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2021 RAV4 vs. Forester Comparison

Toyota is known for “Quality, Durability, and Reliability”. On top of this foundation, the 2021 RAV4 is enhanced with standout features and benefits such as the ToyotaCare plan, high-tech features, and stylish and comfortable interior design. The Subaru name is often associated with its fleet-wide standard AWD that can seamlessly take you from a paved road to a dirt trail.

While both the Subaru Forester and Toyota RAV4 have the capabilities to keep you going, only the RAV4 has a hybrid engine option to take you even farther. You can count on great gas mileage ratings with the RAV4 hybrid engine which has an EPA-estimated 41/38/40 (city/highway/combined) MPG rating across the board.

While the 2021 Subaru Forester can't match the RAV4 hybrid's estimated mileage, it does have standard all-wheel-drive on all trims and safety tech. The RAV4 is no slouch in the snow either. AWD is available on all gas models and comes standard on all hybrid models.

So, which vehicle should crossover from the dealer lot to your driveway? Let's take a look at the 2021 Toyota RAV4 and the 2021 Subaru Forester.

Published Date: 03/19/2021

Family and dog getting out of the 2021 RAV4


  • The RAV4 and Forester have similar driver-assistive technology, however, only the RAV4 has Auto High Beams (AHB) standard.
  • Bring your blind spot to the spotlight with the available Blind Spot Monitor (BSM) with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert (RCTA) starting on the RAV4 LE.
  • Only Toyota offers factory-scheduled maintenance as well as Roadside Assistance with ToyotaCare.

Both vehicles come standard with a suite of active safety features. The 2021 RAV4 has Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 (TSS 2.0) and the 2021 Forester has EyeSight® Driver Assist Technology.

Standard Safety Features

Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 (TSS 2.0) comes standard with a Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection (PCS w/PD), Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist (LDA w/SA), Lane Tracing Assist (LTA), Automatic High Beams (AHB), Full-Speed Range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, and Road Sign Assist (RSA). Eyesight®, on the other hand, comes with Adaptive Cruise Control, a Pre-collision Braking System, Lane Departure and Sway Warning, and Lane Keep Assist. However, the base trim Forester lacks High Beam Assist. To get that standard, you'd need the Forester Sport or higher.

Additionally, the 2021 RAV4 has Blind Spot Monitor (BSM) with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert (RCTA) as an option for the base trim LE and LE Hybrid for an additional $590. Blind-Spot Detection with Lane Change Assist and Rear Cross-Traffic Alert is not available on the Forester base model. It is, however, available on the Forester Premium with the Optional Package which will cost you $1,095 more. If you want this feature standard, you can find it included starting on the RAV4 XLE and Forester Sport.

For when the unexpected happens, all leases and purchases of new Toyota vehicles come with the ToyotaCare plan. By choosing the RAV4, 24-hour Roadside Assistance for two years/unlimited miles, plus a no-cost normal factory-scheduled maintenance for 2 years or 25,000 miles is included. The Subaru Forester comes with 3 years/36,000 miles of Subaru Roadside Assistance but a maintenance plan is not included. Costs vary based on the plan you buy.

2021 RAV4 driving on a windy dirt road


  • For more power, the RAV4 comes standard with a 2.5-Liter Dynamic Force 4-Cylinder engine and 203 horsepower.
  • For more mileage, the RAV4 also has hybrid engines available.
  • For more drivetrain options, the RAV4 offers both FWD and AWD, plus different AWD variations depending on the model you choose.

Make the search for adventure more fun with the RAV4's superior fuel efficiency and power under the hood.

Horsepower and Fuel Economy

Whether you're driving on the highway or through the mountains, a little extra is always a plus. Looking at the RAV4 and Forester, both offer 2.5-Liter 4-Cylinder engines, but the RAV4 packs more of a punch. The 2021 RAV4 gas model produces 203 horsepower and the RAV4 Hybrid has a combined net horsepower of 219. The Forester falls behind with 182 horsepower.

