2021 Subaru Crosstrek Review
If REI ever needs an extra-small SUV to have in picture backgrounds of its catalog, the Subaru Crosstrek will surely do. With its exaggerated fender arches and raised roof rails, it easily looks the part of a get-back-to-nature SUV. There's some substance to the style, too, with an elevated stance good for 8.7 inches of ground clearance and standard all-wheel drive that can help this little Subaru find its way over rutted trails.
In prior years, we were disappointed by the Crosstrek's weak base engine and slow acceleration. But for 2021, there's a new 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that ups the power in a big way. Standard on the upper-level Sport and Limited trims, the 2.5-liter engine provides 182 horsepower and significantly increases the Crosstrek's acceleration and desirability. The 152-horsepower engine is still a sore spot for the plucky Subaru, but buyers who want more power have a seriously appealing option now. So is the 2021 Crosstrek the best SUV for you? Check out our Expert Rating to learn more.
We recommended the Crosstrek before, just with the caveat that it was painfully slow. Now, thanks to the optional 2.5-liter engine, it has near class-leading acceleration to go with its premium interior, solid off-road capability, and impressive suite of driver aids.
How does the Crosstrek drive?
With the base powertrain, the Crosstrek can seem painfully slow when accelerating onto the freeway. But the 182-hp 2.5-liter engine shaves nearly 2 seconds off its 0-60 mph acceleration, bringing it down to a respectable 8.4 seconds. Combine that with communicative steering and above-average off-road capability and you've got a seriously competitive extra-small SUV.
Handling, however, is underwhelming. The Crosstrek's hard tires provide only modest grip on pavement, and the tall ride height brings about noticeable body roll when you crank around a turn. Most rival SUVs offer a more enthusiastic on-road driving experience.
How comfortable is the Crosstrek?
With a relatively quiet and smooth ride, the Crosstrek is easy to drive on long trips. And with the optional 2.5-liter engine, there's less noise in the cabin too. There's still a bit of a growl when you bury the throttle to make a passing maneuver, but the sound is a bit more pleasant than the standard 2.0-liter engine's wheezy soundtrack.
The front and rear seats are comfortable for extra-long road trips, even if they are a bit on the firm side. But if you find yourself on a twisty road, you'll quickly discover the front seats a little lacking in the bolstering department. The climate control system is easy to operate, with several large, easily readable dials, but some of the vents are located in inconvenient spots.
How’s the interior?
The Crosstrek's cabin is highly functional and well laid out. The high-resolution screens have large fonts and simple menu structures. The lifted ride height of the Crosstrek (compared to its sibling, the Impreza) makes it easy to get in and out of and delivers excellent visibility. The driving position is good too, with lots of adjustment from the tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel.
There's plenty of room in both the front and back seats, and the Crosstrek offers one of the more spacious cabins in the class. The only space that will be slightly cramped is the rear seat, but just for taller passengers.
How’s the tech?
Standard features including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto give the Crosstrek an easy entry point for tech-savvy users. The crisp center screen is appealing, and voice controls allow for changing things, such as the radio station, with only a few small tweaks to everyday language.
The optional eight-speaker Harman Kardon stereo (Limited trim only) is an upgrade from the standard setup and offers some extra volume and increased audio quality. The navigation display is easy to see and understand. The Crosstrek's lane-keeping assist system intervenes pretty regularly, but not to the point of being overzealous or annoying.
How’s the storage?
Interior storage is a little below average. There's 20.8 cubic feet of storage behind the rear seats or 55 cubes when you fold the seats down. Small-item storage is a bit limited, so you'll have to be creative when storing your personal items. Child seats can be installed very easily thanks to the large door openings and high roof.
How economical is the Crosstrek?
With the 2.5-liter engine (which is only available with the CVT), the Crosstrek gets an EPA-estimated 29 mpg combined (27 city/34 highway). That's pretty good for an off-road-friendly compact crossover SUV. Real-world fuel economy isn't as impressive, however. On our 115-mile highway-heavy evaluation route, our Crosstrek Limited returned 27.5 mpg. It does have a long range thanks to its big 16-gallon fuel tank, which is 20%-30% larger than most rivals.
Is the Crosstrek a good value?
Subaru offers a good number of features for what you pay. Our test car had solid build quality. There are lots of nice soft-touch surfaces on the inside of the Crosstrek, especially at the top Limited trim level. A top-trim Mazda CX-30 is nicer still, but overall the Crosstrek easily justifies its cost.
Subaru's three-year/36,000-mile warranty is average for the class, but it covers items such as wiper blades and brake pads — that's rare and appreciated.
This is where the Crosstrek shines. There are only one or two vehicles in this class that can go as far off the beaten path as the Crosstrek, especially when you consider available features and the low price point. It's a gateway into the outdoors with a bit of its own flash, style and finally enough horsepower.
Which Crosstrek does Edmunds recommend?
Because the base engine is so lackluster, we recommend upgrading to the new Sport trim level. It gets the new 2.5-liter engine, which significantly improves the driving experience. The Sport also comes with simulated leather upholstery, heated front seats and unique styling flares. On top of that, we recommend adding the optional 8-inch touchscreen.
Subaru Crosstrek models
The 2021 Subaru Crosstrek is offered in four trim levels: Base, Premium, Sport and Limited. All Crosstreks come standard with all-wheel drive. Features include: