Buyer's Guide

2021 Subaru Forester
Select a Different Model (5 Available): Base
Fuel Economy $ 26 / 33 mpg
Cargo (Std/Max) 35/76 cu.ft.
Seating (Std/Max) 5/5
Horsepower 182@5,800
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2021 Subaru Forester MODEL OVERVIEW


  • Spacious interior
  • Comfortable ride
  • Great visibility


  • Underpowered engine
  • Intrusive DriverFocus system
  • Numb steering

No other compact SUV embodies practicality quite like the Subaru Forester. Standard AWD and generous ground clearance help the SUV stand out. Also, an extensive list of standard and optional driver assistance technologies strengthens the Forester's value proposition and give you an extra set of eyes that can warn you of danger.

For 2021, the Forester gets adaptive LED headlights and a rear seatbelt reminder as standard equipment.

What We Think

The Subaru Forester. isn't the snazziest compact SUV around but more than makes up for that shortcoming with practicality. Five adults can sit comfortably, and the cargo area has generous space for your gear. The Forester's shape also has an airy feel and excellent visibility thanks to the large windows.

Subaru's multimedia system is user-friendly in this application as it uses a mix of physical buttons, knobs, and a responsive touchscreen instead of forcing users to control most functions with a large tablet-like display (like the Outback). EyeSight, Subaru's driver assistance suite, works well thanks to its accurate lane keeping assist and an adaptive cruise control that's not overly conservative with distancing. In our testing, however, we found the DriverFocus distraction prevention system too intrusive.

Comfort is a key theme with the Forester. The suspension handily absorbs road imperfections and prevents harshness from getting transmitted into the cabin. Don't expect the Forester to have sporty handling, though. Although it's stable and has good body control, the Forester isn't engaging, and the steering feels numb. Subaru's 2.5-liter flat-four is also short in power compared to a few other competitors.

In short, get the Forester for practicality and utility. If you don't need much power in your AWD family SUV, the Forester is a good option.

Performance and Fuel Economy

The 2021 Forester is powered by a 2.5-liter flat-four with 182 hp and 176 lb-ft of torque. A CVT automatic is the only transmission offered. EPA fuel economy ratings are 26/33 mpg city/highway. Unlike other compact SUVs, the Forester includes AWD as standard on every trim.


NHTSA: 5 stars (out of a possible five stars)

IIHS: 2020 Top Safety Pick+

The Subaru Forester got a Good rating in all IIHS crashworthiness tests except in headlight evaluations, where the standard LED headlights only got an Acceptable rating (Good is the highest score). Once the IIHS tests the 2021 model's headlights, that rating could change because adaptive LED headlights are now standard on all models. In the IIHS front crash prevention test, the Forester received a Superior rating on the vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-pedestrian evaluations (Superior is the highest rating).

Subaru's EyeSight suite of active safety features is standard on all Forester models. That includes adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, pedestrian detection, front automatic emergency braking, automatic high beams, and lane keeping assist. Blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are optional on the Premium grade and standard on the Sport and above. Rear automatic emergency braking is optional on the Sport and Limited trims and standard on the range-topping Touring.


Base, Premium, and Sport models get a 6.5-inch touchscreen as standard along with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. A larger 8.0-inch touchscreen is optional on the Sport grade and standard on the Limited and Touring variants.

Base Forester models feature a four-speaker audio system while Premium, Sport, and Limited get a six-speaker unit. A nine-speaker Harman Kardon audio system is offered on the Sport trim and up. Built-in navigation is available only on the Limited and Touring variants—lower trims can use Apple CarPlay or Android Auto when service is available.

Recommended Trim

Among the five available trims, the Sport is the best deal in the Forester lineup, especially now that adaptive LED headlights are standard on all models. The Sport gets you access to nearly all the features found on the upper trims except for heated rear seats, leather upholstery, and the annoying DriverFocus distraction mitigation system. Opt for the Sport's available package for rear automatic braking, the upgraded sound system, an 8.0-inch touchscreen, and a power liftgate.

Key Competitors:

Engine Name
Engine: 4-Cyl 2.5 Liter BOXER
Transmission Name
Transmission, Lineartronic CVT Continuously Variable Automatic
Mid-Size Utility
Standard MPG
Body Style
Fuel Type
Unleaded Regular
Seating Capacity
Package Invoice Retail
Show Full Specs
Corrosion Warranty Miles
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IIHS Best Pick
NHTSA Rating Front Driver
Not Rated
IIHS Front Moderate Overlap
NHTSA Rating Front Passenger
Not Rated
IIHS Front Small Overlap
NHTSA Rating Front Side
Not Rated
IIHS Overall Side Crash
NHTSA Rating Overall
Not Rated
IIHS Rear Crash
NHTSA Rating Rear Side
Not Rated
IIHS Roof Strength
NHTSA Rating Rollover
Not Rated
Amount Description Expiry Date
$500 Subaru announces a Lease Loyalty program which allows current lease customers to have their first payment and disposition fees waived when leasing a new vehicle through SMF. [Regional Incentive. See dealer for availability.] 12-31-2021
$500 Subaru announces Military Discount program to active-duty and reserve members of the US Military. [Regional Incentive. See dealer for availability.] 12-31-2021
$0 1.9% Financing available for varying term lengths : 63, 72 Months - Subaru announces APR rates on select models. 02-01-2021
$0 0.9% Financing available for varying term lengths : 24, 36, 48 Months - Subaru announces APR rates on select models. 02-01-2021