When it comes to fuel economy, the Forester can’t quite beat the RAV4 with an EPA-estimated 26/33/29 (city/highway/combined) MPG rating. The RAV4 base model LE AWD has an EPA-estimated 27/34/30 (city/highway/combined) MPG rating. Looking at higher grades, the RAV4 XLE and XLE Premium with FWD have an EPA-estimated 28/25/30 (city/highway/combined) MPG rating. Whether it has the FWD or AWD drivetrain, the RAV4 beats the Forester in EPA-estimated MPG ratings across all grades.

The 2021 RAV4 becomes even more appealing when you choose a hybrid engine. With an even better EPA-estimated 41/38/40 (city/highway/combined) MPG rating, the RAV4 Hybrid stands out against the gas-only Forester.

While Subaru isn't known for record-breaking fuel economy, they are known for standard AWD. As a true adventure vehicle, the Forester continues this legacy. Toyota offers more drivetrain options, however. The RAV4 not only has the option for FWD and AWD drivetrains, you can also get available Dynamic Torque Vectoring All-Wheel Drive (DTV-AWD) on the Adventure and TRD Off-Road and Electronic On-Demand All-Wheel Drive (AWD) for the hybrid models. Plus, the RAV4 Adventure and TRD Off-Road have standard AWD.

Interior of 2021 RAV4


  • Upgrade your interior for less with dual-zone automatic climate control standard on the RAV4 LE Hybrid starting at $28,650.
  • You can also get more surround sound in the RAV4 with standard six speakers compared to the Forester's four.
  • For a larger standard touchscreen, the RAV4 has a half inch advantage over the Forester.

Stay connected and comfortable with the refined interior of the 2021 RAV4.

Comfort and Convenience

Keep it cool or warm things up with dual-zone automatic climate control starting on the 2021 RAV4 LE Hybrid which has an MSRP of $28,650. Comparatively, the Forester, Forester Premium, and Forester Sport only have single-zone automatic climate control. To get the dual-zone climate control, you need to get the more expensive Forester Limited (starting at $31,395) or higher.

When it comes to connectivity, both cars come standard with Apple CarPlay® and Android Auto compatibility. To get more speakers you'll want to choose the RAV4. The base trim Forester only has four speakers while the base trim RAV4 LE comes with six. You can get six speakers in the Forester, but you'd have to choose the Forester Premium or higher. For an even bigger sound, the 2021 RAV4 Limited has 11 speakers. The most speakers that the Forester has available are nine with the Harman Kardon® premium audio system standard on the Forester Touring.

For your viewing pleasure, the base trim RAV4 has a standard 7-inch touchscreen while the Forester’s standard touchscreen is only 6.5 inches. Both the RAV4 and Forester offer an upgraded 8-inch touchscreen which is available starting on the Forester Sport and RAV4 XLE. It comes standard starting on the Forester Limited and RAV4 Adventure.

Three 2021 RAV4 models parked in a row

Conclusion: RAV4 vs. Forester

  • Keep up with your car's normal scheduled maintenance with the ToyotaCare plan that comes with your lease or purchase of the 2021 RAV4.
  • Get more performance options, from horsepower to drivetrain, with the RAV4.
  • Make your drive more eco-sensitive with the RAV4's available hybrid engine.

Both of these vehicles have the drivetrain and capabilities to keep you safe on your daily commute and tackle tough terrain.

However, only the RAV4 has more performance features to transform your drive with more horsepower, more drivetrain options, and the ToyotaCare maintenance plan to help keep your car in top shape.

Looking strictly at the engine, the 2021 RAV4 outpowers the Forester with 203 horsepower compared to the Forester's 182. Not only do you get more power, you can also take advantage of FWD, AWD, Dynamic Torque Vectoring All-Wheel Drive (TV-AWD), and Electronic On-Demand All-Wheel Drive (AWD) with the RAV4 depending on your driving needs.

Plus, the RAV4 also has engine options for those that want to save on gas. While the gas model RAV4 and Forester have similar MPG ratings, the RAV4 hybrid engine fuel economy just can't be beat with an EPA-estimated 41/38/40 (city/highway/combined) MPG rating.

For a fun ride that's built to last, rev up for the 2021 RAV4.