Skip to main content

The compact SUV segment is like the ice cream truck at a summer baseball game; crowded. With the sheer number of options available, you should probably steer clear of the 2021 Jeep Cherokee. There are too many great SUVs in the world now to settle for something subpar. Instead, treat yourself to the 2021 Subaru Forester. 

The 2021 Jeep Cherokee parked on the street
2021 Jeep Cherokee | Jeep

Is the 2021 Subaru Forester really that much better than than the 2021 Jeep Cherokee?

It’s not that the Cherokee is that bad. In fact, it scored twice as well on Consumer Reports as the 2021 Jeep Wrangler did. The Cherokee landed a tough 54/100 on CR. For the Comparison, the 2021 Subaru Forester nailed an 89/100. Consumer reports isn’t the Gospel truth by any means, but these tests provide a lot of valuable information for buyers.

Overall, the Jeep Cherokee didn’t do that poorly. In fact, in some areas – brakes, seat comfort, and acceleration – it did pretty well. However, the full test shows a few areas of concern. 

2021 Subaru Forester parked in front of a mountain home
2021 Subaru Forester | Subaru

The Cherokee comes with three different engine options; the 180-hp 2.4-liter four-cylinder, the 270-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged four, and the 271-hp 3.2-liter V6. Although the 2.0-liter turbo is what CR tested, they recommend the V6. The 2.4-liter is an absolute pass as 180 horsepower is nowhere near the power an SUV of this size needs. 

Conversely, the 2021 Subaru is all around better in literally every department. The one concession is the only engine option, a 182-hp 2.5-liter four, which is a bit slow, but still works better in day-to-day driving than the Jeep. However slow it may be, the entire drivetrain is rock solid. The predicted reliability, along with everything else, is so much better. Let’s get into it.  

The Jeep Cherokee is lacking any excitement

The top-tier 2.0-liter turbo engine is still lacking in power and snap. Consumer Reports mentions it “doesn’t feel like all of its 270 horses are awake.” The unresponsive and jerky nine-speed automatic transmission doesn’t do the sluggish motor any favors. The Jeep can hit 60 mph in 7.5 seconds. This verison of the Cherokee has nearly 100 more horsepower than the Subaru Forester and only beats it to 60 mph by 1.5 seconds. 

The rest of the test follows the same lackluster trend. The smaller engines still only get a “meh” 23 mpg.  With its biggest motor, the Cherokee can only tow 4,500 lbs. Being a Jeep, the Cherokee does have a decent AWD system with multiple settings. However, it does not have a dedicated 4wd low gear or any such real off-roading power. 

If that weren’t enough, Consumer reports that the ride is stiff and choppy. This would be far more acceptable for an SUV made for real off-roading, but that is not the case here. Thankfully, Jeep’s half-measures didn’t spill into the interior. This is the one bright spot on the 2021 Jeep Cherokee’s record. The interior is slathered in up-market materials and designs. 

The 2021 Jeep Cherokee starts at $27,210 and tops out at $36,285. 

The 2021 Subaru Forester is a great SUV

Subaru has been throwing serious heat over the last few years. The 2021 Subaru Forester is not only a masterclass in safety; it is getting great reviews on almost every other aspect.

As I mentioned earlier, the Forester has a sluggish 2.5-liter heart, but unlike the Jeep, it is rock solid. The Subaru Forester also uses a CVT instead of a traditional automatic transmission which is smooth enough to stay in the background. 

The Forester also handles far better than expected for an SUV. CR says that body lean is held to a minimum while the steering is easy yet firm. The track tests found the braking equally amenable. Of course, neither the Jeep nor the Subaru is a sports car, but that doesn’t stop the Subaru from behaving well at speed around corners. 

Across the board, the 2021 Subaru Forester is a winner. The driving experience matches the quality of the interior. CR mentions it has gotten a noticeable step up in quality and comfort from the previous generation. The design and the materials are upscale and comfortable, making the Forester feel like a value. 

Lastly, the Subaru Forester is known for its safety features. The Subaru EyeSight comes standard on all Subaru models now. This extensive suite of safety features includes forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, lane-keeping assistance, and adaptive cruise control. This thing is drenched in IIHS safety awards. 

For all that, the 2021 Subaru Forester starts at $24,795, and the top-tier hits $34,895.

Don’t pick the 2021 Jeep Cherokee and sleep on the 2021 Subaru Forester

The 2021 Jeep Cherokee has fallen from a lofty height, indeed. There was a time when a Jeep Cherokee was a dream car for SUV fans, and now those days are gone.

On the other hand, that was also when very few Subarus were cool, and that is no longer the case. The 2021 Subaru Forester is simply better and cheaper than the Jeep Cherokee.


Cherokee Nation: Jeep Must Rename SUVs Now