Subaru Forester vs Toyota Vanguard Comparison

Subaru, a company known for its championships in rallies and its early mass production of cars with AWD forayed into the growing and lucrative compact crossover SUV market in 1997 by releasing the Subaru Forester, following in the footsteps of Toyota RAV released in 1994. In this article, we are going to compare the Subaru Forester and Toyota Vanguard which is the RAV4’s identical but slightly larger sibling. We will take a look at the interior, exterior, under the hood, and safety.

Subaru Forester vs Toyota Vanguard Side-By-Side Comparison

(*Prices are reflective of average BE FORWARD pricing as of March 2021)

 Subaru Forester
Toyota Vanguard
Generations5 (SF, SG, SH, SJ, SK)1 (ACA33W, ACA38W, GSA33W)
Production Year1997 - Present2007 - 2013
Performance147.51 HP - 268.20 HP170 HP - 280 HP
Fuel Consumption7.69 KM/L - 19.20 KM/L9.26 KM/L - 14.49 KM/L
DrivetrainFWD or 4WDFWD or 4WD
Key FeaturesRear Spoiler, Power Steering, Power Windows,

Airbag, A/C, ABS, ESC, Fog Lights, Radio,

Keyless Entry
Push Start, Rear Spoiler, ESC, Power Steering, A/C,

Airbag, Back Camera, Alloy Wheels, Power

Window, ABS
Seating Capacity5 Passengers 5 - 7 Passengers
BE FORWARD priceUS$ 1190 - US$ 56,240 US$ 4230 - US$ 15,750

Interior/Exterior Comparison

Subaru Forester




The Forester has a spacious cabin with five seats in two rows. The front and rear passengers are afforded lots of space with great leg, foot, and knee room for all passengers. The Forester has large windows that create an open and airy feel while offering the driver and passengers excellent outward visibility. The standard Forester comes with cloth upholstery and a manually-adjustable driver’s seat, while the higher trims come with rear reclining seats, a power-adjustable driver’s seat, heated front seats, and leather upholstery.

Other standard interior features include a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, USB and auxiliary ports, a four-speaker stereo, Bluetooth hands-free calling and audio streaming, automatic dual-zone air-conditioning, and a 4.3-inch display for navigation.

The Subaru Forester offers 974-liters of cargo space with rear seats in use and 2106-liters with the rear seats down. The Forester has other storage compartments for small items such as the glove box, door pockets, cup holders, and front-seat pockets.




On the outside, the Forester features a crisply designed winged grille and headlights that stretch outwards with smoothly curved sheet metal on the sides that run into the pinched taillamps at the rear. The exterior also features a toned-down beltline that begins behind the front fenders and eases nearly into the rear lamps.


The Forester comes fitted with several standard safety features which include Hill Descent Control (HDC), ABS, side airbags, ESC, automatic emergency braking, head protection airbags, forward collision warning, a head-up display, adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assistance, lane departure warning, blind-spot monitoring, adaptive headlights, rear cross-traffic alert, automatic high beams,  and reverse automatic braking.

Toyota Vanguard




The interior of the Vanguard is well designed with a comfortable seating arrangement and a quiet cabin. The Vanguard has truly covered all the bases. The interior of the Vanguard features a nice two-tier instrument panel, comfy seats, an upright driving position, and plenty of storage areas. The Vanguard is a mid-size SUV and one of the few vehicles in this category that offers a third-row seat. The third row enables the Vanguard to accommodate seven passengers, but the third-row seats are not for adults as they offer limited space.

The Vanguard comes well equipped, offering three different trims from standard and fuel-efficient to the high-end and powerful. Standard interior features include the electroluminescent binnacle, remote keyless entry, an auxiliary jack, a tilt/telescoping steering wheel, power windows, and three 12-volt outlets.



The Vanguard has an exterior layout and roofline that is in line with modern crossover designs, with some cues that resemble the rugged SUV designs of yesteryears. The front end features a styled chrome grille, front bumper, contoured headlights, and fog lights.


