The Subaru Crosstrek was designed to be the small crossover-ish/SUV-ish hatchback that can go anywhere, do anything. In other words, this is the kind of vehicle you want from Subaru.
If that sounds familiar, then let’s turn back the clock to 1975. Subaru introduced a four-wheel-drive wagon to the USA after its sparkling debut during the 1972 Winter Olympics in Sapporo. It became a farmer’s friend capable of getting through the mud and anything it stood in the way of forward progress.
Spin the clock to 1995 and the Impreza-based Outback Sport. This time, Subaru used the hatchback/wagon version of their compact car to add some cladding, a few millimeters of ground clearance, and some swagger. The Outback Sport lasted three generations before becoming the XV Crosstrek in 2013.
In its second-generation, the Crosstrek is now the third best-selling model in the Subaru lineup in the USA. It continues to be the choice of fun-seeking active people looking for a smaller vehicle to do anything their heart’s desire. In other words, it is proof that you do not need an Outback or Forester to experience the world around you.
There was one small problem to the Crosstrek. Customers felt that the 152-horsepower 2.0-liter Boxer (horizontally-opposed) engine was simply adequate. They wanted a more powerful option to actually follow Outbacks and Foresters into the great unknown.
For 2021, Subaru added the 182-horsepower 2.5-liter Boxer engine to the Crosstrek’s lineup. This is the same engine found in the Outback, Forester, and Legacy. This already sounds like a winner in my book!
The more powerful engine gives the Crosstrek some advantages over the rest of the Subaru lineup. My Limited tester with the 2.5-liter engine is 356 pounds lighter than a base Outback. Translated, that is a better power-to-weight ratio towards improved performance overall.
It is one thing to spit out numbers. It is another to put it into real world practice and context. With that said, the larger engine gives the Crosstrek a much needed boost in performance. It can handle traffic very well and go do a lot more off the highway than the smaller 2.0-liter engine.
While you get Subaru’s Symmetrical all-wheel-drive system with the added traction assistance of X-Drive, you also have to deal with its continuously variable transmission. The larger engine does help in getting the CVT to shift down sooner after you make a pass on the highway or get up an on-ramp. That can be helped by clicking the S button on the steering wheel, part of the Crosstrek’s SI-Drive system.
As far as fuel economy is concerned, I averaged 27.8 MPG. Not bad for a vehicle of its kind.
The Crosstrek’s driving dynamics certainly match the promise of the larger 2.5-liter engine. The ride quality of good and well-balanced. The ground clearance of 8.7 inches allows for longer travel of the dampers on this vehicle. Yet, it neither feels soft not firm – just right. The big advantage is the way the Crosstrek absorbs uneven conditions from potholes to unkept dirt roads.
Then, there’s the way the Crosstrek maneuvers and takes control of the road. Not like a sports car, but of an extremely confident small SUV/crossover/hatchback that goes through the corners without much lean or roll. The way the steering system extends this confidence behind the wheel. It has a tight turning radius and great response from the wheel to the road. On-center feel is good with solid steering weight and effort.
Pedal feel for the brakes is also confident – notice a there here? I experienced good stops in normal and panic situations. Plus, you can count on the EyeSight driver assistance suite of active safety features to protect you from harm. In all, I feel very confident behind the wheel of this Subaru Crosstrek.
In all, it’s a great driving machine. But, there’s more to the Subaru Crosstrek than the way it drives.
Stepping inside the cabin, you can sense the Subaru-ness of this Crosstrek. I like the clean layout of the instrument panel, from its analog dials, the color digital information screen in. the middle of the binnacle, and the upper color information screen on top of the center stack. These readouts are central to the Crosstrek’s driving experience.
The front seats were nice. A nice balance between comfort and support, with a nice-to-the-touch two-tone leather-trimmed upholstery accented with orange stitching. Rear seat room is very good, as you can fit folks just over six feet tall comfortably. There is plenty of head and leg room available. However, watch out for the driveshaft tunnel that might prevent a fifth person to sit back there. In all, you can fit four adults comfortably inside the Crosstrek.
The cargo space is flexible, starting with a 20.8 cubic feet area behind the rear seat. Fold down those seats for up to 55.3 cubic feet of anything you want to take to the cabin, the campsite, the beach – you get the idea.
Overall, I like the design of the hatchback/crossover/SUV. The higher ground clearance, plastic cladding, and the updated front end keeps the Crosstrek relevant for current and future owners. You cannot mistake this vehicle for any other on the road – even a 5-Door Impreza.
That is what attracts its growing numbers of owners – the combination of a nimble size, smaller footprint, and ready-to-tackle-anything stance. It all comes together very nicely. That certainly matched my expectations of this Subaru Crosstrek.
This Limited tester came with a sticker price of $31,440. This is a fully loaded model, mind you. If you want one with the larger 2.5-liter engine and could live with less equipment, the new Sport trim is your best bet, with a base price of $26,495. The Crosstrek lineup starts with a base model with the smaller 2.0-liter engine and a manual transmission, priced from $22,245.
Make no mistake that the Subaru Crosstrek focuses on owners with active lifestyle – or those who want to live one. It is a great package offering a compact size, standard all-wheel-drive, a choice in performance levels, and the license to have fun in any climate at any time of the year.
This is why the Crosstrek has become one of Subaru’s strongest sellers – even a year challenged by this pandemic. In fact, sales for the Crosstrek has been strong in the past few months. Sounds like consumers have responded to the availability of the larger engine in this vehicle.
In fact, dropping the larger engine underneath the Crosstrek’s hood may be what Subaru needed for this small SUV/crossover/hatchback. It truly transforms this vehicle into something even more fun than originally conceptualized. A huge win for active lifestyle consumers – and the rest of us.
DISCLAIMER: Vehicle provided by Subaru of America
All photos by Randy Stern