Subaru Forester VS Toyota Fortuner
- Interesting looks
- Excellent safety
- Good space and practicality
- Not interesting to drive
- Doesn't live up to 'Sport' name
- Bit pricey to own
- Good value
- Advanced safety tech
- Fold-up third row seats
- Not blessed with good looks
- Firm ride
This is not the Subaru Forester Sport model they get in Japan, and it's therefore not the one most Aussies have been desperate to see launched here.
Nope, the giveaway is the 2.5i part of the name for this 2021 Subaru Forester 2.5i Sport model, which has just been added to the brand's range to add a bit more of an eye-catching variant to the line-up.
In Japan, the Sport gets a new turbocharged petrol engine, but this one instead soldiers on with the same powerplant as the rest of the Forester range, but there have been plenty of changes and additions besides.
|Engine Type||2.5L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
Lots of things happen by accident. Children, the discovery of penicillin, putting a kiss at the end of an email to your boss. We’ve all been there.
But nobody buys a Toyota Fortuner by accident. Yep, they may well buy other large seven-seater SUVs, like the Kia Sorento, or Toyota Kluger, without thinking it too much about it, but not the Fortuner.
That’s because the Fortuner isn’t particularly good looking, nor is it wonderfully comfortable to drive. So it’s nothing like a Sorento or Kluger, apart from having the same number of seats.
See, the Fortuner is good at other things, such as being highly capable off-road, because it shares its underpinnings with the Toyota HiLux 4x4. Really, Toyota should have called it the HiLux 7 or the HiLux SUV.
We’ll cover the Fortuner’s strong, and not so strong points in this review of the new and updated range including what safety equipment comes standard, the fuel economy, practicality, price and features, plus what it’s like to live with in the city and drive off the road.
|Engine Type||2.8L turbo|
The Subaru Forester Sport is an interesting new addition to the range, despite not really moving it forward in any other way apart from its eye-catching looks. It is a competitive counterpoint to the likes of the CX-5 and CR-V, but still doesn't quite reach the same levels of refinement and driving enjoyment of the RAV4.
There is no doubt the Forester Sport will add a level of appeal that Subaru has been needing in its family SUV range since launch, but we really think the thing that would get more customers excited would be a new turbocharged top-spec model, which would certainly be more deserving of the Sport name.
Toyota Fortuner 7.5/10
The Toyota Fortuner really should have been called the HiLux 7 or the HiLux SUV, because it is a seven-seat SUV based on the HiLux off-road ute. Sure, its not the most comfortable SUV out there, but this vehicle can go places the Sorentos and Klugers of this world can only dream about.
Like the Ford Everest, Mitsubishi Pajero Sport and other ute-based SUVs, the Fortuner is ideal for the family which lives remotely and off-road driving is part of daily life. Or for those who may live in the suburbs and head away on regular adventures towing a caravan or trailer behind.
That’s why nobody buys an SUV like the Fortuner accidentally, the ride and looks will put a Kia Sorento buyer off, but for the right people it’s exactly what they need – a ute with seven seats and a boot.
Picking the sweet spot of the Fortuner range is easy... it's the GXL. Stepping up to the Crusade buys you items you don't need such as a power tailgate. The GXL comes with roof rails, privacy glass, a proximity key and if you want leather seats you can option the premium interior pack which my test car featured.
If you've ever trawled the Subaru Japan website like me (high five, car nerds!), you might be thinking: "This Subaru Forester Sport model looks a lot like that Forester X-Break in Japan!". And you'd be right.
It is, essentially, the same car. Just with a considerably nicer looking set of wheels than the Japanese model. They aren't my favourite rims, but then again, I think the Forester's rims on the whole are pretty yuck.
Wheels aside, the flashes of orange around the car will no doubt catch your eye. There are plenty of them: the lower body protection has orange trim from the front bumper to the side skirts/sills and the rear bumper, too; plus there are orange bits as part of the roof rails, too.
The exterior also cops a bit of a blackout treatment, with new dark graphics front and rear, including a black garnish between the tail-lights. And of course, the rims are black, too.
Inside the style a bit more adventurous, with a smattering of orange trim highlights on the vent surrounds, the transmission tunnel, the stitching that runs on the dashboard, doors and seats, and even the eye-catching and intriguing mesh-look water-repellent trim on the seats that goes up to the doors, too. I guess Subaru assumes Forester Sport buyers will be spending a lot of time in the rain?
