2021 Subaru Crosstrek Limited Review - New Engine, Fresh Face, Familiar Utility

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey
Fast Facts

2021 Subaru Crosstrek Limited Fast Facts

2.5-liter horizontally-opposed "boxer" four-cylinder (182 horsepower @ 5,800 rpm; 176 lb-ft @ 4,400 rpm)
Continuously-variable automatic with eight-speed manual mode; all-wheel drive
27 city / 34 highway / 29 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)
8.8 city, 7.0 highway, 8.0 combined. (NRCan Rating, L/100km)
Base Price
$27,995 (U.S) / $34,495 (Canada)
As Tested
$31,400 (U.S.) / $36,674 (Canada)
Prices include $1,050 destination charge in the United States and $1,900 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can't be directly compared.
2021 subaru crosstrek limited review new engine fresh face familiar utility

The 2021 Subaru Crosstrek isn’t changed much, and that’s almost certainly a good thing for Subie.

After all, the Crosstrek, like other Subaru products, is popular with the brand faithful because of its utility abilities. So it behooves Subaru not to screw with it too much.

That said, no automaker wants to hear that a vehicle is getting long in the tooth while working on the next-gen version, so as often happens, the Crosstrek gets a refresh. In this case, the nip and tuck mostly involve the front grille and bumper.

A new Sport trim joins the lineup, and that model gets a new 2.5-liter “boxer” horizontally-opposed four-cylinder that makes 182 horsepower and 176 lb-ft of torque. So, too, does the Limited model that’s tested here. Finally, models that have Subaru’s EyeSight driver-aid tech standard – in other words, models equipped with a continuously-variable automatic transmission – add adaptive cruise control with lane centering.

The visual changes are mild, so even with a new engine underhood, the overall package feels familiar. And looks familiar, of course, despite the mild changes.

Inside, I did find the larger infotainment screen an improvement over what Subaru has previously had on offer, while the rest of the cabin is functional in nature if a bit boring. Your neighbor won’t have his socks knocked off by the design, but you’ll find it easy to use.

With less than 200 lb-ft of torque on tap and a CVT (with eight-speed manual-shift mode) getting that power to ground, plus the added weight of a standard all-wheel-drive system, you’d expect the Crosstrek to be less than swift, and you’d be correct. Acceleration is merely adequate for most commuting duty.

Nor is the Crosstrek particularly engaging to drive, though its ride is acceptably compliant. However, it can be a tad noisy on the freeway. The steering feels ponderously heavy.

Not that most Crosstrek buyers care. Like the Outback or Forester, the Crosstrek’s appeal has little to do with driving dynamics. It’s all about utility and safety here. While I was unable to test its utility beyond stuffing a suitcase in the back for a road trip – I just don’t have a kayak sitting around – it does seem, at least on paper, to be able to get your bike/canoe/tent whatever to the trailhead just fine.

Value plays a part in the equation, too – this top-trim Limited rang the register at $31K. That’s not bad for a wagon-like vehicle that has a modicum of off-pavement ability to go along with safety and utility as well as decent fuel-economy numbers.

Standard or available features of note include dual front USB, Bluetooth, automatic climate control, keyless entry, roof rails, 18-inch wheels, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, satellite radio, blind-spot detection with lane-change assist and rear cross-traffic alert, dual rear USB, LED headlights, high-beam assist, keyless entry and starting, LED fog lamps, navigation, moonroof, Harman Kardon audio, and leather-trimmed seats.

Subaru’s core lineup is focused on safety and utility. Knockout design takes a backseat, and while the brand can and does do performance very well – see the BRZ or WRX/WRX STi – that aspect is relegated to dedicated vehicles.

Subie is happy – and successful – by focusing on the well-packaged vehicle that won’t set hearts racing but will make buyers feel their money was well spent. In that regard, the Crosstrek remains as familiar as ever.

[Images © 2021 Tim Healey/TTAC]

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4 of 24 comments
  • 28-Cars-Later I'm actually surprised at this and not sure what to make of it. In recent memory Senator Biden has completely ignored an ecological disaster in Ohio, and then ignored a tragic fire in Hawaii until his handlers were goaded in sending him and his visit turned into it's own disaster, but we skipped nap time for this sh!t show? Seriously? We really are through the looking glass now, "votes" no longer matter (Hillary almost won being the worst presidential candidate since 1984 before he claimed the crown) and outside of Corvette nostalgia Joe doesn't care let alone know what day it happens to be. Could they really be afraid of Trump, who AFAIK has planned no appearance or run his mouth on this issue? Just doesn't make sense, granted this is Clown World so maybe its my fault for trying to find sense in a senseless act.
  • Tassos If you only changed your series to the CORRECT "Possibly Collectible, NOT Daily Driver, NOT Used car of the day", it would sound much more accurate AND TRUTHFUL.Now who would collect THIS heap of trash for whatever misguided reason, nostalgia for a much worse automotive era or whatever, is another question.
  • ToolGuy Price dropped $500 overnight. (Wait 10 more days and you might get it for free?)
  • Slavuta Must be all planned. Increase price of cars, urbanize, 15 minutes cities. Be poor, eat bugs
  • Sid SB Not seen a Core without the performance pack yet. Prefer the more understated look of the Core vs the Circuit, but both are great fun to drive.