2021 Subaru Crosstrek

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection Expert Review

Robert Duffer Robert Duffer Senior Editor
September 17, 2020

Buying tip

The new Sport model strikes the right balance of features, safety, capability, and value.

features & specs

Limited CVT
28 city / 33 hwy
27 city / 34 hwy
22 city / 29 hwy

The 2021 Subaru Crosstrek flexes a more potent available powertrain but still prioritizes safety and capability.

What kind of car is the 2021 Subaru Crosstrek? What does it compare to?

The Subaru Crosstrek is a small crossover SUV that seats five but slots under the Forester as Subaru’s smallest SUV. Exceptional standard safety features and bona fide off-road capability make it a compelling pick amid so many other small crossover SUVs, ranging from the Kia Seltos to the Jeep Renegade. 

Is the 2021 Subaru Crosstrek a good car?

Review continues below

The Crosstrek is a good car that prioritizes safety and versatility with standard all-wheel drive and 8.7 inches of ground clearance that enables it to go off-road. On roads, the pokey powertrains and standard driver assistance systems keep it safe, even though it’s on the smaller side. We give it a TCC Rating of 6.0 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

What's new for the 2021 Subaru Crosstrek?

A new Sport trim joins the Crosstrek’s small lineup for 2021, with a more potent powertrain borrowed from the larger Subaru Outback and Subaru Forester. The Sport model highlights most of the changes inside, outside, and under the hood of the 2021 Crosstrek, which otherwise carries over from the previous year. 

Lurking in the shadow of the larger Subaru Outback, the Crosstrek’s integrated roof rails and black cladding project the off-road capability many other small crossovers pretend to have. The Sport and top Limited trims wear distinct bumpers with even more cladding on the front bumper of the Sport model and over its 17-inch wheels. Limited trims get 18-inch wheels, and new wheel designs grace the side face of all Crosstreks.

Until 2021, the Crosstrek was powered by a plodding 152-horsepower 2.0-liter flat-4. An anachronistic 6-speed manual routes power to all four wheels on Base and Premium trims, but the continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) available on those trims and standard on Sport and Limited is well worth the $1,350 upcharge. Sport and Limited versions also come standard with the new 182-hp 2.5-liter flat-4 that gives the Crosstrek more grit and a bit more rallycross fun. At some point in the near future, an all-electric version is expected to replace the limited release plug-in hybrid Crosstrek. 

Accent stitching on Sport and Limited trims provides some pop from an otherwise plain interior that can get busy in the cockpit. It’s roomy enough to fit four adults, or five in a pinch, but cargo room behind the rear seats is average for the small crossover class.

Those occupants will be as safe as possible, according to federal and independent crash tests that have earned the Crosstrek top marks in all nine years of testing. The standard safety features with the CVT include automatic emergency braking, active lane control, adaptive cruise control and a whole lot more bundled under Subaru’s Eyesight system. Models with the manual do not come with those features.  

How much does the 2021 Subaru Crosstrek cost?

The 2021 Subaru Crosstrek costs $23,295 (including mandatory destination charge) in base trim with a 6-speed manual, but we would skip the manual for the CVT that costs $1,350 more but comes with all the standard safety features mentioned above. 

While the Premium with the CVT is a good value at $25,695 with heated front seats and a leather-wrapped steering wheel, our pick is the new Sport trim with the standard 2.5-liter flat-4 for $27,545. The loaded Limited trim creeps up to $30,000 and beyond. 

Where is the Subaru Crosstrek made?

The Subaru Crosstrek is manufactured in Gunma, Japan.


2021 Subaru Crosstrek


The 2021 Subaru Crosstrek sports a new bumper cover and wheel designs that make it look more like the Outback.

Is the Subaru Crosstrek a good-looking car?

Styled somewhere between a Merrell hiking boot and a Keen water sandal on wheels, the 2021 Subaru Crosstrek small crossover wears its black cladding and 8.7 inches of ground clearance like a beard. Beards are in. 

With integrated roof rails and black cladding wrapped around the body like the outer sole of a boot, the Crosstrek plays in the shadows of the Subaru Outback but with smaller proportions. It doesn’t look much different than when it launched for 2013, and that has been copied by most other small crossovers. It’s a 5 out of 10 overall. 

