The Subaru brand is known for its all-wheel-drive SUVs and offers two popular models, the 2020 Subaru Forester compact SUV and 2020 Crosstrek subcompact SUV. The Forester is the automaker’s number one selling vehicle in the stable, and the Crosstrek is another popular choice if you are looking for a slightly smaller SUV. We will break down the differences and similarities so you can make the best choice.
Both models are the same width, but Forester stands four inches taller so you sit a little higher, have a little more headroom, and have a better view of the road. The Forester is almost six inches longer which makes a difference when parking, so Crosstrek is ideally suited for city dwellers.
The extra length gives Forester a few more cubes of interior volume, (111.9 cubic feet) versus 100.9 cubic ft for the Crosstrek. Forester will be better suited for taller drivers and give you a little more leg, hip, and shoulder room in both the front and back seats. If you're trading in an older Forester (built before 2014), the 2020 Subaru Crosstrek is similar in size.
Forester offers more cargo-carrying ability than the Crosstrek. Behind the rear seats, Forester has 35.4 cubic ft of space compared to the Crosstrek's 20.8 cubic ft. With the rear seats folded flat, Forester offers up 76.1 cubic ft and the Crosstrek has considerably less at 55.3 cubic ft. Forester’s rear tailgate opening is wider and comes with a lower cargo floor (2.5 inches), making it easier to load heavy cargo.
Both Forester and Crosstrek use a little window in the corner of the front doors so the mirror doesn't block your view. Rearward visibility is excellent in both vehicles compared to competitors but Forester is rated number one in outward visibility of any compact SUV by Consumer Reports because of its larger windows.
All 2020 Foresters and Crosstreks come standard with Symmetrical full-time all-wheel-drive (with no buttons to push), Vehicle Dynamics Control to prevent skids, anti-lock brakes with electronic brake force distribution, and 8.7-inches of ground clearance. Both have a towing capacity of 1500 lbs.
Both offer the same convenience features including Bluetooth hands-free phone and audio connectivity, keyless entry, CD player, steering wheel controls, power mirrors, and standard Starlink multimedia with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration.
There are a few available options on Forester you can’t get on a Crosstrek like a panoramic sunroof, a power tailgate, and a heated steering wheel. If you are going off-road some Forester trims come with the Dual-function X-Mode with settings for snow, dirt, and mud. The Crosstrek comes with the standard X-Mode.
All Foresters also include a new Rear Seat Reminder designed to help prevent child and/or pet entrapment. The system alerts the driver to check the rear seat before exiting the vehicle. This is not offered on Crosstrek.
Power and Fuel mileage
The 2020 Forester is powered by a 2.5-liter Boxer engine delivering 182 horsepower coupled with a CVT automatic transmission. Forester gets an EPA estimated at 26/33 city/highway and 29 combined mpg.
Crosstrek is powered by a 2.0-liter Boxer producing 152 horsepower and gets an EPA estimated 27/33 city/highway and 30 combined mpg. It also comes mated with a CVT automatic, but if you want a 6-speed manual transmission, you will have to buy a Crosstrek. It is less fuel-efficient and is rated 22/29/25 mpg.
If you like the smaller Subaru but would like more power, the Japanese automaker announced it will bring a 2021 Crosstrek Sport and Limited trim powered by Forester’s 2.5-liter engine. It could be available in late 2020. It's rated at 27/34/29 mpg.
Both 2020 Subaru Forester and Crosstrek get high marks from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) crash tests. The Forester is slightly better with a Top Safety Pick+ score, while the Crosstrek earns a Top Safety Pick because Forester received an "Acceptable" rating for its standard headlights and the Crosstrek's standard headlights were rated “Poor."
Forester also comes standard with the brand’s EyeSight driver assist technology while it's an option on the Crosstrek. EyeSight includes advanced adaptive cruise control with lane centering, and lane departure function.
The base 2020 Crosstrek starts at $23,155 with a 6-speed manual and $24,505 with the CVT. The base 2020 Forester has a starting MSRP of $25,505 (pricing includes including destination).
Very few base models are sold, so the Premium trims are a better comparison. Forester Premium starts at $28,405 and Crosstrek Premium CVT has an MSRP of $25,555. A comparably equipped Crosstrek will be around $2,000 less equipped with EyeSight, and $3,000 less than Forester without it.
Both Forester and Crosstrek models offer utility, all-weather and off-road capability, they are fuel-efficient, sporty handling, and excellent safety scores.
If you need more interior room and cargo-carrying ability, you’ll want the larger 2020 Subaru Forester. The smaller Crosstrek will appeal to urban dwellers who want a subcompact SUV that’s more maneuverable in the city. If you opt for a 2020 Crosstrek you can always buy a rooftop cargo carrier and increase your cargo space.
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Denis Flierl has invested over 30 years in the automotive industry in a variety of roles. All of his reports are archived on our Subaru page. Follow Denis on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Subaru Report. Check back tomorrow for more Subaru news and updates at Torque News!
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