I really love the orange trim finishes - they really lift the ambience of the cabin and make it feel a bit more exciting than a regular Forester. In fact, it's like the Forester looked a bit further down the Subaru line-up to the XV and said, "Hey, how come you're getting all the attention?".
There are some inherently awesome SUV features that the Forester's interior design brings to the fore - we'll get to that in the next section.
Toyota Fortuner 7/10
The Fortuner isn’t beautiful, but it is rugged and ready looking. Those tough looks aren’t just for show either, see the Fortuner shares the same underpinnings as Toyota’s HiLux 4x4 ute.
So, the tall ride height and high front end starts to make sense knowing that this is a SUV based on an off-road ute, right down to the ladder frame chassis and the many other components it shares with the HiLux.
The Fortuner is about 530mm shorter end-to-end than a HiLux at 4795mm long, but the same width at 1855mm across and about 10mm shorter in height – although the roof racks see it stand 1835mm tall.
Matching the Fortuner’s rugged exterior is a cabin with a fairly basic design and robust feel. So, while it’s plush in places such as the leather seats that came as part of the premium interior pack on our (GXL grade) test car, there are also the chunky runner floor mats that don’t mind a bath with a garden hose (take them out first, okay?).
Side steps are standard on all grades, but the GXL adds roof racks, privacy glass and chrome door handles.
The Crusade adds more in the way of glamorous touches such as a premium grille finish, a grey coloured front ‘bash plate’, wood grain-look instrument panel and leather upholstery.
The Forester could be the most practical vehicle in its class. Against the likes of the Toyota RAV4, Mitsubishi Outlander, Mazda CX-5 and VW Tiguan, it stacks up pretty well for cabin practicality, space utilisation and accommodation.
It's a nice, bright and airy place to be, with a big glasshouse that makes it feel a bit more outdoorsy than its rivals. The benefits of that are two-fold - it's easy to see out of, whether you're the driver or if you're a kid in the back.
Looking up front first, the Forester's cabin presentation is much more eye-catching in this grade. The other models in the range are, well, a bit bland. The Sport, though, is a bit more - dare I say it - sporty. And I personally hate models called Sport, but that's a story for another day.
The orange stitching everywhere and the orange metallic look finishes on the dash and the centre console - it combines for a more special feeling cabin than any of the other Foresters available.
I really appreciate the media screen Subaru offers - it's easy to use and is bright and colourful, and also the flush finish design - not a floating tablet style screen - does make it just a little easier to use. However there is a secondary screen above it, which shows you a bunch of information about the car that you theoretically will never actually need to know.
That top pod also has a driver monitoring camera system which is looking at you all the time and will warn you if you take your eyes off the road for too long. Intriguingly, it flashes a warning onto another screen - the one on the instruments, which also makes you look away from the road...
It really is a button and screen overload. If you like minimalism, you're not going to like the number of things in front of you as the driver of a Forester. But they all have a purpose (sort of), and for me, it's better than everything being run through touch screens!
The front seats are quite comfortable, with electric adjustment for the driver and passenger. Both are electric adjusted and heated as well, which is nice, and the material used is genuinely really comfortable - it's like a good quality couch.
Even though those are nice elements, I couldn't find myself a perfect driving position – I feel like I sat just a little too high and I couldn't get the steering wheel in quite the right position for my preferences.
Storage is mostly okay up front: the cupholders between the seats are a little bit deep so small takeaway coffees might be hard to get out, and there are bottle holders in the doors, a small cubby in front of the gear selector for a wallet and/or phone, and that's also where you'll find 2USB ports. No wireless phone charging, though.
The overall space for a family of four is perfectly usable. There is no seven seater version of the Forester, nor any seven-set SUV in the brand's range at all in Australia, so it's strictly a smaller family affair, or a good option for grandparents on duty.
There's very good second row seat space, with a high seating position and hip point allowing for adults to easily slot in there (I'm 182cm/6'0" and I can fit behind my driving position with heaps of leg, toe and headroom to spare), but it's also a handy height for child loading, with dual ISOFIX and three top-tether points. Weirdly, though, Subaru has kept with the ceiling-mounted centre seatbelt, and the seat is flat and a bit uncomfortable for adults in terms of cushioning and support. Great for child seats, though.
