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Picking the better SUV between the 2023 Subaru Forester and the 2023 Toyota RAV4 Prime is tough work. These two SUVs are among the most unanimously highly-ranked SUVs. In every category that matters for SUVs, these two models deliver. However, Consumer Reports seemed to pick the winner with ease. The 2023 Subaru Forester whooped the 2023 Toyota RAV4 on Consumer Reports. 

The 2023 Subaru Forester is a small SUV that has a lot going for it.
2023 Subaru Forester Wilderness Editon | Subaru

Is the 2023 Subaru Forester a good SUV? 

Consumer Reports loved the new Forester more than anything else in its segment. Not only that, but it’s one of the highest-ranked vehicles on the site. This might surprise some, but the reality is that Subaru is making some of the best vehicles on the market. 

The 2023 Subaru Forester isn’t terribly exciting. For what it lacks in pizazz, it more than makes up for in simple practicality. 

The new Forester seats five with plenty of space for storage. It landed a Top Safety Pick+ score from the IIHS and a slew of 5-star ratings from the NHTSA. Aside from being one of the safest cars on the market, the Subaru is also cool with the polar bears due to its combined 28 mpg. However, that efficiency comes by only offering a 182-hp 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine. It ain’t fast.

Consumer Reports describes the ride and handling as “adept at absorbing road imperfections, making it one of the better riding SUVs in the category. And yet, it benefits from responsive handling with contained body roll and fairly quick steering when rounding corners.” 

Lastly, and most importantly, the Forester can handle itself off-road. I had the Forester Wilderness Edition last year in upstate NY. I took it out on a snowy trail I had never driven, and I hadn’t been so confident in anything off-road since my TJ Wrangler. It handled the snow, ice, and mud with equal grace and grunt. 

As long as you don’t need your SUV to be pretty, the Forester will get it done. Consumer Reports struggled to find many aspects to critique. Besides an annoying engine noise in the higher revs and its unique slowness, CR’s review sounded like a proud mother telling her friends about her child’s baseball game. 

Is the Toyota RAV4 Prime the best SUV? 

A red Toyota RAV4 Prime plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) driving through a lighted tunnel
Toyota RAV4 Prime driving through a tunnel | Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.

The 2023 Toyota RAV4 Prime is one of the hottest SUVs on the market and for good reason. The RAV4 Prime is one of the most efficient compact SUVs the world has ever known. The hybrid motor alone gives drivers 40 miles of pure electric range before its gasoline counterpart joins in the fun. With charging infrastructure still in limbo, this is the bridge between eco-conscious drivers and the practicality of gasoline. 

Consumer Reports had very few bad things to say about Toyota’s newest RAV4. The only serious complaint from CR was the predicted reliability of the new model. Given the newness of the model, CR is being conservative with its predicted reliability because the model is fairly unproven. The model’s first year was 2021. This means we still have some time to see how this new plugin-hybrid system works long-term. 

How much should you spend on a good SUV? 

A 2023 Subaru Forester driving in the snow
2023 Subaru Forester | Subaru

Probably the biggest difference between these two models is the price. If you find yourself thinking the Forester still doesn’t seem better than the RAV4 Prime, just look at the price tags. The 2023 Toyota RAV4 Prime starts at $41,590 and tops out at $45,460. The 2023 Subaru Forester, on the other hand, starts at nearly half that, $26,395, and tops out at $36,395. 

Aside from the unknown reliability of the model, Toyota has yet again made a dominant SUV. However, for CR, the reliability questions and price earned it third place to the Forester’s first place.