2021 Subaru Crosstrek Review

2021 Subaru Crosstrek - Though it has a rough-and-tumble image, Crosstrek is perfectly at home in the city.


The Subaru Crosstrek is a subcompact crossover/wagon that seats five. It's based on Subaru Impreza mechanicals and, like almost all Subaru vehicles, comes only with all-wheel drive. Competitors include the Chevrolet Trax, Ford EcoSport, Honda HR-V, Hyundai Kona, Kia Seltos, Nissan Kicks and Toyota C-HR. Crosstrek was first introduced in 2013 and most recently redesigned in 2018. Changes for 2021 a new engine option, more standard driver assist features and a redesigned front bumper and grille.

Four trim levels are offered: Base, Premium, Sport and Limited. Prices start at $22,245 and climb to $27,9955. A 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine that makes 152 horsepower is standard on the Base and Premium. Newly available for 2021 is a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine that makes 182 horsepower. It is standard on the Sport and Limited. Unlike most four-cylinder engines that have the pistons arranged in a vertical manner, the Subaru engine places its cylinders in horizontal opposition. Called a "boxer", this design is lower and shorter than a more conventional design. The 2.0-liter engine mates to either a 6-speed manual or continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) while the 2.5-liter comes only with the CVT automatic. Crosstrek is also offered as a gas-electric hybrid, however the hybrid is not available in Illinois.

The all-wheel-drive system includes active-torque vectoring and hill-descent control. Ground clearance is 8.7-inches and maximum towing capacity is 1500 pounds.

Available features include blind-spot alert, leather upholstery, Harman Kardon audio system and adaptive LED headlights. Subaru's EyeSight Driver Assist Technology Package is standard on all models and adds adaptive cruise control, automatic pre-collision warning and braking, lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist.

With just one passenger aboard, the 2.0-liter engine provides adequate acceleration from a stop and decent passing response. It's somewhat dulled by the slushy continuously variable transmission that slips between ratios with less authority than most. Add a few adults or a hundred pounds of cargo and acceleration is blunted, to the point where drivers will be wishing for a few more ponies under the hood.

And that wish was granted for 2021 with the addition of the 2.5-liter four on the Sport and Limited. Though no powerhouse, the new mill lowers the 0-60 MPH time to a middling 8.5 seconds. More importantly it adds mid-range punch that's felt when pulling away from stoplights and in highway passing situations. It seems to work a little better with the CVT automatic, but still lacks the refinement of a traditional automatic in passing situations.

The 2.0-liter-powered Crosstrek is EPA rated at 28 MPG city and 33 MPG highway. The 2.5-liter Crosstrek nets out at 27/34 MPG.  In either case, those numbers match or beat most competitors. Real-world fuel economy is impressive, with the Crosstrek averaging an easy 30 MPG in an even mix of suburban commuting and highway driving. The 16.6-gallon fuel tank is quite large for the class and easily facilitates 400 miles of driving between fill-ups.

Subaru's all-wheel-drive system does not have a low range, so that limits the Crosstrek's ultimate off-road ability. Still, ground clearance is a plus and the suspension has lots of travel. Plus, active-torque vectoring transfers engine power front-to-rear and side-to-side to send thrust to the wheels with the most traction. That translates into a vehicle that more than capable on Chicago's snow-covered roads and the occasional mountain trail.

Behind the wheel, Crosstrek feels very much like other Subaru models. The absorbent suspension does an excellent job of soaking up pavement imperfections and maintaining a comfortable cabin. However, there's a sponginess to the ride that's almost rubbery. That same feeling transfers into the sloppy steering and numb brake pedal. It's not that the Crosstrek isn't athletic, it's just not a sporty as some competitors -- and that's by design, as the vehicle is quite capable off road and also comfortable on road.

Unfortunately, both engines are a bit buzzy and there's only minimal sound insulation. Together, this creates a somewhat noisy cabin -- especially at highway speeds. This gets particularly annoying on long highway trips on concrete pavement, where the tires add a constant hum.

Driver's face a traditional twin-dial setup through a beefy steering wheel that sports buttons for cruise control, audio system and information display. The center stack features a high-mounted information screen, large touch-screen display that's augmented by clearly marked menu buttons and simple rotary dials for climate control. Materials are appropriate for the class with top trim levels adding more than a few nice touches like a leather-wrapped dashtop and chrome accents throughout.

Subaru's infotainment system is fairly straightforward and includes support for Android Auto and Apple Car Play.

The front seats are nicely bolstered -- if a bit upright -- and provide ample adjustment fore and aft. Head room is generous. On many compact crossovers, the rear seats are penalty boxes. Not so on the Crosstrek, which offers good room for large adults on nicely padded seat cushions. Entry/exit is a snap through wide-opening doors. Another bonus is excellent outward visibility thanks to thin roof pillars and a low beltline.

At 20.8 cubic feet, cargo capacity is on par with others in the class. In addition, folding the rear seats extends capacity to 55.3 cubic feet. The cargo floor is extremely low and hatch opening quite large, making it easy to load and unload bulky items. Interior storage is good with several open and covered bins throughout and large front-door map pockets.

Bottom Line --
Subaru would like you to think the Crosstrek is a crossover, it's not. It's a high-built wagon. That said, it's eminently more useful that most in the class in many ways. It offers ample room for four adults, has generous cargo capacity, provides good fuel economy, offers the go anywhere ability of all-wheel drive and is available with a complete suite of safety and technology features. When shopping comparably equipped competitors, prices are reasonable as well. Downsides include a somewhat sloppy ride, milquetoast acceleration and higher-than-expected interior noise levels. Overall, the Crosstrek makes a great city vehicle that can double as a weekend getaway car for that trip to the country.

Mark Bilek

Mark Bilek is the Senior Director of Communications and Technology for the Chicago Auto Trade Association and the General Manager for DriveChicago.com. He is also responsible for developing and maintaining the Chicago Auto Show Web site.

Mark has been reviewing vehicles for more than two decades. Previously, he was associate publisher at Consumer Guide, where he oversaw publication of Consumer Guide Car & Truck Test, Consumer Guide's Used Car Book, and ConsumerGuide.com. He was also responsible for publication of "Collectible Automobile" and various hardcover automotive titles. In 2001 and 2002 he served as president of a Midwest Automotive Media Association. Mark has appeared on NBC TV, ABC TV, Fox News, WGN and MotorTrend TV as an automotive consultant. He hosts the Drive Chicago radio show on WLS 890 AM and was a regular guest on WGN Radio's Steve & Johnnie show. Mark lives in the northwest suburbs with his wife and three sons.