There are plenty of smart features in the second row, including twin map pockets on the seat backs, one of which is sectioned and divided for smaller items. Plus there are those two USB ports for charging devices (again, perfect for a family of four), and there are rear directional air vents. There is a fold-down armrest with cupholders, plus bottle holders in the doors.
Weirdly there are LED lighting pods for the boot and the tailgate, and up in the front of the cabin there is LED lighting, too - but in the centre, the middle lighting pod is halogen. Weird.
The boot area offers 498 litres of cargo capacity (VDA) with the seats up, but hit the electric release levers (handy!) at the sides of the boot and you liberate a total 1740L of space - enough for a pair of mountain bikes or a few weeks' worth of camping gear for a couple.
Plus there are shopping bag hooks on the outer sides of the boot area and one on the tailgate,, plus four tie down points if you need to attach things and stop it from rolling around. There's a cargo blind, and a 12 V outlet in the boot, too.
Toyota Fortuner 8/10
There are some super practical parts to the Fortuner’s cabin, but also a couple of 'why-did-they-do-that?' areas, too.
First, the good points. The side steps are sturdy and meant my six-year-old could climb in and out despite the tall ride height. Also helping him were hand grips moulded into the plastic trim around the B-pillar at 'kid height' for children to hold onto.
Then there are the rubber floor mats, which after a week were covered in mud, sand and potato chips, but I could pull the entire rear mat out and hose off the evidence.
Cabin space is also good and while the third row is too cramped for me at 191cm (6'3") tall, I can sit behind my driving position with plenty of legroom in the second row.
The doors have bottle holders, there are cupholders, trays and hidey holes in all three rows, there’s a cooled glove box and a centre console bin large enough to store a small backpack.
All Fortuners have seven seats and this is where we come to the 'why-did-they-do-that?' moment. That third row doesn’t fold flat, instead the seats fold up towards the side windows and are fastened into position there.
Not only does this eat into your cargo space, but, if not fastened properly the heavy seats can fall back down and as a parent I was concerned about small hands or fingers being in the way.
The cargo capacity with third row folded that way is 716 litres, but with them in place you have 200 litres of boot space behind them.
USB ports are thin on the ground in all grades with just one up front, although there are three 12V outlets on board and the Crusade also gets a 220V power point.
All three rows have directional air vents, with fan speed adjustment in the very back seats.
Price and features
The new Subaru Forester 2.5i Sport model is a $41,990 proposition - that's the MSRP/RRP, or the price before on-road costs (you might find driveaway deals if you search Autotrader, though).
It slots in between the 2.5i Premium ($39,490) and the 2.5i-S ($42,990), but it stands out compared to both of those versions with a revamped design and a number of inclusions over the models below it, but most of them are visual differentiators which we'll detail in the next section.
Let's consider the standard equipment offered here: black 18-inch alloy wheels with a full size spare, an electric sunroof, water repellent cloth interior trim, electric front seat adjustment (driver's side with memory settings), heated front seats, electric tailgate, electric folding rear seats, smart key hands-free entry and push button start, auto headlights and auto wipers.
There's also a 8.0-inch touchscreen media system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring tech, DAB+ digital radio, CD player, six speakers, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, 4xUSB ports (2x front, 2x rear), a 4.2-inch digital driver info display with digital speedo, and a leather-lined steering wheel and shifter.
The safety story is a very strong one - see the section below for all the details.
Things missing from the 2.5i Sport that you might want for include an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, a proper surround-view camera, and leather seat trim.
Colours available for this spec comprise: Crystal Black silica, Crystal White pearl (as seen here), Dark Blue pearl (exclusive to Sport), Ice Silver metallic, Magnetite Grey metallic and Sepia Bronze metallic. The green and red options are not available on Sport, but no matter the colour you opt for, it won't cost you any extra.
Obviously though, you might want to choose carefully, as there are some orange highlights inside and out that might not match up with your preferred colour choice. Let's get to that next.
Toyota Fortuner 8/10
There are three grades in the Fortuner range – the entry-level GX with a list price of $49,080, the GXL which is $54,350, and the Crusade for $61,410.
The GX comes standard with 17-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, cloth seats, air conditioning, an 8.0-inch display with a reversing camera, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a six-speaker stereo, plus front and rear parking sensors.
The GXL has the GX’s features including the 17-inch alloys, but adds 'Downhill Assist Control', climate control, sat nav, digital radio, privacy glass, power driver’s seat, roof rails, LED fog lights and a proximity key.
