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2021 Subaru Forester Long-Term Review, Part 3: Cramming It All In

2021 Subaru Forester, hatch | Photo: M.Crépault
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Michel Crépault
We pay a quick visit to IKEA to see if the Forester can handle what we have in store for it

Auto123 puts to the (long-term) test the 2021 Subaru Forester. Today, part 3.

See also: 2021 Subaru Forester Long-Term Review, Part 1: The Origin Story

See also: 2021 Subaru Forester Long-Term Review, Part 2: Of Buttons and Murmurs

See also: 2021 Subaru Forester Long-Term Review, Part 4: The Road Trip Test

See also: 2021 Subaru Forester Long-Term Review, Part 5: All 4-Wheel Drive, All the Time

See also: 2021 Subaru Forester Long-Term Review, Part 6: Tech That Wants Your Happiness

See also: 2021 Subaru Forester Long-Term Review, Part 7: Conclusion

Last time, we left off with a suspenseful cliff-hanger, just short of Dallas levels: would all the furniture I bought from IKEA fit into the 2021 Subaru Forester that I'd picked up not 10 minutes prior?  

I was pretty confident, mainly because my better half’s shopping list was pretty reasonable. Let’s see, we had a carpet, a worktable, a drawer cabinet with wheels and two chairs. No need to call a moving company for that. Still though, I felt a twinge of apprehension as I opened the tailgate.

That dissipated quickly -  with the tailgate lifted, I could appreciate the very functional shape of the cargo compartment: square, big, low threshold, generous notch and walls barely bulging out due the wheel cavities. I couldn't ask for anything better. As if the Forester's cargo space was just begging to be challenged...

Ok then, challenge accepted! We’ll see what’s what.

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2021 Subaru Forester, trunk
2021 Subaru Forester, trunk |
2021 Subaru Forester, storage space
2021 Subaru Forester, storage space |

Method over madness
First, I removed the retractable cover (standard except on the base model) which a) is easy to handle and b) stores neatly under the tailgate floor in the space provided for it. Well thought-out.

2021 Subaru Forester, 2nd row, one seat folded down
2021 Subaru Forester, 2nd row, one seat folded down |
2021 Subaru Forester, 2nd row, two seats folded down
2021 Subaru Forester, 2nd row, two seats folded down |

Then, just by lifting the pin inserted near the headrest of the second-row seating, the 60/40-split bench seat can be folded down with nary an effort, and the result is a flat surface that barely rises towards the front seats.

2021 Subaru Forester, cargp space
2021 Subaru Forester, cargp space |

Because I like to make things complicated, I started by placing the box candles in the center of the floor thus formed. Now you may have caught that said candles didn't appear on my original shopping list, but find me a single person who can traverse the entire IKEA maze (apparently there are still people looking for the exit) without succumbing to the temptation of a small impulse purchase?

By the way, readers with sharp minds will have realized that my shopping spree took place just before non-essential stores closed yet again here in Quebec, in early January.

2021 Subaru Forester, hatch open
2021 Subaru Forester, hatch open | Photo: M.Crépault

Reassured about the fate of the candles (and also, I might as well confess, the cinnamon buns, the two jars of jam and the two packs of "knäckebröd rag" (rye crackers the size of frisbees) that were on sale and had somehow found their way into my big blue bag, as if by magic), I told myself that the work table, in its flat packaging, would be comfortable if I spread it all the way to the bottom of the hold. Excellent calculation.

Now it was the turn of the two armchairs. There, I was lucky. The two boxes nested into each other like Tetris blocks. All I had to do was to slide down the carpet and put the box down, and I could look on my work with smug appreciation for my packing skills.

2021 Subaru Forester, cargo space, fig. 2
2021 Subaru Forester, cargo space, fig. 2 |
2021 Subaru Forester, cargo space, fig. 3
2021 Subaru Forester, cargo space, fig. 3 |

Now, time to press the button that controls the tailgate's power tailgate (2021 Foresters have this function from the Touring variant on up). Would it close or not? With a trembling finger, I pressed, and… victory! More patting myself on the back!

More proof of how so little different we are from Cro-Magnon man, us males.

Back home, after dropping off the purchases at my partner’s office (where, no doubt, the assembly of the drawer unit was going to take me more time than all the other pieces of furniture put together), I took a moment to scientifically validate the Forester's loading capacity.

Yes, of course, my superior mind and eye had ensured the success of my mission to IKEA. But I figured it was a worthwhile exercise to see it if Subaru's engineers and designers might also deserve a little credit for designing a practical cargo bay.

2021 Subaru Forester, profile
2021 Subaru Forester, profile | Photo: Subaru

Let's take out the calculator
What do the numbers say? That the length of the Forester is 4625 mm. To the millimeter or just about, that matches the length of the Honda CR-V (4626), one of the segment leaders along with the Toyota RAV4 (4594).

Now, the trick is what precisely these SUVs do with their millimeters. The space allotted to occupants and their luggage depends mainly on the wheelbase, or the distance between the middle of the front and rear set of wheels. The Forester's wheelbase is 2,670 mm. Do you have any idea how many SUVs approach that length? Easily 15!

The CR-V and RAV4 (2,660 and 2,690, respectively) are not far off, while a Mitsubishi duo (the current Outlander and the new 2022 Eclipse Cross) and two South Koreans (Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage) match the Forester's 2,670 mm.

So it would be logical to assume that these SUVs share the same cargo capacity once the rear seatbacks are lowered. Our Forester succeeded in its IKEA mission thanks to the 2,155 litres of cargo space. In comparison, the two Mitsubishi models, with an identical wheelbase, offer 1,385 L and 1,792 L of cargo space. The Sportage (1,565) and the Tucson (1,754) are a similar neighborhood as those. The RAV4 (1,976) comes close, while the Honda actually beats the Subaru thanks to its 2,146-liter cargo capacity.

In fact, among the 15 or so SUVs I checked on for this exercise, only the Nissan Rogue (2,098) and VW Tiguan (2,081) join the CR-V and Forester above the 2,000-litre mark.

How do they do it? In the case of the Forester, its secret isn't so much its width, which at 1,815 mm is average, as its height, which at 1,730 mm surpasses all SUVs I compared it with.

Add to that the practical design of its clean, uncluttered, straightforward rear section, and you have a cargo hold that’ll eat up luggage, boxes of all shapes… and candles.

Specifications sheet of 2021 Subaru Forester 

2021 Subaru Forester, front
2021 Subaru Forester, front | Photo: Subaru
Michel Crépault
Michel Crépault
Automotive expert
  • More than 45 years of experience as an automotive journalist
  • More than 12 test drives last year
  • Attended more than 190 new vehicle launches in the presence of the brand's technical specialists