By on June 9, 2020

As we reported some months ago, the 2021 Subaru Crosstrek corrects a flaw that’s hitched a ride with the otherwise useful and appealing little vehicle since its inception: a lack of power.

Even with a very mild power bump for 2018, the lifted-and-cladded Impreza five-door’s 2.0-liter Boxer four-cylinder still struggled under the burden of heavy loads. Punching through deep, wet snow also revealed its shortcomings.

For 2021, however, there’s finally choice for Crosstrek buyers. A 2.5-liter four-cylinder joins the fray, along with a new trim. Getting into that extra displacement will of course require additional cash.


The engine is not an a la carte option. To tap the borrowed Forester mill’s 182 horsepower and 176 lb-ft of torque, one must choose the new Sport trim or opt for the high-zoot Limited. Going Sport means borrowing all the Limited’s interior content, while adding extra special wheel arch cladding, a gunmetal grey grille, expressive 17-inch alloys, and yellow interior stitching to go with faux carbon fiber and gunmetal trim and StarTex urethane-based fabric. Things you’ll rest your hand on come wrapped in leather.

Subaru claims the new engine, paired with a standard continuously variable automatic (sorry, stick fans), returns fuel economy of 27 mpg city, 34 highway, and 29 combined. That’s a penalty of 1 mpg on the combined cycle when compared to the 2.0L auto.

All 2021 Crosstreks receive mild alterations to the front fascia, with a rejigged grille and fog lights for all but the base “Base” trim. That entry-level ride sees revamped fog light insert covers that are sure to impress no one.

Going Sport doesn’t just bring aboard look-at-me flourishes and a bigger engine — it also makes the Crosstrek slightly more capable in the rough, with dual-function X-Mode (with Hill Descent Control) adding snow/dirt and deep snow/mud settings to the drive mode roster. Obviously, all-wheel drive remains standard kit.

Base and Premium buyers can still outfit their Crosstrek with a six-speed manual, earning themselves a fuel economy drop in the process, all CVT buyers will see hill descent control and an SI-Drive function that allows them to select between “intelligent” and “sport” settings. The former aims for fuel economy; the latter, well, you can guess.

All but Base buyers can expect eight simulated speeds via flappy paddles when in manual mode.

Elsewhere, the ’21 Crosstrek sees a bolstered suite of Subaru EyeSight safety features come standard on CVT-equipped models. The package includes advanced adaptive cruise control with lane centering, automatic pre-collision braking, pre-collision throttle management, lane departure prevention, lead vehicle start alert, auto stop-start, and rear seat reminder. All but the Limited come with a 6.5-inch touchscreen. The 8-inch unit (capable of receiving over-the-air updates) found in the Limited can be optioned in lesser trims, however.

Going the Limited route also sees a host of driver-assist features added to the standard equipment list. Among them, reverse automatic braking, blind spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert. The 18-inch wheels seen above are standard. If staying in touch with the outside world, including with Subaru and whatever emergency services exist in your area, is important, all but Base buyers can opt for a Starlink connected services package.

Crosstrek sales faltered slightly in 2019, sinking 9 percent after rising steadily since the model’s 2013MY introduction. The availability of additional power corrects the Crosstrek’s main weakness, so to speak, so when normal times return we’ll see if it can help the model recapture lost ground.

The ’21 Crosstrek arrives in dealerships in late summer.


[Images: Subaru]

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28 Comments on “2021 Subaru Crosstrek: Have Engines, Will Sell?...”

  • avatar

    The added power is something the Crosstrek needed, but how much? A Jeep Renegade offers similar power and a rather sophisticated 4WD system in Trailhawk form for around $30K

  • avatar

    What is with the manufacturers these days? The bigger engine with a stick would have me in the market, as it would have sufficient power for a small utility trailer and dealing with traffic. I guess I’m a dinosaur…

    • 0 avatar
      Steve Biro

      If being a competent motorist – not requiring “driver assistance” and being able to row your own – makes one a dinosaur, then I guess we both are.

      More power, but mandatory CVT. And all CVTs come with a “bolstered suite of Subaru Eyesight safety features.”

      But, hey, you annoyingly competent cheapskates who can keep their eyes ofF of their phones for the duration of a trip can always get the manual without Eyesight – and with the peaky, wheezy 152hp, 2-liter powerplant.

      And why do I think the Sport comes with automatic start-stop, like the Forester loaner I drove?