Black cladding on the sills and arches extends to a revised front bumper with more—you guessed it—cladding. New designs spin on the 17- or 18-inch alloy wheels, and the new Sport trim gets even more blocky cladding over the wheel arches on gray 17-inch alloy wheels. A flash of gray gunmetal accents the grille, mirror caps, and badging on the Sport model. 

Form follows function inside, with cloth seats, soft-touch dash materials, and a center stack that goes on forever into a cramped, almost inaccessible set of USB ports. Hooded at the top, the vehicle info display gets more sophisticated based on the trim level and the standard active safety features. Below it and flanked by vertical vents is a 6.5-inch touchscreen that can be upgraded to 8.0 inches. Scrolling further down are climate controls and hard-to-reach USB ports. 

Premium trims add contrasting stitching and leather-wrapped steering wheel, while Limited trim adds leather to the seats and orange stitching on the seats and dash. Sport trims get vegan water-repellent upholstery with lime stitching.

Review continues below


2021 Subaru Crosstrek


The 2021 Subaru Crosstrek comes with two engine choices and legitimate off-road capability.

Is the Subaru Crosstrek 4WD?

Yes. Subaru’s crossover SUVs earn off-road credibility through all-wheel drive, ample ground clearance, and a stable, grounded feel. But the base flat-4 engine has been slow enough to get a point removed on our scale. That is not the case for the 2021 Subaru Crosstrek. An available 182-hp 2.5-liter flat-4 paired with an excellent continuously variable automatic transmission inspires dreams of a rallycross, though purists would clamor for the 6-speed manual.

The base engine with the CVT in the 2021 Crosstrek earns it a 5 out of 10.

How fast is the Subaru Crosstrek?

Neither powertrain is very fast, but the uprated engine new for 2021 paired with the CVT makes for a lot more fun than the previous Crosstrek. It goes 0-60 mph in 8.2 seconds instead of 9.7 seconds with the smaller engine, according to Subaru. 

Subaru Crosstreks in base and Premium trims use a 152-horsepower 2.0-liter flat-4 that makes 145 pound-feet of torque. Standard all-wheel drive adds weight that makes the 2.0-liter a plodding, pokey proposition. A 6-speed manual is standard on those trims as well, but aside from the sense of self-reliance that comes with it, it’s slower, less efficient, and not compatible with advanced safety features. 

The extra $1,350 for the CVT that comes standard on Sport and Limited trims is well worth it. Around town, the CVT stays in an efficient power band without the droning endemic to the last generation of CVTs. But with a heavier foot, the gear stepping in the CVT essentially acts like an 8-speed automatic. At highway speeds and needing to pass a horse trailer, it’s best to flick the paddle shifters down a “gear” or two to crack that whip and bust a move.   

That is not a problem with the new 182-hp 2.5-liter flat-4 that makes 176 lb-ft. Taken from Subaru Forester and dropped in the smaller Crosstrek on Sport and Limited trims, the engine is plucky but not powerful. It hits 60 mph in 8.2 seconds, compared to 9.7 seconds in the 2.0-liter. 

Still, the Crosstrek handles well, with a low roofline offsetting the ground clearance to limit body roll and an independent suspension that soaks up road imperfections. The pluckier engine and solid handling might tempt some drivers to seek out gravel roads where the pavement ends to explore...at speed.  

There’s some wind noise at higher speeds, but at slow speeds some Crosstreks have an X-Mode off-road button with hill descent control that can automatically brake the Crosstrek up to 20 mph. CVT models also come with SI-Drive and a more responsive “Sport” mode or more efficient “Intelligent” mode. As much as we appreciate the manual transmission and applaud Subaru for offering it, it’s hard to justify on the Crosstrek.

Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid

The plug-in hybrid uses the 2.0-liter flat-4 engine but tuned to make 137 hp and 134 lb-ft of torque. The 118-hp motor supplements the gas engine, or on its own can deliver just 17 miles of all-electric range. It weighs nearly 500 pounds more, but is quicker than the base Crosstrek. 

The Crosstrek PHEV is available in a limited number of ZEV states including California. An all-electric version is expected to replace the plug-in hybrid.

Review continues below


2021 Subaru Crosstrek

Comfort & Quality

The 2021 Subaru Crosstrek fits four with ease and has decent cargo space.

The small crossover has roomy proportions both front and rear. A middling 20.8 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats can be improved with an optional carrier strapped to the standard roof rails up top. A water-repellent vegan seat upholstery adds some distinction to an otherwise basic seating arrangement. 

Overall, it earns a 6 out of 10. 

