Subaru Crosstrek vs. Subaru Forester Differences

If your car-buying journey has you set on a great Subaru model, and you're specifically comparing the Subaru Crosstrek vs. Forester, look no further. Like how our guide on the Impreza vs. Toyota Corolla helps distinguish the two reliable commuters, this info-packed comparison will help answer all the questions you may have about how these two rugged, adventurous, and practical SUVs stack up to each other. Spoiler alert: Both are excellent choices for those in search of go-anywhere AWD capabilities, modern tech, and enough practicality to fit whatever you need — from your daily commute to your next weekend adventure. Each has its own personality, style, and points of distinction, so keep reading to see the reasons you may want to go with one over the other.

2021 Subaru Crosstrek 2021 Subaru Forester
Starting MSRP: $22,245* $24,795*
Engine: 2.0-liter DOHC engine 2.5-liter SUBARU BOXER® 4-cylinder
Performance:
  • Power: 152 hp @ 6,000 rpm
  • Torque: 145 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm
  • 3.1. Power: 182 hp @ 5,800 rpm
  • 3.2. Torque: 176 lb-ft @ 4,400 rpm
EPA-Estimated MPG (Highway /City): 29/22 MPG 33/26
Maximum Towing Capacity: 1,500 lb 1,500 lb
Cargo Volume: 20.8 cubic feet 31.3 cubic feet
Maximum cargo volume: 55.3 cubic feet with rare seats lowered 74.3 cubic feet with rare seats lowered
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Patriot Subaru - Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

The Subaru Forester: A Rugged and Modern SUV for Any Occasion

As the first to be released, in the dilemma of Crosstrek vs. Forester, let's first take a look at the Forester. Debuting on sale in the United States for the 1998 model year, the Forester was an instant hit thanks to a design philosophy people still love to this day. Subaru was and still is known for the nigh-unstoppable mountain goat-like, off-road capabilities of their iconic Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system, 4-cylinder SUBARU BOXER® engine, and rugged design.

The Forester achieved its instant success by complementing those all-terrain capabilities with a practical and comfortable interior for daily driving, a handsome modern exterior, and plenty of competitive features. All of this remains a staple of the model today, so when you choose a Subaru Forester lease, you get 23 years of adventurous history and evolution backing your new car. Things got even more exciting from there with the Forester XT, giving the already attractive SUV a turbocharged kick for a sporty on-road driving experience while keeping all those go-anywhere capabilities. Now, in its fifth generation, the Forester remains a prime choice for anyone who wants a compact SUV that can handle any adventure while also offering modern competitive features, tech, and much more.

The Subaru Crosstrek: Small but Mighty

A younger sibling of the Forester, the Crosstrek made its debut for the 2013 model year. Based on the Impreza 5-door hatchback, the Crosstrek cranked up the all-terrain capabilities of the compact car, most notably by giving it a suspension lift for optimal ground clearance off-road, as well as changing up some exterior design elements and wheel choices for a more rugged look. When it comes to this philosophy of modifying a popular commuter for off-road use, there are several cars similar to a Subaru Crosstrek though.

But, with Subaru staples like Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system, a 4-cylinder SUBARU BOXER engine, and an overall rugged, practical design built in, the Crosstrek has remained a hugely popular offering in the segment for a good reason. When looking for a smaller SUV with awesome, adventure-ready capabilities, our Subaru Crosstrek lease deals can help you get into this iconic crossover SUV. From there you'll discover a comfortable interior with lots of features, practicality, and a driving experience more akin to a peppy and agile hatchback than a big SUV - after all, that's what the Crosstrek is deep down.

Many Similarities, Many Differences

At a glance with a Crosstrek compared to Forester, these SUVs may seem very similar, but several key points distinguish the two from each other. For starters in Subaru Crosstrek vs. Forester similarities, both SUVs come with a 1,500 lbs tow rating (when properly equipped), 8.7 inches of ground clearance, a Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system, a 4-cylinder SUBARU BOXER engine, and Lineartronic™ CVT transmission that make them massively capable on any terrain.

 

For both models as well, on the inside the two are also very similar at first glance. Riding on the shared Subaru Global Platform, these similarities are logical, but there are differences. For the Forester, a wider range of options and technology are available, and the overall design offers more cargo space.

When stacking up the cargo room of a Subaru Crosstrek vs. Forester, a 2021 Crosstrek, gives you 55.3 cubic feet of cargo space, while the 2021 Forester will give 76.1 cubic feet. One more difference to note, a base trim 2021 Crosstrek and 2021 Crosstrek Premium offer a 152-hp 2.0-liter SUBARU BOXER engine, while the 2021 Forester offers a 182-hp 2.5-liter SUBARU BOXER engine across all trims (Crosstrek Sport and Limited trims do equip the SUV with this 182-hp engine, though).

 

Mileage-wise, the Subaru Crosstrek vs. Forester comparison is also rather similar. You're looking at an EPA estimate of 33 MPG hwy, 26 MPG city for all Forester trims. The Crosstrek hits a similar mark with an EPA estimate of 33 MPG hwy, 28 MPG city for base and Premium trims, as well as an EPA estimate of 34 MPG hwy, 27 MPG city for Sport and Limited trims. Of course, there's also a major difference in exterior looks, but overall, deciding between a Subaru Crosstrek compared to Forester boils down to personal taste in these two adventure-ready SUVs, as well as how much cargo room and tech features you desire.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What's better, a Subaru Crosstrek or Forester?

This is a question without an objective answer. If you want a slightly more affordable, smaller Subaru SUV, then the Crosstrek is for you, while those after a bigger, more feature- and advanced tech-rich SUV will find the Forester attractive. Additionally, the Forester has more power than the Crosstrek when comparing certain trims, but overall, the two are very similar in nature and a matter of personal taste.

Is the Subaru Crosstrek or Forester bigger?

The Forester's main point of distinction over the Crosstrek is that it comes in at a slightly larger size. The Crosstrek gives a plentiful 55.3 cubic feet of cargo space and the Forester gives an even better 76.1 cubic feet, while the overall exterior dimensions of the Forester, similarly, are larger. Not to worry though, as the Forester is still a small SUV compared to most of the market, and both give agile car-like driving experiences.

Is the Crosstrek more reliable than the Forester?

Every Subaru vehicle scores high for reliability, and either of these two SUVs will make for a faithful ride you can trust. Though, comparing the Subaru Crosstrek vs. Forester, official rankings do put the Forester slightly higher than the Crosstrek. Namely, J.D. Power ranked the 2021 Crosstrek a 77 out of 100 for reliability, while the Forester received an 81 out of 100.

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