24 February 2021

Subaru Forester X Sport 2021 Car Review

Subaru has recently added a new Forester to its fleet – the X Sport – in a move that adds more fun and practicality to its trusty medium-sized SUV.

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Subaru Forester X Sport 2021
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Subaru Forester X Sport 2021
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Subaru Forester X Sport 2021
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Subaru Forester X Sport 2021
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Subaru Forester X Sport 2021
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Subaru Forester X Sport 2021
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Subaru Forester X Sport 2021

The Forester, which we reviewed in 2018, is priced between the smaller XV and the larger Outback, and is a great option for families looking for a safe SUV with a practical design.

The Forester X Sport is available from $47,490 (+ORC), $5k more than the entry-level model, and $2k less than the top-spec Premium model.

A different look

The first thing you’ll notice about the Subaru Forester X Sport is the orange trim dotted around the exterior. It sets it apart from the rest, and takes the edge off what’s normally a rather ‘boxy-looking’ SUV. These accents certainly add to the intended sporty look, as do the black highlights on the front and rear, and the 18-inch blacked-out alloy wheels.

The Forester X Sport retains a strong road presence and might even turn a few heads. Its strong appearance is unmistakeably Subaru, which should resonate with Kiwi families.

With 220mm of ground clearance on the Forester X Sport, it’s great to see that a step to help get the children into the back seats is included, as well as wide door openings to assist in entry/exit from the vehicle.  

Our test model came in a striking Dark Blue Pearl colour, which is exclusive to the Forester X Sport.

In the cabin

The orange accents continue inside, and the splashes of colour are welcomed in an otherwise low-key interior cabin. The orange theme even extends to the illumination of certain buttons and knobs. 

The driving position is good, and the layout of buttons and systems seems very well thought out and practical. Some drivers might not like the amount of buttons there are, and the Forester X Sport feels almost dated compared to cars that have less buttons but offer the same functionality.

Drivers have three screens that each relay certain information. You have the standard eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system, which includes Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and sat nav with three years of complimentary map updates. We encountered teething issues with the Bluetooth system, which would cut out from time to time, but the USB connection to Apple CarPlay saw no such problems. The touchscreen also isn’t as sensitive as we’d have liked.  

The second and third screens relay driver information. You have the 6.3-inch Multi-Function Display (MFD) unit which relays information like vehicle status notifications and real-time fuel consumption to the driver. The standard 4.2-inch LCD screen within the instrument cluster repeats some of this information, and also displays the usual things like mileage.

Both driver and front passenger are treated to eight-way power heated seats, and all seats are finished in a water repellent fabric (with orange stitching, of course). While a more premium material would be nice, the choice Subaru made will no doubt be a godsend for parents on their way home from the beach with wet, sandy children in tow.

There’s plenty of storage all around the car, and rear passengers are really well looked after, as you’d expect from a Subaru. There’s a large amount of headroom, as well as two USB ports for rear passengers to charge their devices with.

The electric sunroof between the two rows of seats ensures that the cabin retains a nice, open feel to it.

With the rear seats up, cargo space is at a respectable 498-litres, which increases to 1,768-litres with the seats down. Your belongings are easily accessible via the power tailgate.


Like with the standard Forester, the X Sport is powered by the familiar 2.5-litre four cylinder Boxer engine, which produces 136kW at 5,800rpm and 239Nm of torque at 4,400rpm. The seven-speed Subaru Lineartronic Transmission (SLT) remains, as does Subaru’s Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive (SAWD) system.

X-Mode is also included, and it’s now dual-function, allowing you to change your driving mode to suit the conditions, should you encounter issues like snow, deep snow, mud and deep mud. We didn’t need to use any of these modes during testing.

Motorway driving is an absolute pleasure in the Forester X Sport. The ride is soft and smooth, and the excellent suite of safety features gives you some peace of mind.

During our time with the car, we were close to achieving Subaru’s fuel rating of just 7.4L/100km. The CO2 rating is 168g/km.

Safe as houses

The aforementioned safety suite does a great job of aiding the driver and keeping them as safe as possible on the road.

Features like Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA), Lane Change Assist (LCA), Blind-Spot Detection (BSD) and Auto Emergency Braking (EMB) all come as standard, as do the side view monitors, which give you an additional field of view via the MFD when parking.

Subaru’s renowned Driver Monitoring System (DMS) adds to the package, and monitors the driver via facial recognition. It will occasionally do things like remind you to keep your eyes on the road. While this is a great safety feature, it feels counterproductive when it follows the audible reminder with a message within the instrument cluster.

All of the above ensured that the Subaru Forester achieved a five star ANCAP rating in 2019, and this rating is applied across all variants, including the X Sport.


The Subaru Forester X Sport is a worthy upgrade to the standard Forester, which was already a great car and a worthy competitor to the ever-popular Toyota RAV4 and Mazda CX5.

The ‘Sport’ name may underwhelm some people, in particular those who expect a more powerful and more refined Forester.

Yes, the performance hasn’t been improved but instead, the changes seen in the X Sport have broadened the appeal of the popular SUV and made it an even more attractive option for outgoing families who are in the market for a medium-sized SUV and love an adventure.

At a glance


Subaru Forester X Sport


2.5 four-cylinder petrol 



ANCAP safety rating


Power and Torque

136kW at 5800rpm, 239Nm at 4400rpm


Lineartronic seven-speed auto

Fuel economy

7.4l/100km, 168g/km

Towing capacity

1800kg (Braked), 750kg (Unbraked)



Seating capacity


Luggage capacity/payload

498 litres

Safety systems

  • Seven airbags
  • Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA)
  • Lane Change Assist (LCA) 
  • Blind Spot Detection (BSD)
  • Auto Emergency Braking (EMB)
  • Rear view reverse camera and side monitor
  • Adaptive Driving Beam (ADB)
  • Brake Assist

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