Trucks & SUVs

Is the 2020 Subaru Forester Worth the $2,600 Upgrade Over the Crosstrek?

Automakers often have vehicles that are almost identical, except for a few minor features like size. Subaru seems to be a master of this. Most of its vehicles are very similar, with the exception of how many passengers can hop in the back. 

The 2020 Subaru Forester and the Subaru Crosstrek are prime examples of this. They both have that unmistakable Subaru body frame, AWD, the exact same engine, and lots of great standard features, but the Forester costs more. U.S. News broke down the gritty details to find out if it’s really worth paying more for the Forester, or if the Crosstrek is good enough as is.

The 2020 Subaru Forester offers more than good looks

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There’s a lot to love about the 2020 Subaru Forester. It comes with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that has 182 hp. The continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) comes standard. Some critics weren’t exactly pleased with the fact that Subaru only offered one choice of engine, but this one performs well enough that most drivers don’t care. 

The gas mileage isn’t terrible either. The Forester gets 26 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway. There are some SUVs out there that can offer better gas mileage, but AWD is not standard. All Subaru models come standard with AWD, so you don’t even have to ask when you visit your local dealership.

There’s a lot of competition in the SUV division, and the Forester stands out due to its extensive cargo room. The cargo hold has 35.4-cubic-foot of space. The rear seats can then be folded into a 60/40 split. This increases the space to 76.1 cubic feet.

Even better is a one-touch button to lower the seats, and a height-adjustable lift gate. All that extra room makes the Forester the perfect vehicle for going on a road trip in. 

Other features include the Starlink infotainment interface, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, a 6.5-inch touch screen, four speakers, satellite radio, HD Radio, and a pair of USB ports.

If you want to upgrade, you can get a set of charging ports in the rear, an 8-inch touch screen, a Wi-Fi hot spot, Bluetooth hands-free text messaging, a nine-speaker Harman Kardon sound system, and a navigation system.

The 2020 Subaru Crosstrek is small but mighty

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The 2020 Subaru Crosstrek has been making some waves in the subcompact SUV division due to its predicted reliability. It starts out at $22,000 and tops out at $27,395, making it very affordable.

The 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine gets 152 hp, and comes with a standard six-speed manual transmission. For a little extra cash, you can upgrade to a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). The gas mileage is also more than decent at 27 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway

The storage space is where the Crosstrek begins to lag behind its big brother, the Forester. The 2020 Subaru Crosstrek gets 20.8 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats. Fold the rear seats down, and that increases to 55.3 cubic feet.

The standard features aren’t exactly extensive, but should satisfy most consumers. You get automatic climate control, the Starlink infotainment system with a 6.5-inch touch screen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth, and a four-speaker stereo.

For a little more, you can upgrade to a six-speaker stereo, an eight-speaker Harman Kardon stereo, satellite radio, HD Radio, additional USB ports, a Wi-Fi hot spot, navigation, an upgraded infotainment system with an 8-inch touch screen, and a moonroof. The moonroof is tragically only availed with the CVT model.

You mean there’s a difference between the two?

A Subaru Forester on display at an auto show
A Subaru Forester on display | Manfred Schmid/Getty Images

After viewing the specs, it’s clear that there’s not much of a difference beyond the size of these two great vehicles. That leads to the question of if the extra $2,600 is really worth it. Some consumers may not blink about spending that much more money, while others will have to have a serious discussion about if it’s even feasible.

If you’re on the fence, U.S. News might have made your decision easier. According to the review site, “The same engine powers both SUVs, but the Crosstrek doesn’t feel any peppier, despite weighing less. The Forester is the better pick if you can afford its higher price. It gives you more legroom, a larger cargo area, and more standard features.”

That being said, the Crosstrek is considered the most reliable Subaru out there. The Forester, for all its speed and leg room, has a poor reliability rating. Consumer Reports gave it 3 out of 5 stars. In comparison, the Crosstrek got a perfect score of 5 out of 5. With that in mind, it really boils down to what you prefer: Reliability or extra space?