      I think I’m done with Subaru. In fact, I may be done with new cars.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      Y’all, this argument is as old *as* the dinosaurs. Manufacturers have very smart actuaries. They look at what dealers are ordering, and dealers look at what their customers are buying. Everyone involved is also in the business of making money. If there were a viable business case for pairing a bare-bones Crosstrek with the bigger engine and a 6MT, I’m sure they would offer one. But ten people does not a customer base make, for a volume automaker. :)

      • 0 avatar

        “Manufacturers have very smart actuaries.”
        “But ten people does not a customer base make”

        Then why does the BRZ exist at all? They are moving about 125 of those a month. That’s about 1%-2% of Crosstrek sales. Would a high-output + MT version really have that low of a take rate?

        • 0 avatar

          Why do you think they have like 8+ year model cycles?

          They also shared the burden of the cost with Toyota on a niche product. The Crosstrek is not a niche product.

      • 0 avatar

        I do not think you know what an actuary is.

    • 0 avatar

      Fiasco and Steve,

      Yes and Yes. We are dinosaurs, I guess. Both, the Crosstrek and Forester are made exclusively at ONE manufatctoring facility – in Japan. I say, “2.5 liter for all”, regardless of trim or transmission. How more streamlined could you get? One engine for both the Forester and Crosstrek. Two transmissions, 6 speed manual or a CVT.

      I am currently on my 4th New Subaru BUT that doesn’t mean I won’t cross shop on my next vehicle. Buck up Subaru. The Crosstrek is a favorite of mine and many others. Give us a more masculine front clip, the 2.5 liter STANDARD, and the choice of a manual transmission too.

    • 0 avatar

      fiasco, Steve, & Ryan, add me to the list of dinosaurs. While my first car was an automatic, I’ve only bought manuals since 1975 (back in the steam-powered days when we would read car magazines by gas light).

      As you and many others have said, we’re a dying breed. Kyree is partially right. For most cars, enough people don’t want standards to make it financially worthwhile for companies to make them. But I do believe this is partially a self-fulfilling preconceived notion on the part of dealers and manufacturers. Many of them go along with the ‘conventional wisdom’ that people don’t want standards, so dealers don’t order them and manufacturers don’t build them. I think if they built more of them and advertised they were actually available, they might be surprised how many more people would buy them.

      But it still probably wouldn’t be enough to justify the business case of engineering and certifying the additional variation. Everything is all about maximizing profits these days. I sense most of the people who would actually buy a stick are like us, dinosaurs, a dying breed. They’re not making any more of us. The ‘younger’ generations generally don’t care about standards, or driving at all. They long for a dystopian future of fully autonomous self-driving cars so they could spend commuting time glued to their i-devices (except for my late 40’s sister-in-law, who, to her credit, specifically wanted a manual small crossover, and I helped her buy a Crosstrek with a stick! She wouldn’t have bought it if it didn’t come with a manual transmission).

      I give Subaru credit for offering as many manuals as they do, particularly being a small manufacturer. BRZ, WRX/STi, Impreza, Crosstrek… we wish it were more, but they offer already sticks in more of their models than most much larger companies (Toyota, I’m looking at you). I own both a WRX and a BRZ, so obviously I’m a biased fan, but any manufacturer that continues to offer sticks will get my money.

      Like it or not, it’s the future (especially in the new financial world coronavirus order). I don’t know if most companies could financially justify making a manual-oriented sports offering like the BRZ in the future. EVs are coming and manual transmissions will continue to fade away. Enjoy them while you can. I’ll keep driving mine until someone pries my cold dead bleached bones from around the short-throw shifters.

    • 0 avatar

      “I guess I’m a dinosaur…”. Me too. The choice of the 6-speed manual trans (or even a conventional auto) with the 2.5 liter engine at the “Premium” trim level – along with the avoidance of complex, beep-crazy driver assistance software – would have had my interest.

  • avatar

    The up engine is only 182hp? Jesus what’s the standard engine?

    • 0 avatar
      Land Ark

      The revised standard engine has 152hp. And that is up from 148 from the original engine.

      When my wife was shopping for her Forester XT she could have VERY easily been talked into a Crosstrek if it had a decent power plant. I guess that’s not really what Subaru wants though.
      While looking, one of the salesmen said the Crosstrek was going to be getting the WRX engine. With this change I guess it’s closer to the STI engine. The WRX comes with the 2.0 like the standard Crosstrek. There may be some slight differences in the WRX and STI engines… what could it be?

