Face-Off: 2021 Subaru Forester vs. 2021 Toyota RAV4

These two models vie for compact-SUV supremacy. Only one dominates the competition.

Subaru Forester versus Toyota RAV4 faceoff Consumer Reports

The Subaru Forester and Toyota RAV4 were both pioneers of the car-based compact-SUV market, bringing a refined driving experience to a category populated with vehicles that drove like trucks.

Now almost every automaker sells a compact SUV, but few are as accomplished as the Forester and RAV4. They have taken turns in dominating the CR Top Picks list since it started in 1997: 14 appearances for the Forester and nine for the RAV4. No other SUV in any class can match them.

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The RAV4 is consistently among the top-selling vehicles in the U.S., and more than 430,000 were sold in 2020. The Forester sells well—more than 176,000 were sold in 2020—but it doesn’t have the same widespread appeal of the RAV4.

Subaru and Toyota have taken different tacks with their compact SUVs. Today’s upright and boxy Forester has evolved from the wagonlike styling of the 1997 original. Meanwhile, the RAV4 has undergone many, many design iterations, with today’s version having aggressive, trucklike styling. But underneath their skins, they are very similar and they match up closely.

Comparison shoppers will have questions: Does the Subaru or Toyota perform better? Which one has more interior space? Which one is easier to live with?

To answer those questions, we take an in-depth look at these two widely sold compact SUVs to compare how they fare in Consumer Reports’ testing and to determine which comes out on top.

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We investigate, research, and test so you can choose with confidence.