Choosing the Best – Subaru Forester vs. Crosstrek vs. Outback

For car admirers always looking for their perfect match, narrowing the options to just one can be grueling and exhausting. If you’re thinking between Subaru Forester vs. Crosstrek vs. Outback but can’t decide which one to get, here’s a comparison of each model side-by-side to help you make up your mind. Each vehicle comes packed with unique features that cater to a variety of lifestyles, so buckle up, and let’s dive into this comparison.

It’s Not Uncommon News that Subaru Is a Common Choice Among Drivers

Whether they’re looking for a brand-new car, a used vehicle, or even one with a salvage title, Subaru is a popular choice among buyers for various reasons. Founded in 1953, the company is well-known for its durable and reliable vehicles that handle different weather and road conditions. 

Its reputation is only magnified by the fact that it offers a great line of crossover SUVs, which have become increasingly popular in recent years due to their versatility and practicality. This makes them a great choice for families or individuals who want a comfortable and spacious vehicle for everyday use. 

The Battle of Crossover SUVs – Subaru Outback vs. Forester vs. Crosstrek

Crossover vehicles, also known as crossover SUVs, are a popular type of vehicle because they offer the best of both worlds. The interior space and comfort in Subaru SUVs are designed to provide a comfortable and spacious interior. It’s actually similar to that of an SUV, while also offering a smooth and fuel-efficient ride like a passenger car. 

The company has definitely responded to this market demand for vehicles that combine the best features of traditional SUVs and passenger cars. This is evident in the fact that they offer four of these vehicles – besides the aforementioned three, another popular crossover on the market is the Subaru Ascent. However, you’re here for the Subaru SUV model comparison – Forester vs. Outback vs. Crosstrek, so we’ll save the Ascent for some other time. So, let’s see how they fare against each other in various aspects. 

Young couple shaking hands with sales agent after a successful car buying.
Crossover SUVs are becoming increasingly popular among buyers

Subaru Forester vs. Crosstrek vs. Outback – A Crossover SUV Comparison of Exterior Styling

When it comes to exterior design, all three of these crossovers have their own unique design features, and which one comes on top obviously depends on your personal preferences. You might like the more wagon-like appearance of the Outback, the traditional SUV design of the Forester, or the more youthful and sporty appearance of the Crosstrek. 

The Forester Is the Perfect Choice for Those Who Want to Stick With the Traditional SUV Design

With a boxier shape and higher ground clearance, the Forester is the most similar to the traditional SUV design out of these three vehicles. However, its front grille and LED headlights are more angular, giving it a confident stance and a bit of aggressiveness to the overall design. Don’t forget about the Rear Cross Traffic Alerts warning lights, as well.

The Crosstrek Might Be the Smallest of the Bunch but It Makes Up for It in Style

If you compare the Crosstrek and Forester, it might have a shorter overall length and lower profile than the other two models, but it has a youthful and sporty appearance that the other two lack. The model’s hexagonal grille and sleek headlights contribute to a modern, edgy look that will especially appeal to younger drivers. Also, it’s one of the best eco-friendly Subaru options.

Lovers of a More Outdoorsy Look Will Love the Outback – One of the Best Adventure-Ready Subaru Vehicles

With its distinctive roof rails and ruffed cladding, the Outback and Forester surely aren’t the same. The first one has an alluring outdoorsy style, while its wider grill and sharper headlights add to its sporty appeal. This stylish vehicle also has a slightly longer wheelbase and overall length than the other two models, which makes it a perfect choice for families that are looking for a reliable road-tripping companion on the famous routes in the USA. 

Blue Subaru Crosstrek off road car on mountain trail. Traveling by auto, adventure in wildlife, expedition or extreme travel on SUV automobile. Karpaty, Ukraine - July 7, 2021.
Compact and contemporary, the Crosstrek has an edgier look than its counterparts

Subaru Crosstrek vs. Outback vs. Forester – A Look at Their Dimensions

Before I discuss the practicality of each cabin space, here’s an overview of these vehicle’s main dimensions

MeasurementSubaru CrosstrekSubaru OutbackSubaru Forester
Height63.6 in66.1 in68.1 in
Length176.5 in191.9 in182.7 in
Width79.0 in74.2 in67.5 in
Wheelbase104.9 in108.1 in105.1 in
Cargo Space20.8 cubic feet32.6 cubic feet28.9 cubic feet

*For the metric system, an inch is 2.54 cm

Size Matters – But It Comes Down to Your Specific Requirements

While all three crossover SUVs offer seating for 5 people, there are significant differences regarding the overall size. If having lots of space is one of your top priorities, the Outback is probably your best choice. However, comparing compact vs. mid-size Subaru SUVs, bigger isn’t always better – imagine trying to fit into tight parking spaces in one of the cities with the worst drivers

That’s probably why the Forester is the most popular out of the three – this vehicle is midsize, which makes it ideal if you’re looking for enough space to fit passengers and cargo while still not feeling as big as an SUV. However, if you’re looking for something even smaller, the best choice for you would be the sporty Crosstrek. 

