Class: Compact Crossover
Miles Driven: 234
Fuel Used: 8.9 gallons
Real-world fuel economy: 26.3 mpg
|CG Report Card
|Room and Comfort
|Power and Performance
|Fit and Finish
|Report-card grades are derived from a consensus of test-driver evaluations. All grades are versus other vehicles in the same class. Value grade is for specific trim level evaluated, and may not reflect Consumer Guide's impressions of the entire model lineup.
|Big & Tall Comfort
|Big & Tall comfort ratings are for front seats only. "Big" rating based on male tester weighing approximately 350 pounds, "Tall" rating based on 6'6"-tall male tester.
Driving mix: 40% city, 60% highway
EPA-estimated fuel economy: 26/33/29 (mpg city/highway/combined)
Fuel type: Regular gasoline
Base price: $29,395 (not including $1050 destination charge)
Options on test car: Optional Package ($1645; includes STARLINK 8.0-inch Multimedia Plus touchscreen infotainment interface, 9-speaker Harman Kardon premium audio system, Reverse Automatic Braking, and power rear liftgate with height-memory function)
Price as tested: $32,090
The great: Outward visibility, generous passenger and cargo space
The good: Nice mix of passenger-car and SUV elements, plenty of standard safety features
The not so good: Somewhat intrusive engine stop/start system; driving character isn’t particularly sporty
Perhaps the most hopeful word in the automaker’s lexicon is “Sport.” It suggests a lot—driving fun, mostly—even if it occasionally delivers something less, or at least different.
What vehicles some manufacturers choose to call Sport get that name relative to whatever else is in their vehicle lines. Take the Subaru Forester. What makes its Sport a sport? Mostly black-and-orange appearance highlights and a heightened selectable driving mode. To be sure, it has several other features that help to foster the sport idea, but these are found in some other Foresters as well.
Don’t get the impression that we are sour on the Forester. Nothing could be further from the truth about this compact-crossover SUV that is a Consumer Guide “Best Buy” in its class on account of its practicality, spaciousness, versatility, and off-road capability. We’re merely pointing out that the 2021 Sport model that we got to test is what it is and nothing more.
The Sport sits dead center in the 5-model Forester lineup, priced (with delivery) at $30,445. You can pick it out of that crowd thanks to its vibrant orange accents on the lower body, two-tone cloth upholstery, air vents, and console plate; fully blacked-out grille; and black-finish 18-inch alloy wheels.
Sport comes with a “7-speed” manual mode for the automatic continuously variable transmission (CVT). This unit, also found in the costlier Touring and—for ’21—Limited Foresters, is no high-performance revelation. There’s no bite to the paddle-activated shifts, no great sense that you’ve dipped down into the power band to keep acceleration building in a rush, just slight and subtle changes and a brief softening of sound from the 182-horsepower 2.5-liter horizontally opposed “flat four” engine. The SI-Drive engine-management system in Sports does include an “S#” mode (think “Sport Sharp”) with livelier throttle response.
Frankly, powerteam performance is not one of the things that earned the Forester its Best Buy designation. Acceleration is mediocre with just 176 lb-ft of torque. It’s at least enough grunt for decent driving on surface streets and competent highway operation. EPA fuel-economy ratings are 26 mpg in the city, 33 on the highway, and 29 combined. This tester averaged 28.5 mpg after 155.5 miles with 33 percent city-type driving. An automatic stop/start function is included to help save gas, but its engagement is noisy, rough, and a little slow. It can be switched off.
All Foresters come with 4-wheel disc brakes, but larger-diameter front discs are used on the Sport, Limited, and Touring. Sport is also the level at which a chrome exhaust outlet and blind-spot/rear cross-traffic alerts kick in as standard. LED fog lights are shared with the Touring. All but the base model come with X-Mode (including hill-descent control) to adjust powertrain performance and vehicle dynamics for better traction from the torque-vectoring Symmetrical All-Wheel-Drive system. Like other current-generation Foresters we’ve driven, the Sport displays a likeable balance of ride and handling qualities from its fully independent suspension in street and expressway driving.
The major change to the ’21 Forester is the inclusion of steering-linked LED headlights with automatic high beams as standard equipment throughout the line. The test truck came with the one option group available for the Sport, a package with a Subaru Starlink Multimedia Plus system (including an 8-inch touchscreen and 9-speaker Harman Kardon audio), reverse automatic braking, and power liftgate with memory height setting. Some other Sport standard comfort and convenience features are a panoramic moonroof, roof rails, automatic climate control, satellite radio, 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, heated front seats, keyless entry and starting, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, and electronic parking brake with auto-hold function. For safety there is “EyeSight” with forward-collision warning and mitigation, lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control, and Lead-Vehicle Start Alert.
Forester got commendably roomier with its 2019 redesign. Leg- and headroom are very good in both rows. Big windows and slim front and door pillars make for excellent driver vision to all but the extreme rear corners, where rising bodywork cuts into the view. The four main seats are comfortable, and three adults might wedge into the second row for brief trips. Entries and exits are easy.
While bright with its orange accents, cabin ambience comes off a little, uh, hardier in the cloth-upholstered Sport. Driving controls are bright and legible, the audio system is easy to program and use. The climate controls rely on handy dials for temperature and fan speed, with just four buttons for other functions.
Storage for personal items is handled by decently sized glove and console boxes. The latter comes with a small-item organizer that has to be removed to expose the main space. The front of the console is an open space with device inputs. Big pockets rest in the front door. Open cup holders are found in the console and pull-down rear armrest; all four doors have spaces for bottles.
A spacious, flat floor awaits cargo loaded in back. With the 60/40-split rear seats retracted, there is room for 76.1 cubic feet of stuff. The lowered seats pitch up a little from the cargo floor, but a cover panel provides an uninterrupted surface. An underfloor storage space is configured to hold the standard cargo cover when not in use.
The Subaru Forester Sport certainly lives up to its name in terms of appearances, and it does boast what features the model line has to maximize the little SUV’s driving character. Considering that it carries some of the pricier models’ equipment at a lower cost, it actually makes a bit of sense as a bargain proposition. Yes indeed, it is what it is.
2021 Subaru Forester Sport Gallery
(Click below for enlarged images)