The small-SUV class is loaded with talent. Contenders include the Mazda CX-5, Honda CR-V, Kia Sportage, and Toyota RAV4 Prime. But according to the consumer site Consumer Reports, the top vehicle in the segment is the 2021 Subaru Forester. Recommended with an overall score of 89 out of 100, the latest Forester boasts a spacious interior, packs plenty of standard safety features, and gets great gas mileage.
What sets the 2021 Subaru Forester apart from an impressive field of competitors? And why is it worth a closer look when you’re shopping for your next compact SUV?
The 2021 Subaru Forester
The Consumer Reports team calls the updated 2021 Subaru Forester smart and well-executed. Its exterior is distinct and stylish. Beneath the surface, Subaru has made quite a few changes, and they’re good ones. The Forester earned a score of 90 out of 100 on CR’s road test.
This compact crossover gets a power boost from the base 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine. You won’t go from 0 to 60 mph any faster, but when navigating highway traffic, you’ll be able to merge and pass with ease. The motor is mated to a continuously variable transmission that’s slightly more refined, though you’ll still hear the buzz when you push it.
The Forester ties the Honda CR-V EX for the best fuel economy among small SUVs, at 28 mpg excluding diesel and hybrids. The Subaru’s ride and handling are better, and they weren’t bad before. This SUV can handle a rough road and provide one of the best rides in the segment. There’s a little less body roll, faster steering when cornering, and responsive handling.
Subaru’s roomy cabin offers easy-to-use controls and excellent visibility. With a supportive and comfortable power-adjustable seat, the driver has a great position and view of the road. The infotainment system, complete with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration, is fast and easy to understand.
Standard active safety features include forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assistance, and lane-departure warning.
Thanks to the 2021 Mazda CX-5, Honda CR-V, and Kia Sportage, the Forester’s competition is fierce.
Consumer Reports gave the 2021 Mazda CX-5 an overall score of 83 out of 100. Though the CX-5 received a 78 out of 100 on the road test, it earned an impressive 5 out of 5 for predicted reliability. The Forester scored a 4 out of 5. The CX-5 improved for 2021 too, but it’s a little tight on cargo and trunk space.
The 2021 Honda CR-V was right behind the CX-5 with an overall score of 82 out of 100. It tied with the Forester on gas mileage and earned an 82 out of 100 on Consumer Reports‘ road test, beating the CX-5. Though it got a 4 out of 5 in predicted reliability, it earned only 3 out of 5 in the predicted owner satisfaction. A mediocre rating for overall value pulled its score down.
The 2021 Kia Sportage garnered an overall score of 81 out of 100. It gets decent gas mileage and received a 78 out of 100 on the Consumer Reports road test. The Sportage earned a 5 out of 5 in predicted reliability, which helped place it in the top five of the segment. The 2 out of 5 it earned in predicted owner satisfaction prevented the Sportage from rising higher in the ranks. The CR team found its comfort, driving experience, and value only mediocre.
The 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime got an impressive 85 out of 100 on Consumer Reports‘ road test and an overall score of 79 out of 100. It earned a 4 out of 5 in predicted owner satisfaction but only a 3 out of 5 in predicted reliability, which hurt its overall ranking. It earned only 3 out of 5 in braking and emergency handling and 2 out of 5 in cargo and trunk space.
An all-around good SUV
The fifth-generation Subaru Forester debuted in 2019, and it hasn’t seen many changes. But so far, it hasn’t needed many changes.
The Forester offers several driver-assist features, including Subaru’s Eyesight suite of advanced safety features, now standard across the lineup. It also offers standard all-wheel drive — rare in the segment — and good ground clearance, which has its advantages when you want to do a little off-roading. It also offers a generous amount of cargo space for all of your gear.
Another great thing about the 2021 Subaru Forester is its customizability. It can be as basic or ritzy as you like. With its quality build, comfort, space, and standard features, the Forester earned the top spot in CR’s small-SUV segment and has set the bar high for model years to come.