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Review: 2021 Subaru Crosstrek

Chris Kaiser

The already strong Subaru Crosstrek gets a new face and a new, more powerful engine for 2021. We review all the latest updates.

Wishes Do Come True

You asked for it and Subaru listened. The charming yet long underpowered Crosstrek has finally gotten a much-needed upgrade to its powertrain with the addition of a larger and more powerful 2.5L engine. The 2021 Subaru Crosstrek also gets some cosmetic updates to the front facia and a new trim level, Sport, to compliment the new engine. New, that is, for the Crosstrek. The 2.5L is actually out of the Forester, and in the smaller and lighter Crosstrek the engine lends the extra pep that’s been the one weak point for the popular subcompact crossover.

2021 Subaru Crosstrek - subaru.com

2021 Subaru Crosstrek – subaru.com  |  Shop new Subaru Crosstrek on Carsforsale.com

The Crosstrek is so popular in fact that it’s Subaru’s third best-selling nameplate and leads the subcompact crossover segment in sales. Though it gets lumped in with other crossovers, the Crosstrek’s low profile allows it to handle in a more car-like fashion, similar to its big brother the Outback. In this way, it’s closer to a lifted hatchback than a crossover. But in whichever segment you place it, the Crosstrek would qualify as the most capable of the bunch. Subaru’s standard AWD is a big attraction since that feature is often a significant up-charge in most crossovers.

2021 Subaru Crosstrek - subaru.com
2021 Subaru Crosstrek - subaru.com

With a new engine, standard AWD, and that unique Subaru character, the refreshed 2021 Crosstrek shores up its weak points and makes a compelling case for itself as a go-to subcompact crossover choice.

Specs – A Boxer with a Bigger Punch

The big story for the 2021 Crosstrek is the addition of a new, larger engine that grants a noticeable increase in power. The Crosstrek’s one glaring deficiency had been how darn slow it was. This lamentable fact has finally been addressed, and while the Crosstrek won’t be supplanting the WRX at your next rally race, it’s no longer the laggard it once was.

2021 Subaru Crosstrek 2.0L H4 engine - carsforsale.com
2021 Subaru Crosstrek 2.0L H4 engine - carsforsale.com

The base engine in the Crosstrek continues to be a 2.0L H4 making 152hp and 176lb.-ft. of torque. You can option this engine with either a CVT or a six-speed manual transmission. As nice as it is for Subaru to give us the option of a manual, it comes with two major downsides. First, the fuel efficiency takes a hit with the six-speed manual getting 22/29 city/highway compared to the CVT’s 28/33. The second is Subaru’s EyeSight safety tech which comes standard on the Crosstrek, but only when it’s equipped with the CVT.

2021 Subaru Crosstrek 2.5L H4 engine - carsforsale.com
2021 Subaru Crosstrek 2.5L H4 engine - carsforsale.com

The new 2.5L H4 bumps up the horsepower to 182 and the torque to 176lb.-ft. It comes attached exclusively to a CVT, and fuel economy is estimated at 27 city and 34 highway mpg. This configuration improves the Crosstrek’s acceleration to a 0-60 time of 8.1 seconds, a full second faster than last year’s model.

A third powertrain is available for the Crosstrek with the option of a hybrid that pairs the 2.0L with two electric motors. Though official numbers aren’t out yet, the 2020 version offered an electric only range of 17 miles and a fuel economy rating of 90MPGe. We expect the 2021 version to at least meet, if not exceed, those numbers.

Driving – Fully Connected

There’s a low bar for drivability in the subcompact crossover category. Luckily, the Crosstrek clears that bar by a good margin with responsive handling and all-weather capabilities that far exceed the competition. In fact, we were pleasantly surprised by the Crosstrek’s weighty steering feel which contrasted with the lightness of Subaru’s larger vehicles like the Ascent.

