It didn’t take long for the Crosstrek to prove popular with customers. Launched back in 2013, Subaru decided to debut the second-generation for the 2018 model year. This current model isn’t much different, building on the success of the original.
New for 2021: The Crosstrek adds a new Sport trim for 2021 (called Outdoor in Canada). This model, plus the top Limited one, now carries a bigger, more powerful 2.5-liter engine. Power is up to 182 horsepower and 176 lb-ft.
Based on the same global platform as the Subaru Impreza, the Subaru Crosstrek is a CUV that feels more like a car than a crossover—in fact it looks more like a car than a crossover too. That’s because in many ways it really is just an Impreza with a lifted suspension and some more Outback-esque body cladding.
In true Subaru fashion, the Crosstrek is only available in all-wheel-drive and gets power from a 2.0- or 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine.
Thanks to the shared platform, the Subaru Crosstrek has a lot of the same driving dynamics as the smaller Impreza sedan and hachback. The standard engine can feel underpowered for this much vehicle, though it still has a persistent, plucky feeling. This five-passenger, five-door CUV, comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission, while a CVT is available. The Subaru Crosstrek has a stiffened chassis over the previous model. These improvements should help handling and boost fuel economy.
One of the most affordable models in the Subaru lineup, it’s roughly $2,500 more than an Impreza, making it an attractive offering against many compact crossovers on the market today—especially when you consider base price for those competitors is often listed for front-drive only models.
The Crosstrek is also available as a plug-in hybrid model, with a fully-electric range of 17 miles and a total range of 480 miles.
The Subaru Crosstrek is made in Japan and exported to the United States.
Pros/ Comfortable interior / X-Mode off-road capabilities are impressive / Car-like driving dynamics
Cons/ 2.0-liter engine is underpowered / Manual transmission isn't engaging / Car-like looks may not work for some
Bottom Line/ The Subaru Crosstrek's size and price tag fit in a sweet spot for most buyers. With newly refined driving characteristics, legendary all-wheel-drive, and flexible storage space, this is a compact crossover worth taking a closer look.
Table of contents
Subaru Crosstrek Powertrain
Subaru offers a choice of three powertrains for the Crosstrek. The lineup starts with a little 2.0-liter flat-four. At 152 hp and 145 lb-ft of torque it’s class competitive on paper. The Crosstrek’s standard all-wheel drive—typically optional on the competition—does blunt its performance, though. A six-speed manual is still available, but the vast majority of Crosstreks ship with Subaru’s continuously variable transmission (CVT).
There’s now a larger engine available in the higher trims. With an extra half-liter of displacement, the flat-four now produces a healthier 182 hp and 176 lb-ft of torque. We’d lament the lack of a manual transmission with the 2.5-liter, but a) the Crosstrek’s row-your-own option is not one of the greats, and b) it isn’t compatible with Subaru’s suite of safety assists.
Finally, there’s a plug-in hybrid version. This little fuel-miser sticks to the smaller gas engine, combined with a small, 8.8-kWh battery and two electric motors. Outputs are a similar 148 lb-ft and 149 lb-ft of torque, but naturally the PHEV posts better fuel economy figures. It can also run up to 17 miles (27 km) on electrons only.
Subaru Crosstrek Fuel Economy
The Subaru Crosstrek achieves above-average fuel economy figures, so long as you opt for the CVT. So equipped, the 2.0-liter hits an EPA-quoted 30 mpg combined, split between 28 city and 33 highway.
Sticking with the stick? The six-speed manual drops its numbers to just 22 city, 29 highway, and 25 mpg combined.
The new, larger engine doesn’t hurt your wallet much at the pumps either. It’s 1 mpg worse in the city (27 mpg), but 1 better on the highway (34), for a 29 mpg average.
Meanwhile, the Hybrid achieves an estimated 35 mpg average, or 90 mpg-equivalent when running on nothing but electrons.
Regular 87 octane gasoline is the recommended fuel in all 2019 Subaru Crosstrek models.
Subaru Crosstrek Safety rating
Subaru introduced several new engineering changes to the Crosstrek in the 2018 model redesign, and those changes have paid off. The current Subaru Crosstrek has earned a Top Safety Pick Plus from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, or IIHS. When equipped with the optional LED headlights and collision prevention system, the Crosstrek earns top marks across every test.
Available optional on all trims is the Subaru Eye-Sight suite of driver aids. This includes forward collision braking, pre-collision throttle management, lane-keep assist, and lane departure warning. Upgrade to the highest-level Limited trim and get automatic reverse braking, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alerts.
Subaru Crosstrek Features and Pricing
Crosstrek: Starts at $23,295 (CVT + $1,350)
There is a good selection of features available across the four different Subaru Crosstrek trims. Some of the standard features include steering wheel-mounted controls, Bluetooth® connectivity, a 6.5-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, USB charge ports, and cloth seating.
The base model comes with the six-speed manual transmission as standard. Opting for the CVT adds $1,350 to the bottom line, but adds in Subaru’s EyeSight suite of safety systems.
