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Sibling Rivalry: 2021 Subaru Forester versus 2022 Subaru Outback

Does a Subaru compact SUV or a Subaru mid-size station wagon best fit your new vehicle needs?


Japan’s Subaru presents a unique decision for buyers looking for a new utility vehicle. It’s the only mainstream automotive brand to offer both an all-wheel-drive (AWD) compact SUV and an AWD mid-size station wagon with its respective 2021 Forester and 2022 Outback.

Competing in the crowded compact SUV class with top-sellers such as the Ford Escape, Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V, the 2021 Subaru Forester remains one of the most popular SUVs in Canada. While retaining a relatively small footprint (an especially welcome attribute when driving around town), the boxy Forester still offers valuable interior space. Whether in the wild, on dirt roads or navigating potholed Canadian streets, the Forester driver will feel confident and comfortable, thanks to 8.7 inches (221 millimetres) of ground clearance and Subaru’s permanent AWD.

The 2022 Subaru Outback is a distinctive purchase proposition. Rivals vary from some of the above-mentioned compact SUVs to luxury AWD station wagons, like the Audi A4 allroad and Volvo V60 Cross Country. The current 6th-generation Outback debuted as a 2020 model. So its technology is still fresh. Ground clearance matches that of the Forester SUV, and with the arrival for 2022 of the new off-road-ready Outback Wilderness trim, maximum ground clearance rises to 9.5 inches (241 millimetres).

So, a compact SUV or a mid-size wagon? Read on to find out which of these Subaru siblings is just right for you.



Through six various trim levels, Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Prices in Canadian dollars for the 2021 Forester start with the $28,995 base trim. All Foresters share the same 4-cylinder gas engine, a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) and Subaru’s EyeSight Driver Assistance technology—all features also found in the base Outback. The top-line $40,095 Forester Premier gets all the bells and whistles, with leather seating, heated steering wheel, panoramic sunroof, and additional driver assistance safety technologies, among other features.

The base 2022 Outback’s $31,195 Convenience trim starts at a higher price than the base Forester. But the wagon adds a bit more content, like a heated steering wheel. From there, Outback pricing closely matches the Forester trim levels until you opt for the Outback’s exclusive turbocharged 4-cylinder gas engine, starting with the new $41,995 Wilderness and topping out with the top-line $44,195 Premier XT.

Winner: 2021 Subaru Forester



Some compact SUV rivals are wider, but the 2021 Subaru Forester still incorporates plenty of front-seat shoulder room. Due to its taller SUV shape, the Forester offers more headroom than the Outback for both front and rear passengers. The quality of materials in the compact SUV is more than acceptable—the centre console houses either a 6.5-inch infotainment display or an 8-inch touchscreen in the higher trims.

It’s no surprise that the 2022 Subaru Outback’s interior gives off similar vibes as its Forester sibling. In general, the cabin is agreeable. Soft-touch plastics and pleasing shapes join comfortable seats and more legroom both front and back than the Forster. The base Outback employs twin 7-inch screens to control infotainment and climate functions, but the rest of the lineup has an 11.6-inch touchscreen set vertically. There’s also more rear cargo space behind the Outback’s rear seats, up to 920 litres, 39 more than in the Forester.

Winner: 2022 Subaru Outback


Performance & Fuel Economy

A flat-4-cylinder engine— also known as a “boxer”— has two opposing pairs of cylinders rather than four in a row. It’s a Subaru hallmark. And both the Forester SUV and the Outback wagon offer a 2.5-litre version that provides 182 horsepower and 176 pound-feet of torque. Both Subarus share similar fuel economy estimates, too, with a combined city and highway estimate of 8.2 litres per 100 kilometres (L/100 km).

Where the Outback veers from its sibling is by offering an optional turbocharged 2.4-litre 4-cylinder. It makes a healthier 260 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque. Fuel economy slightly suffers with a 9.1 L/100 km combined fuel economy estimate.

If you need to tow, when equipped with the 2.5-litre engine, the Forester can tow up to 1,500 pounds (680 kilograms), while the Outback can haul only up to 1,225 pounds (556 kilograms). However, the towing champ between these Subarus is the Outback with the turbocharged 2.4-litre engine, which can tow up to 1,588 pounds (711 kilograms).

Winner: 2022 Subaru Outback


Ride and Handling

One attribute buyers should note is the ride and handling benefits of Subaru’s flat-4 engine, an arrangement that results in a lower centre of gravity, bringing benefits in vehicle stability.

When behind the wheel of the 2021 Forester, you’ll find the SUV’s ride quality is well sorted, providing comfort balanced by enough control to keep it from leaning too much through quick curves. Cornering talents are enhanced by Subaru’s torque-vectoring AWD system that attenuates individual wheel speeds for optimum stability. The electrically assisted steering might seem a little heavy at first, but it only takes a few minutes to become acclimated.

Offering an equal level of SUV practicality, the traction and grip of AWD, and the lower-set composure of a regular car all combine to give the 2022 Outback a rare blend of driving abilities. It’s no sport sedan, but twisting roads don’t become something to dread. With its increased ground clearance and Subaru’s hill descent control that maintains a controlled pace, the new Outback Wilderness shines if you hit off-road trails regularly.

Winner: 2022 Subaru Outback


Overall Winner: 2022 Subaru Outback

The 2021 Subaru Forester compact SUV and 2022 Subaru Outback mid-size station wagon have a lot in common.

If you are looking for the most affordable of these Subaru siblings, the Forester is a great choice. It’s taller shape also results in more passenger headroom and a taller rear opening.

That said, with its more upscale interior, greater cargo capacity, the availability of the turbocharged engine, and a more composed ride and handling experience, we think the 2022 Subaru Outback is the better overall pick.



2021 Subaru Forester

2022 Subaru Outback


2.5-litre F4

2.5-litre F4

2.4-litre Turbocharged F4


182 hp @ 5,800 rpm

2.5 - 182 hp @ 5,800 rpm

2.4T - 260 hp @ 5,600 rpm


176 lb-ft @ 4,400 rpm

2.5 - 176 lb-ft @ 4,400rpm

2.4T - 277 lb-ft @ 2,000-4,800 rpm


Continuously variable automatic

Continuously variable automatic

Fuel Economy

8.2 L/100 km (9.0 city, 7.2 hwy)

2.5 - 8.2 L/100 km (9.0 city, 7.1 hwy)

2.4T – 9.1 L/100 km (10.1 city, 7.9 hwy)


3 years/60,000 km

3 years/60,000 km

Max Seating Capacity



Curb Weight

1,575 kgs

1,656-1,786 kg


2,670 mm

2,745 mm

Overall Length

4,625 mm

4,860 mm


2,052 mm

2,084 mm


1,730 mm

1,680 mm

Headroom, Front

1,047 mm

1,019 mm

Headroom, Rear

1,007 mm

992 mm

Legroom, Front

1,101 mm

1,087 mm

Legroom, Rear

1,000 mm

1,004 mm

Shoulder Room, Front

1,478 mm

1,476 mm

Shoulder Room, Rear

1,454 mm

1,457 mm

Cargo Volume, Behind Rear Seats

881 L

920 L

Towing Capacity

1,500 lbs (680 kgs)

2.5 - 1,225 lbs (556 kgs)

2.4T - 1,588 lbs (711 kgs)


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