Similarly, almost all trims of the Forester have a button that can engage X-MODE, a program that optimizes traction when the conditions are proving difficult to handle.

There's one engine option for the Subaru Forester, while the CX-5 comes with two available engines. The Forester runs on a 2.5-liter engine, and it comes with 182 horsepower and 176 pound-feet of torque. The first Mazda engine is very similar to that of the Forester. It's a 2.5-liter engine that can make 187 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque. The difference in capability is so minimal that most people wouldn't be able to notice.

The other CX-5 powertrain uses a turbocharged engine. It also has a displacement of 2.5 liters, but since it has a turbocharger, it's able to make up to 256 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of torque. This is significantly more power than what any of the previously described engines have. It makes sense that the trims that have the turbo engine are called the 2.5 Turbo and the 2.5 Turbo Signature.

Mazda has matched both available engines with a six-speed automatic transmission. It has a manual shift mode, in case someone wants to take more control over the driving experience, and it has a Sport mode that can make the vehicle feel more aggressive. The Forester uses a Lineartronic continually variable transmission, and some of its trims have paddle shifters.

Both vehicles handle themselves well. They have traction control systems that can help them maintain stability. The Forester has an available Hill Descent Control program that can prevent the vehicle from gaining too much speed on descents. The CX-5 has something different called Hill Launch Assist. When the vehicle is stopped on a slope, facing upwards, this program can hold pressure on the brakes as the driver transitions from the brake to the gas pedal. It can prevent the SUV from rolling backwards.

Towing capacity is a factor that some buyers are interested in. Most trims of the Forester having towing capacities of 1,500 pounds. The CX-5 does a little better in this area, having a towing capacity of 2,000 pounds.

There is a brand new Forester trim that's available, and it's called the Wilderness. The Wilderness is designed to be more rugged than the others in the lineup. It can tow up to 3,000 pounds, and it has a higher ground clearance than the other trims. It also comes standard with all-terrain tires, so it's definitely ready to go off the beaten path.

The Mazda has an estimated fuel economy of 24 miles per gallon in the city and 30 miles per gallon on the highway. The Subaru does slightly better with an estimated fuel economy of 26 miles per gallon in the city and 33 miles per gallon on the highway. The Subaru Forester Wilderness, though, requires more gasoline than the other Foresters do. It can earn up to 25 miles per gallon in the city and 28 miles per gallon on the highway.


These vehicles can be driven confidently in a variety of conditions, thanks to their capability. As mentioned, the Subaru Forester Wilderness is the most rugged option. It sits 9.2 inches off the ground, compared with the other trims that have a ground clearance of 8.7 inches. The CX-5 doesn't have such a high vantage point, having a ground clearance of 7.6 inches.

From front to back, the CX-5 is slightly shorter than the Forester is, but the difference is less than three inches. As two-row SUVs, these models feel pretty agile and should be able to get in and out of tight parking spots without a problem.

Interior space is what makes vehicles like the Forester and CX-5 attractive to many customers. Five people plus cargo can easily fit in their cabins, and whenever someone needs more space to accommodate bulky or larger items, the rear seats can be folded down.

In the CX-5, there's 41 inches of front-row leg room and 39.6 inches of second-row leg room. The cargo area behind the seats has a volume of about 31 cubic feet. Cargo capacity increases to about 59 cubic feet when the seatbacks have been lowered.

The amount of leg room is very similar in the Subaru Forester. It provides 43.3 inches of leg room to those sitting in the front row, and it comes with 39.4 inches of second-row leg room. The rear cargo area measures approximately 27 cubic feet. Maximum cargo capacity is around 70 cubic feet in the Forester, putting it ahead of the CX-5 in this regard.

It's pretty comfortable in the driver's seat of the Forester. This model can have a power-adjustable driver's seat, and there are two USB ports to utilize up front. Two more USB ports can be found in the second row on select trims. Automatic climate control is standard, making it easy to bring the cabin to a comfortable temperature. Most trims have keyless access with push button start, and some have a power rear gate.