Crosstrek Premium: $24,345 (CVT + $1,350)
The higher of the 2.0-equipped models, the Premium adds fog lights, body-color folding side mirrors to the exterior of the Crosstrek. Orange contrast stitching on its cloth seats mark it out inside. Buyers also gain auto on/off headlights, an additional USB port up front, and an upgraded infotainment system. Options include a power moonroof, power driver’s seat, and leather-wrapped shifter.
Crosstrek Sport: $27,545
The Sport is the cheapest way to get the Crosstrek with the new 2.5-liter engine. Available only with the CVT, the Sport gets a unique front bumper, plus its own version of Subaru’s X-Mode drive-select system. Inside, it gets a water-repelling seat upholstery for easy wipe-down cleaning after off-road adventures.
Buyers still get the 6.5-inch infotainment system in the Sport, though a larger 8.0-inch item is optional. Six speakers and 4G LTE WiFi are both standard.
Crosstrek Limited: $29,045
Sitting at the top of the lineup, the Limited also uses the larger 2.5-liter engine. In addition to all the equipment from the other models, the Limited also packs in leather-trimmed seats, 18-inch alloy wheels, adaptive headlights, and powered driver’s seat. An upgraded Harman Kardon sound system and the moonroof are the only options.
Subaru Crosstrek Competitors
The subcompact crossover, or CUV, segment is still a relatively new one. But, there is a list of competitors that the Subaru Crosstrek goes up against. Other CUVs include the Hyundai Kona, Toyota CH-R, Kia Nero, Honda HRV, and Mazda CX3.
The Subaru Crosstrek has much of the same exciting styling many others in the CUV segment have and performs with many of the same car-like driving characteristics. What sets the Crosstrek apart is the X-Mode off-road system and full-time all-wheel-drive. Both are exclusive to Subaru and perform very well in a variety of conditions.
2021 Subaru Crosstrek First Drive Review
by Kyle Patrick
The Subaru Crosstrek was pretty close to the ideal small crossover for auto journalists.
Very car-like? Check. Tidy dimensions? Check. Even an available manual? Check. There was just one major flaw: the engine. The standard 2.0-liter boxer four-cylinder was what you’d charitably call “adequate”. It struggled to pull the Crosstrek up to passing speeds, with foot-to-floor moments resulting in more noise than forward motion.
When the Crosstrek first touched down in 2013, this was fine. Now, as the sub-compact crossover scene is positively packed—ahem—the little Subaru’s weaknesses are in sharper relief. To combat the influx of competition, Subaru has gone with a classic move: drop a bigger engine in. It’s introduced a new trim to take advantage of it too, the Sport (Outdoor in Canada), with chunkier exterior styling and more off-road chops.
We spent a day with a 2021 Crosstrek equipped with the larger 2.5-liter engine, and found its added muscle has made an already good option in the segment even better.
Customers demanded more displacement
We start with that new engine. Only available on higher-up trims like our Canadian-spec Outdoor model—roughly equivalent to the new Sport trim in the US—the 2.5-liter boxer engine is the same unit found in the Legacy. It produces a healthy 182 horsepower and 176 lb-ft of torque; improvements of 30 and 31, respectively, over the base 2.0-liter. That might not seem massive, but the change dramatically improves day-to-day activities like highway merges. Still utilizing a continuously variable transmission (CVT), the Crosstrek now builds speed with more confidence, and can hold cruising speed with much less effort than before. No need to phone ahead and plot out highway passes in advance: just bury the throttle, watch the revs flare up, and feel them translate into forward momentum.
According to the Subaru Canada team, the new engine is a direct result of customer feedback. Buyers wanted more power, and the good news is they won’t see much of a change at the pumps for the upgrade. The combined miles per gallon drops by just one point from the 2.0-liter, to a 29 mpg average (8.0 L/100 km). That’s balanced by a better highway figure than the smaller four-pot, coming in at 34 mpg (7.0).
The first leg of our test route was largely highway, and it took little time to see (and feel) the benefits of the new engine. The CVT “kicks down” when you demand all the power, shifting it past lumbering 18-wheelers and middle-lane dawdlers. Settling into a steady 68 mph cruise, however, netted an incredible 44 mpg (5.3 L/100 km). At that rate you’d be looking at over 725 miles on a single tank.
Still adept off-road
Then again, you’re not buying a Crosstrek to just sail the country’s motorways. No, you’re buying a crossover for the ability to head off the beaten path when the mood strikes. To that end, Subaru took us to a light off-roading course during our day with the 2021 Crosstrek. It was more rented-cottage than Rubicon, but there were still plenty of jagged rocks, rutted paths, and even some water crossings. It looked far more imposing than we imagine most Crosstrek buyers would submit their rides to, yet the 2021 model took everything the forest trail threw at it without issue.