The Crusade has all the GXL’s gear but adds 18-inch alloy wheel, Bi-LED headlights, door puddle lamps, leather seats (heated up front), an 11-speaker JBL sound system and a power tailgate.
The pick for value here is the GXL and as with our test car you can option the premium interior pack which adds leather upholstery and power front adjustable seats.
Engine & trans
Instead, the 2.5i part of the name indicated a carryover 2.5-litre four-cylinder horizontally-opposed 'boxer' engine producing 136kW of power (at 5800rpm) and 239Nm of torque (at 4400rpm). No turbo here.
The Forester is available solely with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) Lineartronic automatic gearbox, and as it's a Subie, of course it has the brand's "Symmetrical" all-wheel drive (AWD) system standard, too.
The Sport grade isn't available with the brand's hybrid powertrain, though that's no great loss. Read our review where we compared that version against the excellent RAV4 hybrid to see how it fared
The 2.5i models have seen a towing upgrade for 2021, with the unbraked rating set at 750 kilograms, while the braked towing capacity is now 1800kg (up from a meagre 1500kg in earlier models).
Toyota Fortuner 8/10
All grades in the Fortuner range come with the same engine – it’s a 2.8-litre, four-cylinder, turbo-diesel which now makes 20kW more power and 50Nm more torque than before with its outputs of 150kW/500Nm.
Shifting gears is a six-speed automatic transmission.
All Fortuners are four-wheel drive. You can select from two-wheel drive, and four-wheel drive in high and low ranges.
The braked towing capacity is 3100kg.
The official combined cycle fuel consumption figure for the Forester 2.5i Sport is identical to the rest of the range: 7.4 litres per 100 kilometres, with emissions claimed at 168g/km CO2.
On test, we saw an at the pump fuel economy of 9.5L/100km across a mix of urban, highway, country and open road driving (plus a very short unsealed off-highway stint).
Fuel tank capacity is 63 litres. It can run on the more affordable 91RON regular unleaded.
The Subaru Forester is a smooth and decent family SUV, one that doesn't necessarily do anything exceptionally well, but nor is it terrible at anything when it comes to on-road driving.
In fact, my biggest complaint is the noise intrusion - there's quite a bit of tyre roar through even normal road surfaces, and coarse chip roads are louder again. There's also wind noise up around the windscreen and mirrors, and the engine is noisy under acceleration because of the CVT automatic transmission, and it doesn't sound overly delightful, either.
That said, the 2.5-litre engine's response is pretty good, offering decent and linear power delivery. It's not fast, not overly fun, and the CVT auto does rob it some of the excitement you might want. However, it jumps away from a standstill pretty nicely, and if you can hit the sweet spot when you're accelerating you might be surprised by its brisk response.
There are paddle shifters to take matters into your own hands - though even if you use the SI drive mode selector (Sport or Intelligent drive modes), it's less thrusty than turbocharged competitors (Ford Escape) or even hybrid-powered rivals (Toyota RAV4).
The ride comfort is quite good, there's a nice supple attitude to the suspension and the way it controls itself over bumps, but it is quite soft and that means that there is some noticeable body roll in corners.
Thankfully the seats are really quite nice and offer good support, and while the steering is decently weighted and accurate enough it's hardly the last word in excitement for thrills. I'm also not much of a fan of the lane keeping system and how it affects the steering, as it interrupts the smoothness of your steering a little too much. There's a button you can hit to turn it off, but you have to do it every time.
And that driver-monitoring camera system really does make you realise how much you're not looking at the road ahead. I'm a constant glancer, looking at whatever is driving past or whatever I see parked in people's driveways, and the system really made me realise that.
Because it's a Forester with all-wheel drive, I took it for a brief light off road review expedition, where it lived up to the brand's adventure-focused persona.
The most impressive element was a combination of nice high ground clearance (220mm), plus the way that soft suspension rolled over rocks and bumps allows decent travel to the suspension, and good control to the driver's hands, too.
The drive mode selection system allows you to choose "snow/dirt" or "deep snow/mud", meaning soggy camping trips or drives to the snow should be pretty well catered for. Like most soft-roading vehicles and crossovers, though, the tyres will be your biggest letdown but also your easiest upgrade.
The hill descent control system worked really well, and while I wasn't pushing any boundaries of what to expect a SUV like this to do, it was pretty well sorted of the whole.
