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2021 Subaru Crosstrek Performance Review

Scorecard

Performance: 6.8

The 2021 Subaru Crosstrek has better performance ratings than its predecessors, thanks to the availability of a stronger engine option. It’s well worth the upgrade, and it’s nearly as fuel-efficient as the engine in the base model. However, excessive body roll keeps the Crosstrek from feeling agile. Standard all-wheel drive helps make this one of the few vehicles in the class capable of going off road.

  • "Subaru’s flat-4 engines ride low in the chassis, which helps give the Crosstrek a lower center of gravity and carlike handling." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "All this adds up to a sub-compact-y compact crossover that's as rewarding and fun-to-drive through tight twists and turns as the best modern compact cars. Key words here are 'tight twists and turns,' because the engine, which also is mostly new, is not a willing partner in such endeavors." -- Automobile Magazine (2018)
  • "Aside from the somewhat anemic engine, the new Crosstrek is relatively fun to drive. Subaru uses a quicker steering ratio this year, sharpening response, and it does take some time to acclimate to the vehicle's immediate reply to input. The suspension supplies a deft blend of ride quality and handling capability, feeling a bit softer yet no less capable. The brakes behave exactly as the driver expects, the pedal calibrated to facilitate the fine-tuning necessary while off-roading or traveling on slippery surfaces." -- New York Daily News (2018)

Engine Options, Horsepower, and Acceleration

  • Base engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 152 horsepower and 145 pound-feet of torque (base, Premium)
  • Available engine: 2.5-liter four-cylinder with 182 horsepower and 176 pound-feet of torque (Sport, Limited)
  • Drivetrain: all-wheel drive
  • Transmission: standard six-speed manual; available continuously variable automatic (CVT)

The base engine is woefully underpowered. It’s also noisy and struggles to bring this vehicle up to speed, and executing passing maneuvers requires a heavy foot and a great deal of forethought. However, critics praise the stronger engine option for feeling well-matched to the Crosstrek’s size and weight. Acceleration comes more quickly too.

  • "Instead of the turbo that we suggested back in 2018, Subaru has instead gifted the Crosstrek with an additional half liter of displacement. That 30-horsepower increase doesn’t remotely turn the Crosstrek into a rocketship, but it does slide this 3,300-pound vehicle up the scale from underpowered to properly powered. Passing maneuvers no longer elicit panic, and freeway onramps don’t immediately send the engine to dronesville." -- Autoblog
  • "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. … 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." -- Car and Driver
  • "Our biggest gripe from last year, the lack of power from the 2.0-liter engine, has been addressed in a good way by the new 2.5-liter, which puts out 30 more horsepower and 31 lb-ft of additional torque. The new 2.5 is standard in the Sport and Limited models, but we wish it were standard in all Crosstreks because it makes merging onto the freeway a much more relaxing affair." -- Kelley Blue Book

MPG Estimates

This Subaru gets its best fuel economy with the CVT, regardless of which engine it’s paired with. Those ratings are good, but not great, for a subcompact SUV.

  • 2.0-liter, manual: 28/33 mpg city/highway
  • 2.0-liter, CVT: 22/29 mpg
  • 2.5-liter, CVT: 27/34 mpg

Handling and Braking

The Crosstrek rides smoothly, cruising over most road flaws without jostling its occupants. The ride is generally composed, but this Subaru has moderate body roll. Steering gets mixed reviews, with some critics finding it to be well-weighted but others noting that it feels numb.

  • "In general, everyday driving, the 2021 Subaru Crosstrek is perfectly acceptable. It’s comfortable yet controlled, while being quiet and easygoing." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "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." -- Car and Driver
  • "Really, the added power was all the Crosstrek needed. It rides well, with good comfort from what feels like greater suspension travel than small CUVs like the Honda HR-V and Toyota C-HR. There’s a noticeable amount of body roll in quick transitions, but in this class of vehicle that’s a reasonable tradeoff for big-bump cushiness. The Crosstrek’s steering is par for the small crossover course, which is to say a little overboosted and numb. We appreciate the quick 13:1 steering ratio that makes the car feel nimble and quick to change direction with a light flick of the wrists." -- Autoblog
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2021 Subaru Crosstrek

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