Subaru Crosstrek vs Subaru Forester: Which Subaru Should I Get?

Subaru Crosstrek vs Subuaru Forester

If you're in the market for an all-wheel-drive car, Subaru offers the best selection of smaller vehicles that send power to all four wheels.

There are many similarities between the Subaru Crosstrek and Forester, which may lead to some confusion, but we are here to help.

Below, we look at all of the major focus points for most shoppers, highlighting whether the Subaru Crosstrek or Forester shines brighter in each area.

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Subaru Crosstrek vs. Subaru Forester Comparison

Subaru Crosstrek2022 Subaru CrosstrekSubaru Forester2022 Subaru Forester
Max Ground Clearance
8.7 in
8.7 in
Head Room (Front/Rear)
39.8 / 38 in
41.2 / 39.6 in
Leg Room (Front/Rear)
43.1 / 36.5 in
43.3 / 39.4 in
Cargo Capacity
20.8 cu ft
28.9 cu ft
Engines
2.0-Liter Boxer 4-Cylinder
152 hp, 145 lb-ft of torque

2.5-Liter Boxer 4-Cylinder
182hp, 176 lb-ft of torque
2.5-Liter Boxer 4-Cylinder
182hp, 176 lb-ft of torque
Transmissions
6-Speed Manual or CVT
CVT
Max Fuel Economy (City/Highway)
28 / 33 MPG
27 / 34 MPG
26 / 33 MPG

Tale of the Tape

Subaru-Crosstrek-Tale-of-the-TapeThe key difference between the Subaru Crosstrek and the Subaru Forester is their size. The Forester is slightly larger inside and out, but that is due to the shape of the body. The two cars have a nearly identical wheelbase, with just two-tenths of an inch difference, and they have the exact same ground clearance of 8.7 inches.

Where the Crosstrek and Forester differ the most on the outside is in length and height, with the Forester being 6 inches longer and 4.5 inches taller. Of course, that added height and length of the cabin box leads to an advantage in interior headroom and legroom for the Forester. Also, the Forester has a substantially larger cargo area, with 28.9 cubic feet compared to just 20.8 cubic feet in the rear of the Crosstrek.

The Takeaway: If you park in a tight garage, the Subaru Crosstrek might be more convenient for you. If you are more concerned with interior space for both passengers and cargo, the Subaru Forester is the better pick of these two.

Performance & Powertrains

Subaru-Crosstrek-Performance-and-PowertrainsThe Subaru Crosstrek is available with two engines and two transmissions. The base engine is a 2.0-liter Boxer 4-cylinder with 152 horsepower, 145 lb-ft of torque, and the buyer’s choice of a 6-speed manual transmission or a continuously variable transmission (CVT). The premium engine option, available only with the CVT, is a 2.5-liter Boxer 4-cylinder with 182 horsepower and 176 lb-ft of torque. Symmetrical All-Wheel-Drive is standard with both engine options, regardless of the transmission chosen.

The Subaru Crosstrek with the 2.0-liter engine is capable of getting up to 28 miles-per-gallon around town and 33 mpg on the highway when properly configured. When equipped with the 2.5-liter engine, the Crosstrek still yields 27 mpg around town and 34 on the highway. You read that right; the stronger engine gets better fuel economy on the highway and nearly the same numbers around town.

As for the Subaru Forester, it is only offered with one drivetrain configuration, including the 2.5-liter Boxer engine, the CVT, and the Symmetrical All-Wheel-Drive system. It is slightly less efficient than it is in the Crosstrek, offering 26 mpg around town and 33 mpg on the highway.

The Takeaway: If you want the model that offers the best driving dynamics and fuel economy, the Crosstrek has an advantage – albeit a narrow one.

Interior Quality & Design

Subaru-Forester-Interior-Quality-and-DesignThe Subaru Crosstrek and Subaru Forester have very similar lists of interior features, with slight variations across the trim levels.

The base model Crosstrek comes with a 6.5-inch touchscreen. The Crosstrek in every trim level comes standard with power side mirrors, cruise control, a front seat USB port, and automatic climate control. Depending on the trim levels, other features include keyless access with push-button start, automatic headlights, rear USB ports, and WiFi capabilities.

In the Forester, the 6.5-inch “plus” (adds satellite radio) infotainment system is standard in the base trim. The base Forester also comes standard with automatic headlights, an overhead console with LED lighting, dual front USB ports, and automatic climate control. Standard and optional features on higher priced models include keyless access with push-button start, a power rear gate, dual rear USB ports, dual-zone automatic climate control, and WiFi capabilities.