      Once again, a nice round 250hp would make this the perfect compromise for people. You’d still get the people shopping for the lower trim ones with no power, plus you’d get back some of the people who abandoned the WRX when it lost the hatch form.

    • 0 avatar

      For what it’s worth, that’s approximately the same horsepower as a 1978 Chevrolet LM1 350 4-barrel, offered in Caprice, Impala, and Camaro.

      • 0 avatar

        They look the same on paper, but similarly, a 300 HP gas V8 can’t come close to the “output” of a 300 HP diesel.

        V8s of the era were designed specifically to make lots of power, right off of idle, not unlike diesels by nature. It was for CAFE purposes along with very “fuel friendly” axle ratios.

      • 0 avatar
        Mike Beranek

        But nowhere near the same torque, and that matters.

    • 0 avatar

      You do realize that it competes with the likes of the Nissan kicks (122 hp)?

  • avatar

    I’m difficult to please, as I like a mid-spec car with proper fabric seats and decent power. I prefer manual, but my next car will be automatic because missus. Canada, so AWD would be awesome, as there have been too many times my Mazda5 (see, mid-spec, fabric, enough power, manual trans) has almost got me stranded with 135mm of ground clearance and only FWD. Proper winter tires can only do so much when you’re plowing the road for everyone behind you on a hill.

    Missus loves the Crosstrek, especially the seats. I find the power marginal. The Canada “sport” trim works well, as it’s got LED headlights, some niceties, but fabric seats. Available with manual too. Winner, in all but the engine.

    VW Golf Sportwagen, I love it, but too low to the ground. AWD, manual trans, lots of power. But a new commute also means if we went DSG it’s not ideal.

    Then along comes the Mazda CX-30 GS. Enough power, nice engine, very very competitive with Crosstrek. Fabric seats and a 2.5, with awd and an automatic, and LED headlights etc. I’m pretty certain this is where my money is going. If they’d brought the 2.5 to the Crosstrek in a lower trim it’d have been a closer competition.

    • 0 avatar

      There are a few Alltracks still in dealer stock that have a bit more ground clearance than the Sportwagen. The Alltrack was on my list of candidates but I’d have to order one from out of state. Sad to see them go.

      • 0 avatar

        Alltrack is nice – I’m a fan of how it looks and how it drives. A couple of things put me off:
        – Seating options are leatherette or leather only.
        – Price increase over the sportwagen “feels” pretty high, especially as it starts pushing into the lower price bracket of the Outback which has excellent ground clearance, lots of room etc.

        VW should be commended for bringing the Alltrack here with a manual, but a look around the unsold inventory shows that was a bad decision :(

        Not a manual, and obviously expensive, but the new Volvo V60 Cross Country is available with fabric seats!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    Hmm. Assuming the price hike for the beefier engine isn’t ridiculous, this will put the Crosstrek on my recommend-to-friends list. It’s great, other than the underpowered 2.0.

    • 0 avatar

      182hp and the estimated projected fuel economy, this is an easy recommendation.

      I think the 2.0 NA is perfectly adequate when you’re driving it alone with empty load. You throw in 4 passengers and a some stuff on your roof, that thing is crying for help while getting dismal mpg.

  • avatar

    I weird too. I strongly prefer cloth seats. cooler in the summer. Warmer in the winter than leather.

    Does it matter if the Japanese car is J code (Japan made) ?

  • avatar
    Mike Beranek

    No stick, no pick.

  • avatar

    The current Audi A6 with the base 2.0T engine. No bueno.

  • avatar

    As a driver of 2018 6MT Crosstrek who would definitely trade for a 2021 2.5 6MT but probably not the 2021 auto trans.
    We also have a 2015 5MT Crosstrek in the family.
    I will probably test drive the 2.5 when it is available. Maybe I can be persuaded.
    Maybe not directly comparable, but I will also look at the Bronco MT.
    Probably end up just driving the wheels off my Crosstrek

  • avatar

    Count me also as a “dinosaur.” I’ve always favored “driver’s cars” with minimal distractions and nannies. I don’t use phones in the car either. Simplicity–lack of turbo and the associated plumbing, fully mechanical AWD system, and lack of EyeSight and its associated baggage and nagging were, besides the towing capability and manual transmission, what drew me to the Crosstrek. I thought the peak power was actually decent, but off the line it was sluggish. Very disappointed in Subaru’s decision to punish enthusiasts and not provide a manual 2.5 liter. Might have to spring for a Tacoma.

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