2021 Subaru Crosstrek

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2021 Subaru Crosstrek Test Drive Review: Affordable Adventure

Originally launched as the XV Crosstrek, the 2021 Subaru Crosstrek is currently in its second generation following great sales success. We've long described the Crosstrek as one of the best subcompact crossovers on the market, thanks to its impressive safety technology, surprising off-road capabilities, deceptively spacious interior, and affordable price tag. There was only one glaring issue: it was painfully slow. For the 2021 model year, Subaru has solved the Crosstrek's biggest weakness by adding a larger 2.5-liter engine producing 182 horsepower, while retaining a CVT gearbox and the brand's famed AWD system. There's also a more affordable base engine with a manual transmission and a hybrid variant on offer.

Even with a power boost, the Crosstrek is not without more powerful competition. The Mazda CX-30 has joined the hatch-turned-crossover segment and has substantially more power with its turbocharged engine, while the Hyundai Kona and Kia Seltos are down on power but also cost less. The Crosstrek has always been an adventure vehicle first, more capable than others at the trade-off of losing out on luxury. To find out if a new engine will help keep the Subaru Crosstrek competitive, CarBuzz spent a week-long test drive with the Sport trim to see whether more power fixes all its flaws.

Read in this review:

8.4
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2021 Subaru Crosstrek Changes: 🚙What’s the difference vs 2020 Crosstrek?

There have been a couple of major updates to the Subaru Crosstrek lineup for the 2021 model year. One of our biggest frustrations with last year's gas-only model was the underpowered engine, and Subaru has remedied this by adding an available 2.5-liter Boxer engine with a more useful 182 horsepower. This engine is standard on the Sport and Limited trims. That Sport trim is a new addition and gets a dual-function X-Mode (including a Snow/Dirt mode), unique interior and exterior accents, and hard-wearing StarTex upholstery. On the safety side, Subaru's EyeSight suite now includes advanced adaptive cruise control with lane centering.

All 2021 Crosstreks have a new front fascia, a fresh grille design, new wheels, and a retuned suspension. These changes also apply to the Crosstrek Hybrid.

Pros and Cons

  • New 2.5-liter engine provides far better performance
  • A genuinely rugged small SUV
  • Standard AWD
  • Useful ground clearance
  • Rides comfortably
  • Functional cabin with fuss-free controls
  • Still not the quickest crossover
  • No turbocharged option
  • Joyless CVT transmission
  • Infotainment feels cheap
  • Safety technology feels less advanced

Best Deals on 2021 Subaru Crosstrek

2021 Subaru Crosstrek Trims

See trim levels and configurations:

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
Base
2.0L Flat 4 Gas
6-Speed Manual
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
All-Wheel Drive
$22,245
Premium
2.0L Flat 4 Gas
6-Speed Manual
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
All-Wheel Drive
$23,295
Sport
2.5L Flat 4 Gas
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
All-Wheel Drive
$26,495
Limited
2.5L Flat 4 Gas
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
All-Wheel Drive
$27,995
See All 2021 Subaru Crosstrek Trims and Specs

2021 Crosstrek Exterior

2021 Subaru Crosstrek Front View CarBuzz
2021 Subaru Crosstrek Rear View CarBuzz
2021 Subaru Crosstrek Front Angle View CarBuzz
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Dimensions

  • Length 176.5 in
  • Wheelbase 104.9 in
  • Height 63.6 in
  • Max Width 71.0 in
  • Front Width 61.0 in
  • Rear Width 61.2 in
  • Curb Weight 3,117.0 lbs

Exterior Colors

  • Crystal Black Silica
  • Cool Gray Khaki
  • Horizon Blue Pearl
  • Ice Silver Metallic
  • Magnetite Gray Metallic
  • Pure Red
  • Plasma Yellow Pearl
  • Crystal White Pearl
  • Pure Red, Build Out: 07/09/2020
  • Plasma Yellow Pearl, Build Out: 07/09/2020
  • Crystal White Pearl, Build Out: 07/09/2020

2021 Crosstrek Performance

2021 Subaru Crosstrek Forward Vision CarBuzz
2021 Subaru Crosstrek Rearward Vision CarBuzz
2021 Subaru Crosstrek Engine CarBuzz

Engine and Transmission

  • Engines
    2.0L Flat 4 Gas, 2.5L Flat 4 Gas
  • Transmissions
    6-Speed Manual, Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
  • Drivetrain
    AWD

Handling and Driving Impressions

Our test drive revealed that the addition of a larger engine has mostly solved the Crosstrek's most glaring fault, but it still won't force Wrangler owners to switch to Subaru any time soon. The additional horsepower is appreciated, but we can't help but yearn for a turbocharged option for additional off-road fun. With the new 2.5-liter engine, the Crosstrek morphs from painfully slow to merely average. Like most Subaru models, the Crosstrek offers surprisingly great chassis balance that will bring a grin to your face. Body roll is to be expected from a lifted hatchback like this, but the steering is highly communicative and helps the driver feel in control of the experience at all times.