2021 Subaru Crosstrek - subaru.com
2021 Subaru Crosstrek - subaru.com

Also new for 2021 is the Crosstrek’s Sport trim level (the first trim where the 2.5L becomes available). In addition to the new engine, the Sport trim gets some aesthetic upgrades, which we’ll get to in a bit, and Dual-Function X-Mode AWD that offers Snow/Dirt and Deep Snow/Mud modes. Though it’s not a Wrangler-type rock crawler, the Crosstrek is adept at traversing dirt roads and snow-covered streets in ways no other comparable crossover is.

The 8 Best Cars for Snow
2021 Subaru Crosstrek - subaru.com
2021 Subaru Crosstrek - subaru.com

The new 2.5L also adds paddle shifters to the mix. But attached to a CVT that merely mimics gear changes, they are of limited utility. You can use them for engine braking when traveling downhill or to downshift while cornering, but aside from these corner cases the paddle shifters are mostly there for fun.

Comfort & Interior – Function Over Flash

Subaru has never been known for their interiors. And while the company had made great strides over the last few years, they continue to lean toward function over form. Materials are generally of a good quality with hard plastics relegated to the lower door panels and other out of the way places. Soft touch materials and leather are located at prominent touchpoints and dials and buttons are all conveniently and intuitively located. While the Crosstrek might not reach the highs of say the Mazda CX-30, it’s still a pleasant cabin.

The ride is also comfortable with a well-damped suspension that’s more forgiving than average for the segment. The supportive seats likewise make the Crosstrek a good long-haul highway drive. Like the rest of the Subaru lineup, the Crosstrek offers excellent outward visibility.

Trims & Features – Forgo the Manual for More Options

2021 Subaru Crosstreks - subaru.com
2021 Subaru Crosstreks - subaru.com

Base – $22,245

6.5-inch infotainment touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, Bluetooth, roof rails, automatic climate control. CVT equipped base models come with X-Mode AWD, Hill Decent Control, and Subaru Eyesight (automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control).

Premium – $23,295

X-Mode AWD, fog lamps, leather wrapped steering wheel, satellite radio, optional All-Weather Package includes heated front seats, heated side mirrors, and wiper de-icer. Tech Package ($1,995) includes power driver’s seat, rear cross traffic alerts, blind spot monitor, push-button ignition, and moonroof.

Sport – $26,495

2.5L H4 engine, 17-inch alloy wheels, faux carbon fiber trim, StarTex water repellant seats with yellow stitching, Dual Function AWD, and Tech Package features for an additional $1,665.

Limited – $27,995

LED steering-responsive headlights, 18-inch alloys, 8-inch touchscreen, navigation, leather seats, rear cross traffic braking assist, optional moonroof and Harman Kardon stereo.

Hybrid – TBA

The numbers on the hybrid are yet to be announced but judging from last year the greener powertrain will carry a considerable price premium, probably starting around $35,000.

Conclusions – A Laggard No More

Subaru is often thought of a niche brand. The standard AWD, roof racks, and general outdoorsiness might lead some buyers to assume if they don’t meet the requisite daily intake of granola and quinoa they should looks elsewhere for a crossover. But that would be a mistake. Even before 2021, the Crosstrek was a great bargain within the segment based on standard and available safety equipment, a generous options list, and the unique combination of a low profile and an 8.7-inch ride height. Adding the more powerful 2.5L eliminated the Crosstrek’s greatest weakness, making it an even stronger competitor.

2021 Subaru Crosstrek - subaru.com

2021 Subaru Crosstrek – subaru.com  |  Shop new Subaru Crosstrek on Carsforsale.com

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Chris Kaiser
Chris Kaiser

Chris’ greatest passions include topiary, spelunking, and pushing aging compact cars well past 200,000 miles on cross-country road trips. His taste in cars runs from the classic and esoteric to the deeply practical with an abiding affection for VW Things, old Studebakers, and all things hybrid-crossover.

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