How Reliable Is the 2021 Subaru Forester? Critics Don’t Agree

In more ways than one, the 2021 Subaru Forester is worth the hype. The Forester embodies Subaru’s best qualities, including efficiency and adventure-readiness. But just how reliable is the Forester? Well, some reviewers don’t agree.

Consumer Reports says the 2021 Subaru Forester is best-in-class

2021 Subaru Forester at the beach
2021 Subaru Forester | Subaru

Numerous buyers look to Consumer Reports to get a better idea of a car’s long-term reliability. And if you research CR’s current data, you’ll see that the org currently ranks the 2021 Forester as the year’s best small crossover. This Subie gets credit for being one of the most reliable new compact SUVs, and it’s one of the most well-rounded performers.

CR gave the 2021 Forester a four out of five for predicted reliability based on Auto Surveys data from 2020. The Forester’s above-average ranking reflects that there haven’t been a significant amount of problems associated with the SUV for the last three years. So far, 2020 owners have been pleased with their car.

“CR-tested vehicles are ranked by the Consumer Reports Overall Score. The Reliability Rating and the Road Test Score are major components. Crash Safety, crash avoidance technologies, and owner satisfaction are also factors.”

Consumer Reports (2020)

Like many other enthusiasts, we appreciate the Forester’s versatile capabilities. The Forester has 8.7 inches of ground clearance and a standard all-wheel-drive system that allows it to tackle snow and rocky trails. CR especially recognizes the SUV for its fuel efficiency. It has an EPA rating of 29 mpg overall. 

J.D. Power ratings tell a different story 

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Generally speaking, CR usually ranks Asian car brands as the most reliable. Oppositely, J.D. Power’s recent Initial Quality Study highlights a few American carmakers at the top, and Subaru falls toward the bottom. J.D. Power’s study covers frequent issues owners experience with their new vehicles differently than CR. For instance, J.D. Power focuses more on in-car technology than CR does.

As TorqueNews noted, J.D. Power has given the Forester low-quality scores for the last five years or so. J.D. Power measures a vehicle’s initial quality based on problems per 100 vehicles (PP100) during the first 90 days of ownership. Separately, the org determines long-term quality by analyzing three-year-old cars. 

That said, the Forester’s low 2020 scores reflect the 2017 model. The common problems associated with the 2017 Forester include its transmission and electrical system. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also investigated it for an Occupant Detection System failure. Reviewers at U.S. News gave the 2021 Forester the lowest possible dependability rating because of J.D. Power’s evaluations. 

What are you to believe?

2021 Subaru Forester
2021 Subaru Forester Sport | Subaru

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RepairPal is another helpful resource to determine a car’s dependability. RepairPal’s recent breakdown shows that the Forester is one of the more reliable small SUVs. The average annual repair cost for this Subie is $632, which is average. Since CR and RepairPal have more insight into the current Forester generation, we consider their evaluations more relevant.