2021 Subaru Crosstrek Limited Review

More power isn't always enough

Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief

Positives: Improved refresh gives it a more aggressive look, noticeable power difference, superb adaptive cruise control system, nimble handling, phenomenal premium audio system.
Negatives: Still feels underpowered, some hard plastic bits inside, CVT.
Bottom Line: The 30 extra horses we asked for when we last reviewed it certainly help but fail to impress. We still think the Crosstrek is a great all-wheel drive hatchback with good driving manners and a practical interior, but we'd rather have an AWD Mazda CX-30.
Subaru needs the Crosstrek since it's their third best-selling model in their lineup of eight models. The one major demerit of the Crosstrek has been the fact that it's underpowered. At 152 horses from the 2.0-liter flat four-cylinder engine, the Crosstrek is painfully slow to drive. This year, it gets an upgrade in the form of more displacement (2.5 liters) for upper trims, so we were curious as to how it would perform. We drove the top trim Limited version to see if the difference was significant. Read our review below.

Driving Experience



It's too bad Subie didn't put a turbocharged mill under the hood because that would've made all the difference. We felt the power difference with the added 30 horses, but it's not a game changer in our book because it's still hampered by a CVT instead of a traditional geared transmission. That said, it's still quite a fun car to drive thanks to its size and manueverability.

Ride Quality: Firm but comfortable. It never feels mushy on the road, but it's also not disconnected. The Crosstrek strikes the right balance.

Acceleration: It definitely feels peppier, but it's still not thrilling. The stepped CVT helps but a dual clutch or simply a traditional 8-speed automatic would've been better. 0-60 comes in 7.8 seconds, shaving more than a second off the 2.0-liter version.

Braking: Good brakes that modulate well. We loved the responsiveness of the automatic emergency braking.

Steering: Great, crisp steering with good effort and very quick turn-in.

Handling: It rides tall, but the body roll is minimal.




Subaru's Starlink system isn't bad thanks to a good screen and large icons, but it could use a bit of work. It took us some time to get acclimated to the less than intuitive system..

Infotainment System: The Starlink's 8-inch screen in our tester was clear and vivid, but its icons are overly large and too colorful, and the menus take some getting used to. The dash-mounted vehicle info screen is confusing, only because it tends to divert your eyes from the Starlink system.

Controls: We like the physical audio knobs, but the infotainment buttons between them feel cheep and a bit small.




The Crosstrek has been refreshed but few will notice the small differences in the front fascia and the body. It's still a nicely styled hatchback that evades the overstyling of the Forester and the Ascent.

Front: Some of the black trim has been made more dramatic, namely the blades on the foglight housings, and the trim on the lower fascia. The grille mesh pattern has also been made chunkier.

Rear: We like the less "toothy" taillights on the Crosstrek since they err on the more rectangular and traditional side. Visual height has been reduced with the numerous creases and the faux diffuser.

Profile: The profile remains largely unchanged, except for the additional crease and sculpting in the doors. The black trim and the lack of chome help ruggedized the look.

Cabin: The addition of orange stitching on the black leather seats is a nice, sporty touch. Overall, the cabin is well-styled.




The Crosstrek is a surprisingly comfortable small car that's more than we expected. It feels well-made and would be quite suitable for weekend getaways.

Front Seats: Good support and cushioning and plenty of room for six-footers.

Rear Seats: There's not much legroom for taller adults, but the seats are comfortable.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): The only intrusive noise is the engine when it's being pushed. The Crosstrek has solid build quality, and there were no vibrations or squeaks.

Visibility: Manageable pillar size and a solid seating position provide good visibility. You can place the car where you want. Even rear sightlines are good.

Climate: The climate control system works well, but we would've liked more airflow from the dash vents.




The Crosstrek's appeal is seriously increased by its robust safety scores and features. It pretty much nailed the safety tests with flying colors.

IIHS Rating: It earned the Top Safety Pick+ score, nabbing "good" in every crash test, and superior crash prevention technology.

NHTSA Rating: The Crosstrek gets a 5-star crash safety rating, giving it top marks.

Standard Tech: There's plenty of standard equipment including the excellent EyeSight Driver Assist Technology, a Rear Vision Camera, steering Responsive Headlights, Blind Spot Detection with Lane Change Assist and Rear Cross Traffic Alert

Optional Tech: None.




If outdoor activity is your thing, then the Crosstrek won't disappoint. There's ample room in the back for gear luggage. The cabin also has practical levels of useful space for smaller items.

Storage Space: The deep square cubby at the base of the center stack is great to toss small gear items into, while the armrest also works well to keep smaller gear out of sight.

Cargo Room: The Crosstrek has very useful cargo space, and the second row conveniently folds flat. There's 22.3 cubic feet with the seats in place and 51.9 cubic feet with the second row folded flat, pretty big for a small vehicle.

Fuel Economy



Our local driving netted close to the Crosstrek's EPA estimates. Overall, it rates better than the CX-30 AWD by a few miles, which is pretty good for an AWD crossover/hatchback. It highway rating is shockingly better than the 2.0-liter model by a measure of 2.

Observed: 25.1 mpg

Distance Driven: 62 miles




The upgraded Harman Kardon system was surprisingly impressive. It's one of the best systems at this price point, and we were blown away by its clarity, fullness, and distortion-free sound.

Final Thoughts

There aren't many hatchbacks out there that can do what the Crosstrek can. It has plenty of space, solid comfort levels, good looks, and finally additional power. But for those folks who were hoping the new 2.5-liter engine would be a game-changer, you might want to look elsewhere. It doesn't transform the Crosstrek into a spirited crossover but just a less wimpy one. All things considered, it's still one of the best in the segment.
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