2021 Honda CR-V vs. 2021 Subaru Forester

2021 Honda CR-V vs Subaru Forester

Shoppers looking for a new SUV will undoubtedly have the Honda CR-V and Subaru Forester on their short lists. Both crossovers are quite popular. Both are quite spacious. Both are quite fuel efficient. But you can’t buy both of them, can you?

Calling one of these compact SUVs a winner isn’t easy—as we said, they’re both quite good—but we’d be inclined to hang that first-place medal around the neck of the new 2021 CR-V.

Cargo Space

As a class leader in cargo volume, the 2021 Honda CR-V is always prepped for adventure. In the cargo area, you’ve got 39.2 cubic feet of storage space, which is more than enough room for everyone’s duffels. Going on a solo trip or couple’s retreat? Flip those CR-V seats down and enjoy 75.8 cubes of glorious cargo volume. Simply pack in the luggage, punch a destination into its nav system, and pile on those miles.

The base Subaru Forester can’t muster the same “let’s go on a family road trip” enthusiasm as the CR-V, offering just 31.1 cubic feet of storage space in the very back. Should you opt for any other Forester trim, you’ll be sacrificing even more cargo volume, as every Forester model from Premium up offers just 28.9 cubic feet behind the rear seat and 70.9 cubic feet up to the front.

2021 CR-V LX 2021 Forester Premium
Rear Cargo Space 39.2 cu. ft. 28.9 cu. ft.
Max Cargo Space 75.8 cu. ft. 70.9 cu. ft.


Wireless Phone Charging

Cutting the cord is impossible if you choose any Subaru Forester trim level. That’s because the Forester is void of any Qi-compatible or wireless device charging feature. Unless you like USB cables out the wazoo, it’s better to buy or lease a new CR-V Touring with a standard wireless phone charger. The charging pad in the CR-V sits at the front of the center console, between the USB ports (who needs ‘em!) and large cupholders, and features a grippy texture to keep your phone in place.

Wireless Phone Charger

Dual-Zone Climate

For the best combination of passenger comfort and value, opt for the CR-V EX, which comes standard with a Dual-Zone Automatic Climate Control System. Control knobs are positioned on both the driver’s and passenger’s side, allowing each rider to change their individual temperature settings. To get the same feature in the Subaru Forester, you’d have to upgrade to the Forester Limited trim—a nearly $4,000 increase over the CR-V EX.

Dual-Zone Automatic Climate Control

Hands-Free Power Liftgate

Convenience is at the heart of the entire SUV segment. While both the CR-V and Forester share many similar convenient features, Subaru’s ute is without one quite important one: a hands-free liftgate. Honda’s foot-activated power tailgate, standard on the CR-V Touring trim, enables you to open the cargo area door by kicking your heel under the rear bumper. Best of all, like the Forester, CR-V’s power tailgate also includes programmable height settings and an automatic close-and-lock feature.

Hands-Free Power Liftgate

Power & Acceleration

Packed under the hood of the CR-V is a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that makes 190 horsepower and 179 lb.-ft. of torque. That’s a smidge better than Forester’s engine: a 182-hp DOHC 4-cylinder that delivers 176 lb.-ft. of torque. However, Forester’s got some severe drag when acceleration is required.

This is because Subaru’s BOXER® engine only delivers its 182 horsepower at 5,800 rpm, while the CR-V’s turbo-four makes its 190 horsepower at just 5,600 revs. The result is more readily available power, less engine noise, and a slight improvement in longevity.

When towing, the Forester also lags in comparison to the CR-V. To get its maximum 176 lb.-ft. of torque output, Forester needs to push its limits to 4,400 rpm. The spike comes rapidly and drops just as quickly, leaving you wishing for a bit more consistency with a trailer in tow.

Because the Honda CR-V delivers a “flat torque curve,” there’s more maximum output across a much wider rpm range, resulting in a smoother power delivery from 2,000 to 5,000 rpm.

2021 CR-V 2021 Forester
Gas Engine 1.5L 4-Cylinder Turbocharger 2.5L DOHC 4-Cylinder
Horsepower 190 (5600 rpm)* 182 (5800 rpm)
Torque (lb.-ft.) 179 (2000-5000 rpm)* 176 (4400 rpm)

Fuel Efficiency

Even the base 2021 Subaru Forester comes standard with AWD, though this decreases its EPA-estimated fuel efficiency rating from the get-go. The Forester returns 26 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway, for a combined 29 mpg.

The Honda CR-V with AWD returns comparable figures (27 city/32 highway/29 combined), while its 2WD models bring in 28 city/34 highway/30 combined mpg. Nit-picking an mpg here, an mpg there—that’s just par for the course when shopping for similar SUVs.

However, the new CR-V truly outshines the Forester when you consider CR-V Hybrid models have no rival with a Forester badge. The CR-V Hybrid gets 40 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on the highway—a 42% difference in city fuel efficiency, which equates to a hefty chunk of change saved at the pump.

City MPG Highway MPG
2021 CR-V 2WD* 28 34
2021 CR-V AWD* 27 32
2021 CR-V Hybrid* 40 35
2021 Forester AWD 26 33


28 city/34 highway/30 combined mpg rating for 2WD trims. 27 city/32 highway/29 combined mpg rating for AWD trims. 40 city/35 highway/38 combined mpg rating for hybrid trims. Based on 2021 EPA mileage ratings. Use for comparison purposes only. Your mileage will vary depending on how you drive and maintain your vehicle, driving conditions, battery-pack age/condition (hybrid trims) and other factors.

190 @ 5600 rpm (SAE net), 143 @ 6200 rpm (SAE net)

179 lb-ft @ 2000-5000 rpm (SAE net), 129 lb-ft @ 3500 rpm (SAE net)