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Consumer Reports Picks Subaru Forester Over Toyota RAV4? 5 Reasons Why

Which Compact SUV is the best, 2021 Subaru Forester or the 2021 Toyota RAV4? See why Consumer Reports just picked the Forester again.


Does the 2021 Subaru Forester or Toyota RAV4 perform better? According to Consumer Reports (by subscription), they just picked the Forester over the RAV4. Since 1997 CR has chosen the Forester 14 times as winner versus nine times for the RAV4 in the head-to-head battle.

The 2021 Toyota RAV4 is the best-selling compact SUV in America with 40,895 models sold versus the 2021 Subaru Forester with 19,452 models delivered to customers last month. But CR says even though the Forester is not the top-selling compact SUV, it’s the best performer for five reasons.

2021 Subaru Forester pricing, features, specs

Ride quality

Consumer Reports puts cars through comprehensive road tests based on 50 tests performed at their 327-acre auto test center so you can know how a vehicle performs in all driving situations. The Subaru brand that includes the popular 2021 Forester, Outback, and Crosstrek SUVs, most known for its all-wheel-drive all-weather capabilities, is rated the Best Mainstream Brand for road test scores over all other automakers.

Roomy interior

When it comes to cargo capacity, no compact SUV can match the 2021 Subaru Forester. The Forester has 35.4 cubic feet of cargo space with the second-row rear seats up, less than the RAV4’s 37.5 cubes. With the seats folded flat, however, the Forester offers a class-leading 76.1 cubic feet of cargo space, beating the RAV4’s 69.7 cubic feet.

2021 Subaru Forester pricing, features, specs

Outward visibility

The all-new fifth-generation Forester’s boxy design has been criticized that it’s plain and boring and isn’t as stylish as other small SUVs. Still, the Japanese automaker is proud of its big windows, square greenhouse, and thin roof pillars that offer outstanding visibility for the driver. Visibility is a core value for the brand, and Subaru has kept its conservative exterior design for this reason.

Fuel mileage

The Forester has an EPA fuel mileage estimate of 26/33 city/highway mpg and 29 combined mpg. How does it stack up against the competition in real-world testing? In CR’s testing, they achieved 20/38 city/highway and 28 combined mpg. The highway fuel mileage is considerably better than the EPA’s rating. Forester gets one mpg more than the RAV4.

Above-average reliability

The 2021 Subaru Forester also has an advantage with its above-average reliability. The Toyota RAV4 is just average, according to Consumer Reports.

What is the price of the 2021 Subaru Forester?

The 2021 Forester comes in five trim levels, and the base trim has an MSRP of $25,845, Premium ($28,845), Sport ($30,445), Limited ($32,445), and Touring ($35,945). Pricing includes $1,050 destination.

The 2021 Subaru Forester is the number one rated compact SUV out of sixteen in its category. CR says, “The Forester is the easy choice between these two compact SUVs. The Forester is a bit less expensive than a similarly equipped RAV4. Overall, we think the Forester will make buyers happy for years to come.”

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Denis Flierl has invested over 30 years in the automotive industry in a consulting role working with every major car brand. He is an accredited member of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Press. Check out Subaru Report where he covers all of the Japanese automaker's models. More stories can be found on the Torque News Subaru page. Follow Denis on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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Photo credit: Subaru


Paul Jann (not verified)    May 28, 2021 - 4:46AM

When does Subaru begin to produce electric vehicles? They will loose the train to zero emissions. Shame on Subaru.

Lee Taplinger (not verified)    May 28, 2021 - 9:44AM

While my Tacoma was being service the dealer lent me a 2021 RAV4 with the lane keeper and steering wheel tugger feature. I drove it quite a bit in the mountains. I have never driven any vehicle with worse steering. It felt like it was going through a gearbox with half the gears missing. I shut off the auto assist and it didn't help.

The ride was terrible. We have an Outback and although it's not exactly a Forrester, I would say that it's unbelievable that a RAV4 and Forrester would cost the same when one rides and steers great and the other feels awful.

I guess the Toyota outsells the Subaru 2 to 1 because of Toyota's reliability reputation and the many problems Subarus have had, both design defects and recalls.

Brad abernethy (not verified)    May 28, 2021 - 3:05PM

In reply to by Lee Taplinger (not verified)

Wow. I am surprised unless the vehicle had been damaged. My Rav has the best steering and ride of any vehicle I have owned..and is smoother to drive than a much higher cost suburban.

Brad abernethy (not verified)    May 28, 2021 - 10:23AM

I disagree with the article..especially fuel economy. The article does not mention the Rav hybrid...a fantastic vehicle with fuel economy close to a smart car..far better that any competitor.

JohnB352 (not verified)    May 28, 2021 - 11:06AM

The comment that the "RAV4 reliability is just average" is laughable. There are many, many stories of Toyotas lasting for several hundred miles. There are no such stories of Subarus lasting that long. I drove a Tacoma 250,000 miles, sold it to someone else, 3 years ago, and they're still driving it. Consumers Reports "tests" of reliability aren't reliable. They are too short in duration to be accurate.

Brad Abernethy (not verified)    May 31, 2021 - 12:09PM

In reply to by James McGrath (not verified)

Pretty sure he meant several hundred thousand! :) My Hybrid Rav gets unbelievable fuel economy..right now averaging 5 l per 100 km (45 MPG!), about the same as a MUCH small Smart car. In winter it dropped to 6.2 or about 38 MPG! The hybrid system, although more expensive, paid itself back in Less that ONE year (16,000 km) and all the hybrid parts have a 10 year warranty. You rarely see ANY Subaru on the road after 10 years in Canada..but there are a hell of a lot of Toyota's on the road WELL after 10! I think the article was an advertisement for Subaru.

Phil Parks (not verified)    May 28, 2021 - 12:48PM

We chose RAV4 over Subaru because at 105,000 miles the RAV4 will still be on the road going strong and the Subaru will be in the shop getting a new $4,000 CVT. Our RAV4 averages 31 mpg. We came out ahead with RAV4. We’re fed up with CVTs.

Theo Mak (not verified)    May 28, 2021 - 5:13PM

This article is wrong. There is a reason the RAV4 is outselling the Subaru: reliability belongs to Toyota, generally. Let the testers do it again in 2030, the RAV4 will still be going strong in a part of the Globe, traded 100 times while the Subaru will be long forgotten!