This year, Subaru beefs up its entry-level Crosstrek hatchback with more power, a new trim and updated safety tech.
The compact Crosstrek reprises the lifted-wagon format that birthed the Outback and set Subaru on its off-roading-lite path. Based on the Impreza five-door hatchback, it debuted in the States in 2013 and is now one of the company’s top-selling models.
Crosstrek rides on 8.7 inches of ground clearance and all-wheel-drive is standard. It’s not the ultimate off-roader but it is willing — and able — to tackle more challenging terrain than most small CUVs.
Like its siblings, the Crosstrek prioritizes practicality over luxury, durability over refinement. Its cabin is comfortable but not cosseting. Its ride-and-handling package favors comfort over engagement.
Crosstrek accommodates four adults and a good-sized cargo area resides below the hatch lid.
Quick and thrifty
Subaru apparently decided it could move a few more copies if it had more power. So, for 2021, a 182-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine joins the existing 152-hp 2.0-liter four in a new two-engine lineup.
A plug-in hybrid is also available.
Crosstreks fitted with the new engine are quite a bit quicker, both from 0-60 and in passing situations, without a significant fuel efficiency hit.
The new engine runs the 0-60 sprint in 7.5 seconds, 1.6 seconds quicker than the 2.0-liter.
When paired with a continuously variable transmission (CVT), the smaller engine earns an EPA rating of 30 mpg in combined driving; the new one averages 29 mpg.
With either engine, the Crosstrek tows up to 1,500 pounds.
In addition to more power, the 2021 Crosstrek gets a mild front-end facelift, with a revised grille, bumper and fog lamp enclosures. The EyeSight suite of safety and driver-assist features is updated with a revised adaptive cruise control system that includes lane-centering technology.
Crosstrek is available in four trims: Base ($22,245) and Premium (23,295) are powered by the 2.0-liter engine; the new Sport ($26,495) and the top-level and Limited ($27,995) get the larger one.
A six-speed manual transmission is standard on the Base and Premium trims, with an available CVT. Sport and Limited can be had only with the CVT.
The new engine quickens the Crosstrek but doesn’t enhance dynamics or make it more engaging. The suspension is tuned for comfort and stability, not performance. It responds without urgency to throttle and steering inputs and has little enthusiasm for cornering.
The CVT lets engine revs soar during hard acceleration but is otherwise unobtrusive.
Ride quality is quite good and our Sport tester largely shrugged off broken road surfaces.
The Crosstrek cabin is a grab-bag of soft-touch surfaces, thin hard plastics and faux carbon-fiber trim. The upper trims get bright contrast stitching and added bits of steering-wheel brightwork.
New Sport trim
Materials quality and fit-and-finish lack the polish of more refined competitors. There’s adequate casual storage, but most bins and cubbies are unlined. Knobs and switches are large and well-organized but their action is inconsistent. Cupholders do a poor job securing drinks.
All Crosstreks include automatic climate control; keyless entry and ignition; Subaru StarLink multimedia system with a 6.5-inch touchscreen and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay; power windows with auto up/auto down on both driver and passenger sides; carpeted floor mats; and more.
All CVT-equipped Crosstreks include the EyeSight suite of safety and driver-assist features.
The Sport trim gets cosmetic updates inside and out, including gunmetal finish for the grille, mirrors and badges, unique cladding and 17-inch alloy wheels with dark gray finish. Inside, there are gunmetal and simulated carbon-fiber trim accents and yellow metallic finish trim.
Subaru’s StarTex faux leather is a brittle and unconvincing substitute for the real thing. It’s eco-friendly, but the durable fabric seat-covers of the lower trims looks and feels better.
Sport exclusively features X-MODE, which includes hill descent control and selectable drive modes that optimize AWD performance when conditions get dicey.
Crosstrek fills a unique niche in the market. With more power on tap, that niche will almost certainly grow.
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2021 Subaru Crosstrek Sport
Vehicle base price: $22,245
Trim level base price: $26,495
As tested: $29,145 (includes destination and handling) Options: moonroof; blind-spot detection with lane change assist and rear cross-traffic alert; StarLink 8 multimedia system
Tow rating: 1,500 pounds
EPA rating: 29 combined/27 city/34 highway
Regular unleaded gas specified