The 2021 Subaru Forester and the 2021 Jeep Cherokee are two compact SUVs that are more rugged than most. Here’s how they compare.
2021 Subaru Forester
Above Average: Standard all-wheel drive; lots of passenger and cargo space; strong resale value; off-road capability.
Below Average: Only one engine choice; understated styling; modest towing capacity.
Consensus: The 2021 Subaru Forester offers off-road ability even in the base model thanks to its standard all-wheel drive and ample ground clearance, but the sole powertrain is unexciting. The practical shape houses a roomy interior.
2021 Jeep Cherokee
Above Average: Two available upgrade engines; genuine off-road ability; tows up to 4,500 pounds; user-friendly infotainment.
Below Average: Underwhelming base engine; smallish cargo hold; resale and reliability are no better than average.
Consensus: The 2021 Jeep Cherokee is a suburban runabout that’s also in its element when the pavement ends.
Forester vs. Cherokee: Outdoorsy SUVs
The 2021 Subaru Forester embodies the brand’s ethos. The design is not particularly exciting, but it wraps a practical interior with plenty of room for people and gear. It affords great outward visibility while also holding 35.4 cubic feet of cargo behind the rear seats, and just over 76 cubic feet with the seatbacks folded.
A 2.5-liter flat (or boxer) 4-cylinder engine pairs with a CVT as the sole powertrain. Its 182 horsepower is adequate, but the CVT dulls acceleration response. The Forester’s fuel economy is a respectable 26/33 mpg city/highway.
Standard all-wheel drive, 8.7 inches of ground clearance, and an off-road driving mode (except in the base trim) make the Forester capable off-pavement. The Forester also rides comfortably, but the handling is unexciting.
The Forester comes in base, Premium, Sport, Limited, and Platinum grades. All come with forward-collision warning, lane-departure warning, and lane-keeping assist, plus adaptive cruise control with lane-centering, and steering-responsive headlights.
Blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alerts are optional on the Premium and standard on higher trims. Lower trims get a 6.5-inch touchscreen with an 8-inch unit available. Both have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration.
The Cherokee is the compact SUV that doesn’t forget it’s also a Jeep. Sure, it’s comfortable and maneuverable around town or on the highway, but it also has a fair degree of off-road capability. That’s particularly true of the Trailhawk version, which gets the best 4-wheel-drive hardware. Other trims get a more road-biased system, while front-drive is standard.
We recommend skipping the base 2.4-liter engine, as its 180 horsepower and 171 lb-ft of torque are underpowered in this application. The available 2.0-liter turbo is a smart choice, bringing 270 horsepower as well as better mileage. A 3.2-liter V6 with 271 horsepower is also available, but fuel economy drops. All pair with 9-speed automatics.
The Cherokee is among the larger compact SUVs, and passenger space in the front and rear seats is fine. Cargo capacity is just mediocre, however, with 27.6 cubic feet behind the rear seats and 54.7 with the rear seatbacks folded.
The 2021 Jeep Cherokee is offered in Latitude, Latitude Plus, Latitude LUX, Trailhawk, and Limited trim levels. All Cherokees come with forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, lane-keeping assist, and rear cross-traffic alert. The infotainment system runs FCA’s user-friendly Uconnect touchscreen with either a 7- or an 8.4-inch display. Upper trims offer Nappa leather, dual-pane sunroof, and adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go capability.
Exterior dimensions; base engine horsepower.
2021 Subaru Forester Advantages
Standard AWD; lower pricing; more cargo space; resale value.
2021 Jeep Cherokee Advantages
Great off-road capability; higher towing capacity; more powerful optional engines.
Which One Is Right for Me?
The 2021 Subaru Forester is a practical choice for most buyers, due to its lower pricing, great resale value, and more generous cargo hold. You’ll also benefit by getting AWD as standard equipment.
The 2021 Jeep Cherokee will appeal particularly to off-road enthusiasts thanks to the Trailhawk trim level. The two optional engines will appeal to those who need to tow a medium-sized trailer.
Ready to buy a Subaru Forester or a Jeep Cherokee? Shop for one on sale near you
|2021 Subaru Forester||2021 Jeep Cherokee|
|Engine||2.5-liter H4||2.4-liter I4|
|Horsepower||182 hp @ 5,800 rpm||180 hp @ 6,400 rpm|
|Torque||176 lb-ft @ 4,400 rpm||171 lb-ft @ 4,600 rpm|
|Fuel Economy||29 mpg (26 city/33 hwy)||25 mpg (22 city/31 hwy)|
|Also Available||n/a||3.2-liter V6; 2.0-liter turbo I4; AWD|
|Basic Warranty||3 years/36,000 miles||3 years/36,000 miles|
|Powertrain Warranty||5 years/60,000 miles||5 years/60,000 miles|
|NHTSA Overall Safety||5 stars||4 stars|
|Max Seating Capacity||5||5|
|Wheelbase||105.1 inches||106.5 inches|
|Overall Length||182.1 inches||182.0 inches|
|Width||71.5 inches||73.2 inches|
|Height||67.5 inches||65.7 inches|
|Turning Diameter||35.4 feet||37.6 feet|
|Headroom, Front||41.2 inches||39.4 inches|
|Headroom, Rear||39.6 inches||38.5 inches|
|Legroom, Front||43.3 inches||41.1 inches|
|Legroom, Rear||39.4 inches||40.3 inches|
|Shoulder Room, Front||58.2 inches||57.6 inches|
|Shoulder Room, Rear||57.2 inches||55.1 inches|
|EPA Passenger Volume||111.9 cubic feet||103.5 cubic feet|
|EPA Cargo Volume||35.4/76.1 cubic feet||27.6/54.7 cubic feet|