2021 Subaru Forester Review

The 2021 Subaru Forester returns as essentially the same offering as the year prior except for some additional standard features on certain trims. All trims now receive standard steering responsive LED headlights along with high beam assist. These features had previously been standard only on the Limited and Touring trims.

The Forester also adds a rear seat belt reminder this year as standard equipment. Now all passengers are reminded to buckle up before their journey with an audio and visual warning from the instrument cluster. It’s a feature that parents with multiple kids will find comes in handy as it did for me.

Don’t mess with a good thing is how the saying goes and I think it applies here. After a revamp in 2019, the Forester remains an excellent and capable vehicle so why mess with it. It’s also one of the first cars that made me ask the question “is it a car or is it an SUV?” As a consequence, an argument can be made that the Forester was one of the original crossovers and well ahead of its time.

The concept was ahead of its time but Subaru only recently started equipping its vehicle with interiors that were inviting. Today’s Subaru interiors are stylish, modern and – dare I say – luxurious places to be. The seats on this Sport trim are comfortable and stylish with leather trimming and orange. The trend continues with fancy orange highlights near the shifter and on the dash vents coupled with some black piano finishing and really makes for an eye-catching ordeal. The only downside is that fingerprints become an issue.

Subaru must also be given very high marks for not trying to over simplify the interior. While some manufacturers are getting rid of physical buttons as fast as possible, Subaru has kept trusty knobs for climate and audio controls (unfortunately the Outback and Legacy have moved toward the full touch-screen interface). It makes for such an improved experience over tapping a frozen touch screen just to alter basic vehicle functions. A traditional gear shift is also a welcome device even if the parking brake has gone to an electric button. The infotainment system is excellent and easy to use though I must say that the audio system doesn’t deliver crisp and clear sound of the quality that one would expect.

The 2020 Forester is equipped with the award- winning Subaru EyeSight Driver Assist Technology and new Lane Centering function as standard. This system of driver aids helps anticipate dangerous situations via the use of cameras and sensors. It’s used for adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, pre-collision braking and pre-collision throttle management.

Continuing on the tech front, the Forester offers facial recognition software in the vehicle. The facial recognition is part of the DriverFocus feature which is used to ensure that the driver is not distracted for more than 3 seconds and beeps to recapture your attention. If the car beeps multiple times without detecting the driver’s eyes returning to the road, the Forester will begin to slow to a complete stop. To be honest the feature was a little annoying and beeped whenever I would glance at anything so I turned it off. The good news is that the technology can also be used to recognize five different driver profiles. That means whomever from the family gets into the vehicle, the seats, climate controls and mirrors are automatically adjusted.

The test vehicle came with Subaru Starlink Connected Services which allows the vehicle to communicate to your smartphone via the MySubaru app. You can access the remote engine start, adjust the climate controls in real time, lock or unlock the doors, and locate your vehicle. I found it really handy to be able to start the car from a distance without having to check and see if it’s on because the app tells you. It can be done from as far away as you like as long as you have a wifi or cellular signal. The system also provides protection against theft and can come to your aid in the event of a serious accident by putting you in touch with first responders.

Being a Subaru, the Forester comes with all-wheel drive standard and will be able to handle our rough Canadian winters with ease. I like that Subaru offers only a single engine option in the Forester. It’s a 2.5-litre four-cylinder making 182 horsepower and 176 pound-feet of torque. Mated to a continuously-variable transmission (CVT) it, performed adequately for my daily driving needs. The CVT is quite advanced and works to minimize any of the thinking or delays in shifting often associated with the type. In (simulated) manual mode you can go through the seven ratios as your leisure.

The base model Forester will run you just $28,995 and comes well equipped. The Sport model you see here has a sticker price of $35,795 and the top-of-the-line Premier goes up to $40,095 just to give you an idea of the range. There are other trims in between to fit your needs should you find yourself in the market for a Forester.