First Drive: 2021 Subaru Crosstrek

A necessary power bump and additional features to help it maintain its position.
A necessary power bump and additional features to help it maintain its position.

by Adi Desai | October 7, 2020


PICKERING, ONTARIO – Since its introduction in mid-2012, the Subaru Crosstrek has been consistently on an upward trajectory. An early entry to the subcompact crossover segment that has been growing rapidly over the past decade, the Crosstrek has relied on its rugged go-anywhere personality to attract a variety of buyers. The second generation was launched in 2018, and while it has been successful, there was still one glaring omission from its lineup. This has now been rectified, and Subaru Canada invited us to sample the 2021 Subaru Crosstrek Outdoor and evaluate its improvements for ourselves.

The omission refers to a lack of power and torque. Though the 2.0-liter horizontally opposed four-cylinder was adequate in every way, it was on the slower side, and came in below expectations. The 2021 model is a mid-cycle refresh, but most importantly, marks the introduction of a new powertrain option to the Crosstrek. The 2.0 with its 152 horsepower and 145 lb-ft. is still offered, but more interestingly, the 2.5-liter four from the Legacy, Outback and Forester has now trickled down into the Crosstrek.

In the Crosstrek application, the 2.5-liter puts out 182 horsepower at 6,000RPM and 176 lb-ft. of torque at 4,400RPM. Our test vehicle was a Crosstrek Outdoor, the entry point to the bigger engine, and while it’s by no means a bahn-storming powerhouse, definitely gives the little crossover the response and sprightliness that it deserves. It’s lively off the line, and the Lineartronic continuously variable transmission is eager to keep the Crosstrek in the optimal part of its powerband. Subaru pointed out that in the Crosstrek, the final drive gear ratio has been adjusted, as well.

One of the areas in which the Crosstrek excels over its rivals is in ride quality, an area where the current crop of Subarus exhibit similar performance. The springs and dampers are all tuned extremely well, in order to maintain a comfortable ride in all settings, while ensuring that the chassis absorbs most road imperfections. It doesn’t feel quite as soft as the Nissan Qashqai, but the Crosstrek has better body control and also less body roll around higher speed corners and highway on-ramps.

The 2021 Crosstrek now has SI-Drive, which allows for selection between Intelligent and Sport, to control the drive mode of the vehicle. This is controlled using a button on the steering wheel and adjusts throttle response and transmission calibration for the desired environment. The Crosstrek also offers X-MODE, which incorporates a hill descent control system and can adjust torque split of the all-wheel-drive system, the engine and transmission to give the car maximum capability. And naturally, Subaru’s class-leading all-wheel-drive system is standard on all Crosstrek models.

Efficiency is still excellent for the segment, meaning the Crosstrek is still an excellent choice for that road trip, especially if an adventure is planned off the beaten path. Subaru rates the 2.5-liter model at 8.8L/100km in the city and 7.0L/100km on the highway, for a combined 8.0L/100km. This is only 0.1L/100km worse than the 7.9L/100km rating of the smaller 2.0-liter engine. These ratings put the Crosstrek ahead of the Nissan Qashqai (reviewed here), Honda HR-V, Mazda CX-30, and more.

Canadian pricing starts at $23,795 for the base model with the manual transmission, and $25,795 with the CVT. The new 2.5-liter engine starts with the Outdoor trim at $29,995 and is also included on the Limited at $34,495. The Outdoor includes unique accents on exterior and interior bits and grey all-weather seating with yellow stitching throughout the interior. It’s worth mentioning that while the Outdoor includes the upgraded seats, it does not have a powered driver’s seat or sunroof. EyeSight, Subaru’s class-leading active driver assistant suite, is standard on all CVT models.

The Crosstrek’s interior is fairly basic in terms of design, but is highly functional and ergonomics are good. The front seats are comfortable and I had no issues sitting behind my six-foot self in the rear seats as well. The all-weather synthetic leather seats actually feel quite good, much better than other mainstream manufacturers’ “leather” offerings. A 6.5-inch touchscreen infotainment system houses Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, which is what you’ll want to use, because Subaru’s native interface is still slow to respond and fairly clunky in operation.

Competition for the Crosstrek has grown fierce, with popular entries like the Mazda CX-30 (reviewed here), and newer models like the Chevrolet Trailblazer entering the market. The Crosstrek is steadily holding its ground, on both its image as well as bonuses like a plug-in hybrid version offered in certain markets. Refinement has been improved, but the horizontally opposed engine still isn’t quite as smooth in operation as traditional inline-fours offered elsewhere. Well deserved, this mid-cycle refresh gives the 2021 Subaru Crosstrek the necessary power bump and additional features to help it maintain its position at the top of its segment.

See Also:

2020 Nissan Qashqai SL Platinum

2020 Mazda CX-30 GT AWD

2020 Subaru Crosstrek Limited

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About Adi Desai


Adi has been living his childhood dream ever since he launched Magazine in 2012. He's also an award-winning pianist, so if you can't find him behind the wheel or tinkering on one of his many toys, he's either binging The Office or playing his baby grand piano.

Current Toys: '07 V8 Vantage 6MT, '97 550 Maranello, '91 Diablo, '91 911 Carrera, '04 S2000, '00 M5, '90 Camry AllTrac, '09 LS 460 AWD, '24 LC 500 Performance