New modern car in the Subaru Forester
The Forester is the middle ground when it comes to size, which makes it very popular

Subaru Crosstrek vs. Forester vs. Outback – Brief Overview of Their Main Specifications

SpecificationSubaru CrosstrekSubaru OutbackSubaru Forester
Type of Engine2.0L 4cyl2.5L 4cyl2.5L 4cyl
Engine Power 152 hp at 5,800 rpm182 hp at 5,800 rpm182 hp at 5,800 rpm
Engine Torque145 lb/ft at 4,400 rpm176 lb/ft at 4,400 rpm176 lb/ft at 4,400 rpm
TransmissionSix-speed manualCVTCVT
Drivetrain AWDAWDAWD
Fuel Efficiency22/29 MPG26/33 MPG26/33 MPG

A Closer Look at Different Performance Aspects

You don’t have to be a dedicated gearhead to know that performance specifications are one of the most important aspects to consider when looking for your next four-wheeler. Sure, most people don’t need a beast with off-road driving capabilities that can easily handle any terrain. However, it’s good to know that you have a reliable and comfortable road companion by your side.  In fact, the off-road capabilities of Subaru models are outstanding.

For those who easily get overwhelmed with all this technical talk, the good news is that these crossover SUVs are more or less the same when it comes to performance and fuel economy. The smaller Crosstrek is less powerful in its base trim level, but its higher trims offer the same specifications as the other two. After all, they are made by the same car manufacturer and include similar components in their build. 

Here’s a comparison of their most important performance aspects:

Power and Torque

When it comes to base engines, the Crosstrek has a 2.0L flat-four engine, while the other two can boast a 2.5L flat-four engine even at their lowest trim levels. This obviously means that the Crosstrek offers less power and torque, but this isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker. If this model is your top pick regarding other categories, you can easily acquire the same engine and performance by opting for its higher trim levels.


When it comes to the drivetrain, all three crossover SUVs share the same type – the Subaru Symmetrical all-wheel drive (AWD). The all-wheel drive performance review is a top-notch one. In fact, this system powers all four wheels simultaneously, providing better traction and handling in a variety of driving conditions. 

As for the transmission, they all have the Lineartronic continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). However, this is standard for the Forester and the Outback, while the Crosstrek comes standard with manual transmission, and the CVT is optional.

Fuel Efficiency – Forester vs. Crosstrek vs. Outback

Due to its compact size, the Crosstrek, when equipped with the CVT, boasts an EPA-estimated 27 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway, which makes it slightly better than its counterparts when it comes to fuel efficiency. If you’re looking to switch up and go the more eco-friendly route, the good news is that all three models come in plug-in hybrid (PHEV) versions.

Subaru Outback vs. Crosstrek vs. Forester – Standard Infotainment Features

The evolution of cars did its thing and brought us many new features that enhance the driving experience by providing convenient and enjoyable entertainment and communication options. Because of that, it’s important to look over the standard features of the infotainment system when choosing your next road companion – after all, you’ll spend a lot of time in your vehicle. 

These three crossover SUVs share the trademark Subaru Starlink infotainment system. No matter what four-wheeler you end up getting, here are their shared infotainment features: 

  • Apple CarPlay, 
  • Android Auto, 
  • Bluetooth, 
  • Four-speaker audio system, 
  • At least one USB port. 

The Crosstrek and the Forester share a 6.5-inch touch screen, while the Outback boasts dual 7-inch displays. Additionally, it offers an HD radio as a standard infotainment feature, and so does the Forester. All in all, it seems like the Crosstrek is lacking when compared to its counterparts, while the Outback has a slight advantage over the Forester due to its slightly bigger (and double) display screen. 

A Subaru Outback in nature
The Outback Subaru vehicle reliability and maintenance are among your top-notch choices

Forester, Crosstrek, and Outback Features – The Situation Is More or Less the Same

Just like a vehicle’s infotainment system provides a more comfortable drive, the safety tech it comes equipped with ensures a trouble-free experience. This especially comes in handy if you often deal with driving anxiety or aren’t particularly fond of driving at night

Subaru Safety Ratings and Technology – Choose the Best Subaru SUV for Families

When compared, it seems like the Crosstrek lacks in this department, too – there are fewer safety features included as standard than its counterparts. However, it’s important to underline that this model did quite well in safety ratings and crash test results, as did the other four-wheelers. They just offer much more driver-assistance tech as standard – this shouldn’t be easily overlooked, especially if you’re looking for your next family car. 

Father fasten his little baby in the car seat
No matter who you’re driving, it’s important to stay safe

Last but Not Least – How Much Will Each of These Impressive Crossover SUVs Cost You?

Every interested buyer who’s looking for their next four-wheeler might feel overwhelmed by the high car prices we’re seeing on the market today. So, it’s important to check out the Subaru model pricing and value. That being said, all three of their crossover SUVs are quite affordable for what you’re getting – all across different trim levels. Just consider the Subaru resale value and longevity.

Subaru Crosstrek vs. other models, it’s definitely the most affordable one out of the bunch, this comes at a price of lacking in certain areas, as I discussed above. So, it all comes down to your priorities. After all, if a four-wheeler doesn’t fit into your budget, there’s not much you can do about it. While keeping in mind that the Forester and the Outback offer additional high-end trim levels, here are the starting prices for each model across the few standard trims: 

Crosstrek MSRPForesterMSRPOutbackMSRP
Standard$26,290Standard $27,620Standard $29,620
Sport $30,290Sport $32,190Onyx Edition$34,720

The Winner Might Be Clear but It Still Comes Down to Your Personal Requirements

While it seems like the Outback has a slight advantage in various categories, the final choice should come down to what you’re looking for in your next four-wheeler. While quite comparable performance-wise, each of these crossover SUVs offers drivers something unique and attractive. Ensure you check all the user reviews of Forester, Crosstrek, and Outback, and stick with your personal expectations. That way you’ll surely end up with your next dream car, so choose wisely!