A blue 2021 Chevy Equinox is parked in a car lot after winning a 2021 Chevy Equinox vs 2021 Subaru Forester comparison.

Will It Be a Total Knockout? The 2021 Chevy Equinox vs 2021 Subaru Forester

A quick glance around the highway or a busy city street, and you’ll realize that there’s no shortage of compact SUVs on the road. While this can make choosing the right SUV for your needs a head-spinning experience, there isn’t a downside to having plenty of options for every budget and driving need, right? Two of the most popular brands in this highly competitive class are Chevrolet and Subaru, both of which have a loyal following. This means the competition is even fiercer when you pair models like the 2021 Chevy Equinox vs the 2021 Subaru Forester

When it comes down to it, both SUVs are great options that offer seating for five and a variety of tech and safety features at affordable prices. But one model must certainly be better, right? While it’s easy to say that the clear winner depends on your needs, here’s a breakdown of the key components you’ll want to consider when shopping between the top-selling Equinox and the reliable Forester. 

Round 1: Pricing and Options 

A black 2021 Subaru Forester is shown from the side driving on an open road as the sun sets.

One of the biggest selling points of the 2021 Chevy Equinox is its affordability and everything it offers across its lineup, with its starting price ranging between $23,800 to $31,400. The base model, Equinox L, is equipped with the Chevy Safety Assist suite, keyless entry and start, and the Chevrolet Infotainment 3 system on a 7-inch color touchscreen display. You have to upgrade to the next trim level, the LS, to enjoy features like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration. Of course, nothing compares to the Equinox Premier that’s fully loaded with leather interior, heated front seats with driver memory, and a hands-free power liftgate that makes accessing the rear cargo area easy when your hands are full. 

The 2021 Subaru Forester is comparable to the Equinox, with starting prices ranging slightly higher from $24,795 to $34,895 and offering a few more trim options. The base Forester model is equipped with more connectivity and safety technology than the Equinox, with features like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration and a Rear Seat Reminder System. From there, the trims offer a progressive suite of features ranging from a distinct Forester Sport to the fully equipped Forester Touring that offers everything from exclusive leather upholstery and power front seats to navigation and Subaru’s exclusive DriverFocus Distraction Mitigation System for enhanced safety on the road. 

The Winner of Round 1 – If you’re looking only at numbers, there’s no question the Equinox wins the first round since it’s priced lower than the Forester across its entire lineup. However, if you’re someone who likes options, then you’ll certainly give the first round to the Forester since it offers several more trims than the Equinox. If you’re looking at the big picture, then it’s hard to beat the Equinox Premier with its modest price tag and suite of safety, driver-assist, and connectivity features that add to its value. 

Round 2: Performance and Capability 

When you’re shopping for a vehicle, whether it’s an SUV, sedan, truck, or sports car, there’s no doubt that performance is key. This is where the 2021 Equinox excels with its 1.5-liter turbocharged engine that delivers 170 horsepower and 203 lb-ft of torque without sacrificing efficiency with an EPA average of 26 MPG in the city and 31 MPG on the highway. The Equinox also offers an available switchable all-wheel drive that boosts traction and control in slippery conditions like rain, sleet, and snow. 

The 2021 Forester is equipped with Subaru’s signature 2.5-liter Boxer engine and symmetrical all-wheel drive on every model. The Boxer engine delivers more power than the Equinox at 182 horsepower but produces slightly less torque at 176 lb-ft. This reflects the Forester’s better fuel economy on the highway at 33 MPG. 

The Winner of Round 2 – If you’re looking at capability and versatility, the Forester easily wins this round thanks to its symmetrical all-wheel drive system that optimizes the engine’s distribution of power to maximize traction in any condition. This makes the Forester more responsive to drive and slightly more efficient than the Equinox. However, the Equinox’s 1.5-liter turbocharged engine can’t go ignored, especially since it delivers the torque you’d like to see in the Forester, which claims to be off-road capable. 

Round 3: Safety and Driver-Assist Tech 

The steering wheel and infotainment screen are shown on the interior of a 2021 Chevy Equinox.

One of the most remarkable things about the 2021 Equinox is its Chevy Safety Assist suite that comes standard on every Equinox trim. This suite includes Automatic Emergency Braking, a Following Distance Indicator, Forward Collision Alert, Front Pedestrian Braking, Lane Keep Assist with Lane Departure Warning, and IntelliBeam Auto High Beam Assist. These features are designed to prevent collisions, enhance visibility, and minimize damage in the event of a collision. Chevy also extends this suite by giving owners the option to add features like a Rear Vision Camera, High Definition Surround Vision, and a Safety Alert Seat, all of which take the Equinox’s safety a step further. 

Like the 2021 Equinox, the 2021 Forester offers an impressive suite of standard safety features known as EyeSight Driver Assist Technology. Similar to Chevy’s technology, EyeSight monitors the traffic conditions to minimize the potential for collisions. The technology suite, aptly named since it’s designed to work as an extra set of eyes while you’re on the road, includes Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Keep Assist and Sway Warning, Pre-Collision Throttle Management, and Pre-Collision Braking. Subaru also offers Advanced Adaptive Cruise Control with Lane Centering on select models to make driving long distances a stress-free experience. 

One feature that sets the Forester apart from the Equinox is Subaru’s DriverFocus Distraction Mitigation System. This state-of-the-art system is designed to reduce distracted driving by working with the EyeSight Driver Assist Technology suite. The tool acts as a co-pilot and can alert you when you’re drowsy or distracted. It also offers five driver profiles that allow you to customize your seat position, climate preferences, and mirror positions so that you can be in the perfect driving position the moment you get behind the wheel. 

Who Takes the Victory? 

When it comes to naming a victor in the race between the 2021 Chevy Equinox vs the 2021 Subaru Forester, it isn’t exactly a total knockout. Why? Because choosing a clear winner truly depends on what you’re looking for in a compact SUV and is a matter of personal preference and your needs. If you’re going strictly by numbers and your budget, then the Chevy Equinox is a clear winner because it offers an affordable price tag across its lineup. The trims also offer a variety of features, with the Equinox Premier proving you don’t have to spend a small fortune on a fully-loaded SUV that delivers plenty of power and capability as well as the latest technology and safety features. This is huge when you’re sticking to a budget. 

If you’re looking for an SUV that can navigate busy city streets but also hold its own in different terrains, then it’s hard to beat the Subaru Forester and its symmetrical all-wheel drive. Although the engine leaves a little to be desired for power, the fact that all-wheel drive is standard across the Forester lineup is a great benefit and one that shouldn’t be ignored. While Chevy offers all-wheel drive on the Equinox, it isn’t standard and comes with an increase to the starting MSRP. However, if you don’t like all-wheel drive, then the Forester isn’t the SUV for you. 

Whether you’re looking for affordability or versatility, you won’t go wrong with either the 2021 Chevy Equinox or the 2021 Subaru Forester, and that likely makes the decision even harder. So, as you’re deciding between the two models, be sure to test drive both to see how they handle and truly get a feel for everything they have to offer. Then, look at your budget and see which model offers you the best bang for your buck. From there, it’s all about personal preference and what suits you better!