Manually adjustable front seats come standard up until the top Limited trim that has a 6-way power driver’s seat. Cloth upholstery lines the seats on base and Premium models, but the new Sport trim comes with StarTex upholstery that is water repellant and has a looser feel with more give than leather. And it’s vegan. Limited trim offers real-deal leather seats with orange stitching. 

In back, three passengers have enough leg room (36.5 inches) for short trips, but two can be in it for the long haul. A 60/40 split rear seat expands cargo space from 20.8 cubic feet to 55.3 cubes. 

Soft-touch materials line the dash and doors, and contrast stitching on Sport and Limited trim give the interior some pop in an otherwise value-oriented but good design.

Review continues below


2021 Subaru Crosstrek


With the CVT, the 2021 Subaru Crosstrek comes loaded with standard active safety features.

How safe is the Subaru Crosstrek?

Since its launch for 2012, the Crosstrek has earned a five-star crash-test rating from the NHTSA and a Top Safety Pick award from the IIHS for nine consecutive years. We expect the same for 2021.  

The enhanced version of adaptive cruise control with active lane control standard on all CVT models only improves its safety rating. It earns an 8, but only on models upgraded to the CVT for $1,350. It’s well worth it. Crosstreks with a manual transmission earn a 7.  

Models with the CVT come with automatic emergency braking, active lane control, adaptive cruise control, and a rear-seat reminder. 

For 2020, the Subaru Crosstrek earned a five-star overall rating from the NHTSA, though it got only four stars on rollover and passenger-side frontal crash tests. The IIHS awarded the Crosstrek a Top Safety Pick+ award when equipped with the CVT and LED projector headlights on Limited trim. Other CVT models without those headlights were downgraded to a Top Safety Pick award.

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2021 Subaru Crosstrek


The new Sport trim adds enough distinction and features to justify the upcharge.

Which Subaru Crosstrek should I buy?

We like the Sport but if you don’t care about a stronger engine, then the Premium model is a good get. Just make sure to get the CVT. 

In addition to the slew of advanced standard safety features mentioned above when equipped with the CVT, the 2021 Subaru Crosstrek comes well-equipped with standard all-wheel drive, 17-inch wheels, cloth upholstery, and a 6.5-inch infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. It starts at $23,295. 

The value for the standard feature set earns a 7 on our scale. 

Premium models add heated front seats, two USB ports, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and uprated audio. 

For $27,545, Crosstrek Sport models add the uprated engine with an off-road mode and hill descent control, synthetic leather upholstery, interior trim accents, and 17-inch alloy wheels. It’s our recommended pick. 

How much is a fully loaded 2021 Subaru Crosstrek?

At the top of the line, the $29,045 Crosstrek Limited adds leather upholstery, 18-inch wheels, an 8.0-inch touchscreen with smartphone software, and uprated headlights. Opt for a sunroof, Harmon Kardon speakers, native navigation system and the Crosstrek tops out at $31,440. 

The 8.0-inch touchscreen is optional on all trims except the base trim.

All Crosstreks come with a 3-year/36,000-mile warranty.

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2021 Subaru Crosstrek

Fuel Economy

The CVT is well worth the upcharge over the manual for a boost of 5 mpg combined.

Is the Subaru Crosstrek good on gas?

The 2021 Subaru Crosstrek is more efficient than most other small crossovers with all-wheel drive, even though it ranks at an average 5 on our scale. 

The base 6-speed manual poses a steep penalty when it comes to fuel economy. At 23/29/25 mpg, it’s 5 mpg combined less efficient than the CVT, even if manual drivers will likely outperform EPA estimates.

The base 152-hp 2.0-liter flat-4 with the CVT comes with automatic stop/start that shuts off the engine while idling, bumping the Crosstrek up to 28 mpg city, 33 highway, 30 combined. The uprated 2.5-liter engine in Sport and Limited trims is nearly as efficient, at 27/34/29 mpg. 

For small crossovers with all-wheel drive, the Crosstrek gets more to the gallon than the 24/31/26 mpg in the 2021 Mazda CX-30, and the 26/29/27 mpg in the 2021 Hyundai Kona. 

The plug-in hybrid available in very limited supply in ZEV states gets just 17 miles of electric range, but we expect a fully electric Crosstrek to replace it.

Review continues below

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Styling 5
Performance 5
Comfort & Quality 6
Safety 8
Features 7
Fuel Economy 5
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