The safety of occupants in the Vanguard was well-considered, as it comes equipped with several modern safety features and technologies as standard. The features include front-seat-mounted side airbags for driver and front passenger, first and second-row roll-sensing side curtain airbags, ESC, and ABS. Other Vanguard models come with Toyota’s Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) system which incorporates AWD, stability and traction control and electric power steering.

Hill-start Assist Control (HAC) and Downhill Assist Control (DAC) are standard on the 7-seat models.

Engine and Fuel Efficiency Comparison

Subaru Forester

The Subaru Forester has been around since 1997, and it is still here. What an achievement! The engines have evolved over the years. Below are some of the engines that were fitted on Forester releases. 

1st generation

  • The 2.5-liter flat-four (boxer) 4-cylinder (EJ25D) petrol engine produces 165 HP and an average economy of 9.62 KM/L. 
  • The 2.0-liter  flat-four (boxer) 4-cylinder (EJ20) petrol produces 255 HP and an average economy of 8.26 KM/L. There are 4 variants of the EJ20 petrol engine with varying power and turbo as an option. 

Power to the wheels is transferred via a 5-speed manual transmission or 4-speed automatic transmission.

2nd generation 

  • The naturally aspirated 2.5-liter flat-four (boxer) 4-cylinder (EJ254) petrol produces 173 HP and an average economy of 9.61 KM/L.
  • The turbocharged 2.5-liter flat-four (boxer) 4-cylinder (EJ255) petrol produces 210.54 HP (slight tuning achieved up to 300 HP)  and an average economy of 7.62 KM/L.

3rd generation

  • The 2.0-liter flat-four (boxer) 4-cylinder (FB2) petrol produces 147 HP and an average economy of 12.5 KM/L. 
  • The 2.0-liter flat-four (boxer) 4-cylinder (EE20) diesel produces 148 HP and an average economy of 19.23 KM/L.

4th generation 

  • The 2.0-liter  flat-four (boxer) 4-cylinder (FA20) petrol produces 268 HP and an average economy of 12.82 KM/L. 
  • The previous 2.0-liter flat-four (boxer) 4-cylinder (EE20) diesel was still in use as well, with the option for turbo and naturally aspirated. 

Power to the wheels is transferred via a 4-speed automatic CVT or a 6-speed manual transmission. 

5th generation

  • The 2.5-liter flat-four (boxer) 4-cylinder (FB25) petrol produces 170 HP with an average economy of 12 KM/L. 
  • The turbocharged 2.0-liter flat-four (boxer) 4-cylinder (FB20-T) petrol produces 147.51 HP and an average economy of 12.5 KM/L.

Power to the wheels is transferred via a six-speed manual or a CVT transmission.


Toyota Vanguard

The Vanguard features only two engines, one fitted on the 240S, and the other on the 350S. Below is a brief detail of the two engines.

  • The 2.4-liter inline 4-cylinder (2AZ) petrol engine produces 170 HP and an average fuel economy of 12.98 KM/L.
  • The 3.5-liter 6-cylinder (2GR) petrol engine produces 280 HP and an average economy of 9.43 KM/L.


The Verdict

Subaru has maintained Forester’s exterior looks with little change but managed to keep it on track. The Forester is not about style, but rather ability and sensibility, and the Vanguard is not far from that but comes with that extra third row with two seats which is so useful for those commuting in numbers.

The Vanguard’s ancestor, the 1994 Toyota RAV4 was the first compact SUV to combine a car-like driving experience with the looks of an off-roader. From the beginning, Toyota knew that these cars will likely be spending much more time on-road than off-road, so the Subaru Forester and the Toyota Vanguard were developed with that mentality as well.

The Forester and Vanguard have grown considerably and evolved compared to previous models, they offer lots of interior space and cargo capacity enough for an average family although there have been tradeoffs. Car enthusiasts might find these tradeoffs disappointing, but families and the environment will welcome the evolution.





Written by: Samuel H. Mponezya

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