SEE ALSO: 2020 Subaru Outback Review
With a standard 8.7 inches (220 mm) of ground clearance, the Crosstrek consistently rolled over the larger rocks on the path without any expensive-sounding dings from underneath. The Sport/Outdoor gains a unique two-stage X-Mode drive system, with dedicated driving modes for snow, dirt, and mud. We switch between the modes on the trail and the benefits are immediately clear. With X-Mode engaged, the Crosstrek is surefooted, computer algorithms smoothing throttle response and ensuring the power is being used most effectively.
We ask Ted Lalka, VP of planning and marketing at Subaru Canada, if the team found any unique challenges with off-roading a continuously variable transmission. He explains that the decision to use a chain for the CVT instead of a belt has helped, not only making it more responsive but more durable as well.
Car-like in all the good ways
Circling back to the intro, the Crosstrek has long been a critical darling because of how close to cars it sits on the car/SUV spectrum. It’s obviously based on the Impreza, in the same way the Outback cribs from the Legacy, but that pays dividends in how it drives, and in accessibility.
Getting into the Crosstrek, we immediately notice the higher seating position relative to the Impreza. The payoffs are numerous. For starters, it provides a clear view to the end of the hood, mentally shrinking the Crosstrek. (At 176.5 inches in length, it’s more Kia Sportage-sized than the new Seltos.) It also makes getting in and out easier, be it for kids or those with bad backs. Headroom is still ample too, though it’s worth noting our Canadian tester doesn’t come with the sunroof you’ll find in a comparable US-spec model.
Space in the second row is competitive. The afore-mentioned Seltos offers an extra inch and a half over the 36.5 inches of legroom in the back of the Subaru. To counter that, the Subaru does have around the same amount of extra legroom up front, so you should be able to match the Kia on balance. The trunk is where the Subaru loses ground, offering 20.8 cubic feet compared to 26.6. Drop the rear seats and you’re looking at 55.3 cubes; the Kia offers 62.8.
On the road, the Crosstrek’s high suspension and chunky all-season tires translate to a smooth, comfortable ride. Its relatively light 3,265 lb (1,480 kg) curb weight means it turns in quickly, and it will hold on in corners more than that ride height would suggest. Even the CVT is agreeable. It can still buzz up in certain scenarios, but will fake gear shifts when you request all power from it.
Standard safety for a reasonable price
Subaru is bullish with its EyeSight system, and with good reason: it’s a comprehensive suite of safety features. For 2021, every automatic-equipped model features EyeSight, including all of the usual active aids like automated emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and lane-keep assist. 2021 models also include an advanced cruise control with lane centering. We found the latter very effective, but also quite forceful; a slight tug from the wheel on our end saw a sharp correction from the system, swerving to the far side of the lane.
The entry point for the 2021 Crosstrek isn’t much different from before. US pricing increases by just $100, with the lineup now starting at $23,295 after destination ($25,595 in Canada). The new Sport/Outdoor sits in the middle of the range, offering the most affordable way into 2.5-liter ownership at $27,545 ($31,795 CAD). The Limited remains the bells-and-whistles range-topper. It lists for a few thousand more than the new trim either side of the border. The Sport gets a unique exterior look, plus its own wipe-down interior fabric, with flashes of yellow trim and contrast stitching to brighten things up.
Verdict: 2021 Subaru Crosstrek First Drive Review
Subaru didn’t rock the boat with the revised Crosstrek. It’s stuck to the brand’s core tenets—value, safety, a sense of adventure, and a sprinkling of driving fun—while tweaking the details. The brand could’ve sat on its laurels: the Crosstrek outsells the Impreza, Legacy, WRX and BRZ combined in the US, and just had its best-ever sales month in Canada.
Instead, Subaru listened to its customers, and addressed the single biggest issue they had with the previous model. The new 2.5-liter engine transforms the Crosstrek, making it an easier car to drive on the highway. That the extra power rings in at a reasonable price, and barely registers at the pumps, only adds to the value equation. The Crosstrek was already high up on our list of sub-compact crossovers, and the 2.5-liter makes it an even more attractive option now.
|Price Range (USD) /||$23,295 – $29,045|
|Engine /||2.0L F4 / 2.5L F4|
|Horsepower (hp) /||152 / 182|
|Torque (lb-ft) /||145 / 176|
|Fuel Economy (mpg) /||22/29/25 (2.0 MT) / 28/33/30 (2.0 CVT) / 27/34/29 (2.5 CVT)|
|Drivetrain /||6MT/CVT, AWD|
|Seating Capacity /||Five|
|Cargo Capacity (cu-ft) /||20.8 / 55.3|
|Towing Capacity (lb) /||1,500|
Our Final Verdict
Thanks to a redesign in 2018, the Subaru Crosstrek is a capable, fun-looking, comfortable CUV that does very well off-road. Subaru builds on its new global platform to create a CUV that’s a bit bigger than most, and the only one with all-wheel drive standard. While the 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine is a bit lacking, it still has many of the driving dynamics of a car. An entry-level price point around $22,000 makes this a must-look for CUV shoppers.4.0
|Space and Comfort||9.0|