2021 Subaru Forester 2.5i Sport (car review)

THE 2021 Subaru Forester Sport bares a heritage spanning two decades of well hyped ‘sporty’ wagons. With a name suggesting some form of performance, discovering that the Australian delivered model doesn’t come with a turbo didn’t fill us with confidence.

With an SH Forester XT (2009-2013 era) as this author’s daily driver, there were high expectations when we jumped into the new Forester Sport. The old model offers a terrific and grunty 2.5-litre turbocharged engine, as well as luxury interior styling.

It was followed by the SJ Forester, the first to be launched sans turbo, and then the SK in 2019. It too was without boosted goodness. So you can see why new Sport variant had a benchmark to live up to.

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Putting some serious driving into the new Forester Sport to see if it would measure up, we still find ourselves wondering why the Japanese car maker chose to drop the turbo all those years ago. Combined with their trademark all-wheel drive, it worked like a charm.

Perhaps it came down to fuel consumption. The SH XT was well, awful, and never dipped below 11.0-litres/100km, with the new model sitting around 9.0-litres/100km during our extensive testing.

Turbochargers aside, the new Forester actually drives very smoothly, and the 2.5i boxer motor puts out a respectable 136kW and 239Nm.  Combined with a CVT gearbox, it produces a comfortable driving experience on long road trips.

The 2021 Subaru Forester Sport feels at home driving consistently high (legal) freeway speeds. But the new Forester isn’t just for weekend runs to the soccer oval or a country market fair. It comes with X-MODE.

The system allows you to choose between three pre-sets: Normal, Dirt/Snow and Deep Mud/Snow, helping the Forester to perform appropriately, based on the conditions around you, by changing the power delivery to ensure maximum grip.

It adjusts the traction control, enhances the limited slip differentials, and has a hill descent control that won’t allow the vehicle to drive over 20km/h down a decline. And while we only have a handful of snowy roads in Australia, it is extremely useful for alpine dwellers.

On a rainy day along a dirt road, the Forester showed off the impressive X-MODE system. The vehicle handled the slippery downhill slopes and big puddles a lot better than that old SH model that’s sitting in the drive way.

After driving the SH on the same road in the dry, the suspension felt too stiff to handle some of the bumps. But the new model soaked them up and continued through the gravel and dirt like a larger off-road 4×4.

While the Forester Sport may not live up to its name in performance aspects, the design boasts attractive up to date styling, with red trimming around the outside and orange accents on the inside.

The seats look impressive with an orange stitching that really adds some pizzazz to the interior. There are a bunch of different displays, with the main infotainment system offering an 8.0-inch touchscreen display, with the lot.

It comes with satellite navigation, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, Bluetooth phone connectivity, a 6-speaker sound system, and a reversing camera. As well as the main screen, there’s a smaller information display that shows a host of necessary information.

This includes X and Y axis angle meters, tyre pressures, drive modes and the Subaru driver monitoring system (DMS). The last of these can be temperamental (i.e. panicky), particularly if you wear glasses, and slouch in your seat, or lean on the armrest.

The innovative system can also recognise up to five individual drivers, memorising their pre-set preferences and adjusting the cabin environment for both their safety and comfort.

Along with the DMS, the Forester Sport is equipped with emergency braking which in a time of technology and distractions, can save the driver from a terrifying situation. And once you get a taste of the lane assist and radar cruise control, you’ll love that too.

The latter performs better than earlier radar systems on multi lane freeways, and Subaru’s outstanding EyeSight platform ensures safety is second to none.

Overall, while the 2021 Subaru Forester Sport doesn’t feel like it lives up to the ‘sporty’ title, it does have the latest version of X-MODE, and is a tonne of fun off-road. At a price of $41,990 plus on-roads, it’s deserving of a test drive, that’s for sure.

It’s available in Crystal White Pearl (as tested), Ice Silver Metallic, Sepia Bronze Metallic, Dark Blue Pearl, Magnetite Grey Metallic, and Crystal Black Silica.

Our test vehicle was provided by Subaru Australia. To find out more about the 2021 Subaru Forester 2.5i Sport, contact your local Subaru dealer.


Driving experience
Exterior styling
Interior look and feel
Technology and connectivity
Family friendliness
Value for money


Pros - great sound system; lots of interior space; plenty of driver assistance; 5-star ANCAP safety rating.
Cons - The naturally aspirated motor is sluggish; no real sport aspect; value for money isn’t the best.
Zane Dobie
Zane Dobie
Restoring cars has been a hobby of Zane's for many years. As a result, he's gained an extensive appreciation for the mechanical components of cars and motorcycles, and the differences changing them can make to performance.


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<strong>Pros -</strong> great sound system; lots of interior space; plenty of driver assistance; 5-star ANCAP safety rating.<br> <strong>Cons -</strong> The naturally aspirated motor is sluggish; no real sport aspect; value for money isn’t the best. 2021 Subaru Forester 2.5i Sport (car review)