Toyota Fortuner 7/10
Right at the start of this review I said the Fortuner isn't wonderfully comfortable to drive and while that’s true my family and I quickly became used to it.
The Fortuner in the GXL grade came to live with us for a week and we used it daily for school drops off, supermarket runs, and a weekend trip to the beach. So, I can give you a pretty good idea what it’s like to live with in the city and suburbs.
If you want to know how it performs off-road take a look at our Adventure Editor Marcus Craft’s review. Crafty drove the GX grade of the Fortuner at about the same time I had mine and between the two of us we’ve covered what it’s like to live it the Fortuner in the city and ‘burbs, plus how it handles itself in the rough stuff.
Also, be sure to check out the video above where we team up to show you what it can do in and out of the city.
What I can tell you is that the Fortuner’s ride is firm. Stiff suspension and its ladder frame chassis meant jiggly journeys, while handling is nowhere near car-like.
If you’ve driven a HiLux, you’ll know what it’s like to drive the Fortuner. Both share the same platform, and have similar driving characteristics, right down to the upright seating position and steering wheel with limited reach adjustment.
Like the HiLux, the Fortuner was refreshed this year and received some excellent updates which improved the way it drives. Best of all is the steering upgrade.
A new variable-flow power steering pump now means low-speed steering is fantastic. I noticed this especially in car parks where I could pilot the Fortuner more easily than before.
The 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel was upgraded as well with more torque and power, and this too makes the Fortuner a better SUV than the previous model which seemed to lack oomph.
There’s good forward visibility, although, when the third row is stowed away those rear side windows are blocked and that made parallel parking a bit of a guessing game at times.
There is a reversing camera, but the picture quality isn’t great, and the front and rear parking sensors got a workout when I was driving.
The trade off for the Fortuner being a bit uncomfortable, with its ladder frame and stiff suspension, is an SUV that is a proper off-road vehicle. We’re talking a wading depth of 700mm, an approach angle of 29 degrees and a departure angle of 25 degrees (ramp over is 23.5 degrees), while ground clearance is 216mm. There’s also a rear differential lock.
As I said, you can read and see what Crafty had to say about its off-road performance in his review, but he found the Fortuner to be talented over challenging terrain and while he also found the ride to be firm, the new steering and extra grunt made this SUV even better in the rough stuff.
You might be interested to know the GX and GXL grades come standard with all-terrain tyres, while the Crusade gets 'highway tyres.'
That said, the Forester has an extensive safety technology specification list, starting with auto emergency braking (AEB) that works both in city and inter-urban settings up to 80km/h, and it features pedestrian and cyclist detection, too.
There's also lane departure warning with an active lane keeping assistance system that works from 60km/h to 145km/h, and there's adaptive cruise control that works through the brand's stereo camera EyeSight system. Blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are standard, as is a rear AEB system to stop you bumping into cars or walls at low speeds, rear parking sensors, a reversing camera that is complemented by a front and front kerbside camera (not quite surround view, but close).
The Forester has seven airbags (driver's knee, dual front, front side, full-length curtain), and there are dual ISOFIX outboard child-seat anchors and three top-tether points.
Toyota Fortuner 8/10
The Toyota Fortuner scored the maximum five-star ANCAP rating when it was tested in 2019. All three grades have AEB with pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane departure alert with steering assistance, adaptive cruise control and road sign recognition.
There are seven airbags, and it’s good to see the third row is covered by curtain airbags, too.
Only rear parking seniors were standard across the range previously and now all Fortuners have front parking sensors, as well.
For child seats there are two ISOFIX points and three top tether anchor mounts across the second row.
Under the car is full-sized spare wheel.
Subaru Australia backs its cars with a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, which is on par with its main rivals but behind the likes of Mitsubishi (10 years if you service with them) and Kia (seven years).
The brand offers just 12 months of roadside assistance when you buy a new car, where some others offer seven years or more.
The company also has unusual service intervals of 12 months/12,500km, with a capped price servicing plan that spans five years/62,500km. The average cost per service over that period is high, at $476.50 per annum - and it'll be even higher if you do a lot of kilometres.
There are also three-year and five-year service plans available. If you sign up for those, you get three years roadside assist plus a loan car when you get your car serviced. The costs for those are $1281.81 (three years/37,500km), or $2382.52 (five years/62,500km).