The CX-5 starts out with remote keyless entry and push button start, and the available advanced keyless entry is even more convenient. The first trim has a manually adjustable driver's seat, while all the others have a power-adjustable driver's seat. The standard leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear shifter are nice to have.

Both trims have available heated front seats to keep people more cozy in the winter. The CX-5 can have heating and ventilation in its front seats, along with heated rear seats and a heated steering wheel. The Forester can have heating elements in its steering wheel and rear seats, but it does not offer ventilation.

In terms of technology, these vehicles stand out. The CX-5 has a 10.25-inch full-color display, and it can have four, six, or ten speakers. Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto are all standard. Like the Forester, it comes standard with two USB ports in the front, and many trims have two additional ports in the second row.

In the middle of the Mazda lineup, CX-5 trims have SiriusXM, which greatly expands entertainment options. Select versions of the CX-5 come with integrated navigation and SiriusXM Traffic and Travel Link. When driving in unfamiliar areas or when trying to avoid traffic during a regular commute, this type of technology can be very useful.

The Forester offers a few technology packages. The first consists of four speakers and a 6.5-inch touchscreen with SiriusXM, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto. Trims in the middle of the lineup have six speakers, and they have Wi-Fi capability. The more sophisticated Foresters have eight-inch touchscreens. Navigation and a premium nine-speaker sound system are standard on the top-level Touring and available on two other trims.


Potential buyers should be very pleased to learn about the safety packages that come with the Forester and CX-5. Both models have a number of driver-assist technologies that can help drivers stay out of harm's way.

With the Forester, the package is called EyeSight Driver Assist Technology, and it consists of adaptive cruise control, lane centering abilities, and lane departure warning. It also provides the vehicle with frontal collision alert and automatic emergency braking. High beam assist is another standard component, and it can ensure that dark roads are effectively illuminated.

Mid-level Forester trims have blind spot monitoring as well as rear cross-traffic alert. These are particularly helpful because it can be difficult, or sometimes impossible, to see vehicles in certain positions. A few trims have reverse automatic braking to go along with rear cross-traffic alert. The Wilderness has an 180-degree camera mounted on its front end to make it easier for drivers to see obstacles in their paths.

The CX-5 has a more comprehensive safety package. Its base trim has all the standard features that the entry-level Forester comes with, and it has blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, too. Like the Forester, it has automatic high beams. While this SUV does not have an available front-view camera, it does have an available 360-degree monitor. Further, it can have reverse automatic braking, front and rear parking sensors, and a head-up display.

Which Has the Best Value?

When looking at the prices of the entry-level trims of each vehicle, it becomes clear that these models are very comparable. The Forester starts off with a price of $25,900, and the CX-5 is slightly more expensive with a starting price of $26,250. As mentioned already, these vehicles offer similar engines, amenities, and technology.

Most trims of the Forester cost more than $30,000. The Touring is the most expensive, coming in with a price of about $36,000. Since there are eight available trims of the Mazda CX-5, the cost increases associated with each trim are quite modest. However, moving up all the way in the lineup requires forking over some extra money. The 2.5 Turbo costs almost $37,000, and the Turbo Signature tops the list with a cost of $39,000.

Now, the Turbo Signature does feel more luxurious than the Forester Limited does. It has more a more elegant and well-equipped cabin, and it has the more energetic engine. It feels like a luxury vehicle in many ways. In contrast, the Forester feels like a Subaru, meaning that it seems practical and capable, but not necessarily extremely upscale.

Which is Better?

It's hard to say whether one of these SUVs is better than the other. They both have comfortable cabins, advanced technology, and capable engines, and they'd be a pleasure to drive.

The Subaru Forester may be more ideal for those who plan on going on big adventures. It has more cargo space and a higher ground clearance, and the special Forester Wilderness trim has been designed specifically for hitting the trails.

On the other hand, the Mazda CX-5 may attract the eye of people with more refined tastes. It has a sleek appearance, and it has the edge when it comes to technology.

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2021 Subaru Forester VS Mazda CX-5
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