Premium and Sport models for the Crosstrek include heated front seats and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. Crosstrek Limited comes standard with heated leather seats, a power driver’s seat, a heated leather steering wheel.

In Premium and Sport models for the Forester, the front seats are heated and have power adjustment. In the Limited models, the front seats are heated, as is the steering wheel, while the Touring model also has heated rear seats.

The Takeaway: The Subaru Forester comes with more premium technology in base form and more features available across the model range. For those looking for more premium features at a lower price, the Crosstrek is the better option.

Safety Features & Scores

Subaru-Forester-Safety-Features-and-ScoresThe base model Subaru Crosstrek comes with a long list of standard safety features including the Vehicle Dynamics Control system, 4-wheel anti-lock braking with brake assist and brake override, and daytime running lights. Depending on the trim level, Crosstrek buyers can also add the EyeSight driver-assist system, high beam assist, blind-spot detection, reverse automatic braking, and the Starlink safety and security system.

The base model Subaru Forester comes standard with the EyeSight driver-assist system, high beam assist, the Vehicle Dynamics Control system, 4-wheel anti-lock braking with brake assist and brake override, daytime running lights, and the rear vision camera system. Optional safety features on premium trim levels include the DriverFocus Distraction Mitigation System, blind-spot detection with lane change assist and rear cross-traffic alert, reverse automatic braking, a 180-degree front-view camera, and the Starlink safety and security system.

The Subaru Crosstrek has received a 5-star safety rating from the NHTSA. The Subaru Forester also received a 5-star overall safety score from the federal government, this larger model received 5-star scores for all of the individual tests except for the rollover test, where it got 4 stars.

The Takeaway: In both standard and loaded form, the Subaru Forester has more safety features inside and out, leading to a stronger crash test safety score.

Value

Subaru-Crosstrek-ValueThe Subaru Crosstrek has a starting price of $23,620 including destination while the same model with the CVT starts at $24,970. If you want the more powerful 2.5-liter engine and the standard CVT, you have to step up to the Crosstrek Sport, which starts at $27,970. The top-of-the-line Crosstrek Limited starts at $29,470, but when you load it up with optional features, the price climbs to over $32,764.

The Subaru Forester has a base price starting at $26,370. The Forester is offered in two sportier trim levels, including the Sport at $30,940 and the Wilderness at $33,995. The Wilderness is the ideal model for anyone who spends lots of time driving off-road or on rough, unpaved roads. The Forester also has two premium trim levels, the Limited and the Touring. The Limited starts at $33,050 and comes with a long list of standard features, but starting at $36,470, the Touring model comes with the most premium features.

Takeaway:  If you want the extra power and a lower price point, the Forester has the advantage and if you want the most premium features, the Forester Touring is the better choice.

Current Subaru Crosstrek Deals & Incentives

YearMakeModelCash Incentives (up to)Best Avail. APRLease OffersExpiration
2022SubaruCrosstrek2.90%$255/month for 36 months, $2,955 due at signing9/30/2022
2023SubaruCrosstrek2.90%$275/month for 36 months, $2,575 due at signing9/30/2022

You may qualify for additional deals and incentives, check out this month's Subaru deals here and average prices paid.

Current Subaru Forester Deals & Incentives

YearMakeModelCash Incentives (up to)Best Avail. APRLease OffersExpiration
2021SubaruForester
2022SubaruForester2.90%$285/month for 36 months, $3,185 due at signing9/30/2022

You may qualify for additional deals and incentives, check out this month's Subaru deals here and average prices paid.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which is bigger, the Suburu Forester or Crosstrek?

The Subaru Forester is bigger than the Crosstrek both inside and out. Outside, Forester is longer, wider, and taller while the inside has more headroom and legroom.

Which has better fuel economy, the Subaru Forester or Crosstrek?

The Subaru Crosstrek offers one mile-per-gallon better than the Forester in the city and on the highway.

Which has more cargo space, the Subaru Forester or Crosstrek?

The Subaru Forester has a cargo area that is 8.1 cubic feet bigger than that of the Crosstrek.

Which is better for off-roading, the Subaru Forester or Crosstrek?

The Subaru Forester is offered in a Wilderness trim, which is the brand’s most off-road capable package, giving it the edge over the Crosstrek.