With its adequate ride height, the Crosstrek is a delight when sliding around a gravel road or dusty trail. Subaru's Symmetrical AWD system keeps the car feeling planted at all times, which should come in handy in rainy or snowy conditions. An available dual-function X-Mode lets drivers switch from snow/dirt to deep snow/mud, managing the engine, transmission, and AWD system to suit these conditions. On the paved road where most Crosstrek owners will spend the majority of their drive time, the vehicle rides well with minimal disruption or road noise for such an inexpensive price tag.

2021 Crosstrek Interior

2021 Subaru Crosstrek Dashboard CarBuzz
2021 Subaru Crosstrek Steering Wheel Design CarBuzz
2021 Subaru Crosstrek Gauge Cluster CarBuzz
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Seating and Interior Space

  • Seating capacity
    5-seater
  • Front Leg Room 43.1 in
  • Front Head Room 39.8 in
  • Rear Leg Room 36.5 in
  • Rear Head Room 38.0 in

2021 Crosstrek Trunk and Cargo Space

2021 Subaru Crosstrek Front Seats CarBuzz
2021 Subaru Crosstrek Rear Passenger Seats CarBuzz
2021 Subaru Crosstrek Trunk Space CarBuzz

2021 Crosstrek Safety and Reliability

Warranty

  • Basic:
    3 Years \ 36,000 Miles
  • Drivetrain:
    5 Years \ 60,000 Miles
  • Corrosion:
    5 Years \ Unlimited Miles
  • Roadside Assistance:
    3 Years \ 36,000 Miles

US NHTSA Crash Test Result

  • Overall Rating
  • Frontal Barrier Crash Rating
  • Side Crash Rating
  • Rollover Rating

Verdict: 🏁Is the 2021 Subaru Crosstrek a good car?

Driving the 2021 Subaru Crosstrek reaffirmed our love for this vehicle. The Crosstrek offers a balanced combination of comfort, off-road capability, safety, and driving pleasure in an affordable package. Adding a larger engine has mostly solved the Crosstrek's sluggish acceleration, though we still believe competitors in this segment warrant an even quicker turbocharged option. There is a charming simplicity to how the Crosstrek functions, and we'd still recommend it for a younger buyer seeking a capable adventure vehicle.

There are plenty of other options to consider in the subcompact crossover market, including the affordable Hyundai Kona and Kia Seltos, premium Mazda CX-30, off-road capable Jeep Renegade, and many more. These options each offer a different flavor of subcompact, so the choice may come down to personal preference and brand affinity. Some buyers may also prefer the more SUV-like styling of these competitors rather than the Crosstrek's lifted hatch design. With a strong reliability track record and reasonable pricing, the Subaru Crosstrek warrants high consideration here.

Check out other Subaru Crosstrek Styles

2021 Subaru Crosstrek Comparisons

Subaru Outback Subaru
Subaru Forester Subaru
CompetitorHorsepowerMPGPrice (MSRP)
Subaru Crosstrek152 hp22/29 mpg$23,145
Subaru Outback 182 hp26/33 mpg$27,645
Subaru Forester 182 hp26/33 mpg$25,895

2021 Subaru Crosstrek vs Subaru Outback

If you prefer a rugged, family-friendly vehicle with more of a wagon body style, the Outback should appeal. It starts at $26,795, so is the more expensive vehicle, but unlike the Crosstrek, it comes standard with the 2.5-liter engine and the EyeSight driver-assist suite. The Outback has the same ground clearance as the Crosstrek but far more cargo space thanks to its longer body. The Outback's 2,700-pound towing capacity also exceeds the gas-only Crosstrek's 1,500 lbs comfortably. For more power, the Outback can be upgraded with a 260-hp turbocharged engine that will see it comfortably leave behind the quickest Crosstrek. The Crosstrek is a plucky and capable SUV, but the more refined Outback is a nicer vehicle and worth the extra cash.

See Subaru Outback Review

2021 Subaru Crosstrek vs Subaru Forester

The Forester is a step up from the smaller Crosstrek, offering a comfortable ride and impressive off-road capability in a bigger package. At $24,795, it starts at $2,500 more than the Crosstrek. The Forester is only offered with the bigger, 182-hp 2.5-liter engine, but a manual gearbox is not available. The Forester is a bit better equipped as standard and offers additional extras like a power tailgate and a driver's side memory system. It also has a lot more cargo space than the smaller Crosstrek, but the towing capacity and ground clearance of both models are the same. If economy matters, the Crosstrek Hybrid wins as there is no hybrid version of the Forester. The Forester is everything the Crosstrek is, just more of it. Both are great SUVs but we'd get the Forester if we could.

See Subaru Forester Review

2021 Subaru Crosstrek Popular Comparisons

The most popular competitors of 2021 Subaru Crosstrek:

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