When it comes to rugged car-based crossovers, few brands do it quite like Subaru. The 2021 Crosstrek subcompact SUV epitomizes the Japanese automaker’s personality in a neatly sized and thoughtful package. Based on the Impreza hatchback, the Crosstrek inherits a decidedly carlike driving experience but offers more ground clearance and truckier styling—and it can be had as a plug-in hybrid. Not into an electrified powertrain? Two different gasoline-powered four-cylinder engines are offered—both in Subaru’s characteristic horizontally opposed four-cylinder arrangement. We can’t imagine the Crosstrek has what it takes to tackle gnarly, boulder-strewn off-road trails alongside Jeeps, but like its larger siblings—the Forester and the Ascent—it offers plenty of all-weather security, a value-packed features list, and an accommodating—if somewhat bland—interior.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
The Crosstrek’s base 152-hp four-cylinder engine makes a lot of noise but doesn’t offer a lot of motivation. As with many of its competitors, getting up to highway speeds can be a bit painful, no matter whether you choose the standard manual transmission or the optional automatic. In our testing, an automatic model needed a leisurely 9.2 seconds to reach 60 mph. The plug-in-hybrid model proved to be quicker and shaved 0.9 second off the 2.0-liter model’s zero-to-60-mph time. Subaru has addressed this lack of energy for 2021 by plucking the 2.5-liter engine from the larger Legacy and Outback models and making it an option in the Crosstrek. This mill makes 182 horsepower and should provide the extra shove the Crosstrek needs. We’ll update this story with test results when we get the opportunity to strap our equipment to the 2021 model. With its well-weighted steering and composed ride, the Crosstrek feels solid and planted through corners. The suspension is tuned to be firm but not harsh and soaks up larger bumps with ease.
Range, Charging, and Battery Life
Charging the plug-in-hybrid model will take up to five hours if connected to a standard household 120-volt outlet; using a 240-volt outlet does the job in as little as two hours. With only 17 miles of electric-only range, buyers shouldn’t expect to complete the entirety of their commute without dipping into the gasoline.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
With not only great EPA ratings but also some of the best results in our real-world testing, this Subaru is among the most fuel efficient of subcompact crossovers. The EPA rates the Crosstrek with the 2.0-liter four-cylinder and the continuously variable transmission (CVT) at 28 mpg city, 33 mpg highway, and 30 mpg combined; jump to the 2.5-liter engine and those numbers drop to 27 mpg city and 29 mpg combined, but the highway estimate goes up 1 mpg to 34. Out on our 200-mile highway fuel-economy test route, a 2.0-liter model with the CVT delivered an impressive 32 mpg while the manual model delivered 31 mpg; we haven’t yet tested the new 2.5-liter engine, but we’ll update this story with results when we do. The hybrid model is rated at up to 90 MPGe combined and 35 mpg on the highway, but we managed only 30 mpg in our testing.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
In typical Subaru fashion, the Crosstrek has a basic and durable-feeling interior that prioritizes function over form. Its lack of flair is perfectly acceptable in the cheaper versions but starts to feel a bit drab in the Limited model, which can surpass $30,000 with options. Feeble attempts to spice things up include bits of faux carbon-fiber trim and orange stitching on the seats, but the overall atmosphere remains dark and a bit dull—opting for the lighter gray cloth or leather upholstery helps somewhat. Folding the Crosstrek’s 60/40 split-folding rear seat expands the cargo hold considerably, but the folded seats don’t make for an entirely flat cargo floor. The Honda HR-V and the Nissan Rogue Sport held more stuff in our testing despite their smaller exterior dimensions. The Crosstrek managed to hold 19 of our carry-on suitcases with the rear seats folded; the HR-V fit 22, while the Rogue Sport held 20. The hybrid model’s cargo floor is higher than the nonhybrid to accommodate the battery pack, and we were only able to fit 17 carry-ons with the seats folded.
Infotainment and Connectivity
Subaru’s StarLink infotainment system is clearly organized, offers plenty of connectivity features as standard, and is easy to navigate in everyday use. A 6.5-inch touchscreen is standard equipment and offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, along with the expected Bluetooth support and a USB port. The Limited and hybrid models come with a larger 8.0-inch touchscreen that offers SiriusXM satellite radio plus some additional support apps; navigation is optional but only with the 8.0-inch display.
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
The Crosstrek performs well in crash tests—it received five stars from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and a Top Safety Pick+ designation from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Its optional driver-assistance features are reasonably priced and, unlike many competitors, are available even on the base Crosstrek for a reasonable cost. Key safety features include:
- Available automated emergency braking
- Available lane-keeping assist
- Available adaptive cruise control