Subaru Crosstrek Sport Compact SUV Review: Turns Out the Price of Confidence is Affordable

The 2021 Subaru Crosstrek Featured Image

When there’s no room for compromise, you need a car that has your back.

I don’t get to review Subarus very often; when they come up, it’s a bit of a battle in our office for the opportunity. We have our Subie fans who always step up first and make a great case as to why they need to review this car. But this time, the review of the 2021 Subaru Crosstrek was mine. 

That’s because I needed to get to know a car like this: one that gives you confidence no matter the road conditions or forecast. And that is the magic of Subaru. This car has you covered, no matter what waits ahead. 

Related: 2021 Subaru Ascent: The 3-Row SUV Dreams Are Made Of

The Updated Media System In The 2021 Subaru Cross Trek Makes This Small Suv Feel Large And Modern

The updated media system in the 2021 Subaru Crosstrek makes this small SUV feel large and modern. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Subaru Crosstrek Sport: Middle of the Lineup But Not Short on Features 

Subaru might be described as the sensible shoes of the car world: Stylish enough to go anywhere, but not so over the top to be impractical, and not so functional to be out of place in fancier company. Think: that pair of Chucks that you can wear with a skirt to the office, out for Friday night dancing, and for a casual Sunday brunch. They go everywhere, and very capably. 

The Sport model in the Crosstrek line up, which falls right in the middle between the base and top of the line, is all that and more, nicely outfitted but still offering an affordable mix of features and functions. With a starting price of $26,495, a $4,200 upgrade from the base model, you get all the features you really need in a compact SUV: leatherette seating, the larger 182 horsepower engine, a smart key with push button start, and 4 USB ports — and that’s in addition to the standard features that make Subaru a must for so many drivers: all wheel drive, EyeSight driver assist and safety system, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and an 8.7” ground clearance. 

Our Sport test drive model came with a $1,600 upgrade package that added a power moonroof and an upgraded media screen — in color! Subaru has done a really nice job evolving its media system, which looks modern and has great function. Our model did not have navigation as an option; that is confined to the Limited and Hybrid models. But with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, built-in navigation isn’t really a necessity since already have it ready to go with the phone app. 

The Sport model is notable for a few key details that let you know this is all about sport: Gold accents on the steering wheel, gold stitching on the seats, steering wheel and dashboard, a ‘Sport’ badge embroidered on the floor mats, and a gold Sport badge on the rear lift gate. 

Related: Go Wild With the 2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness

Being Able To Take The Pup Along Is A Must; Leatherette Seats That Clean Up Easily Are A Huge Perk!

Being able to take the pup along is a must; leatherette seats that clean up easily are a huge perk! Photo: Scotty Reiss

Capability Starts with an Upgraded Engine

Subaru offers three engines in the Crosstrek line: A 152 HP 4=cylinder, a 182 HP 4-cylinder, and a plug-in hybrid dual motor that gets a combined 255 HP and 35 MPG after 17 miles on all electric power. For those who want more power from an all gas engine, the Sport (as well as the Limited model) is a great choice; it has the larger engine with an important additional 30 horsepower. This will come in handy for anyone driving in hilly or challenging conditions, or those who may drive this car fully loaded with passengers and cargo. 

All Subaru models, however, have all wheel drive, a key part of this car’s appeal. No matter the model, you get AWD standard, and that means you can go places a lot of other small crossovers and SUVs can’t, even if it’s just down the driveway on a snowy day. 

Even in dry, hot weather, AWD is a bonus. It keeps you surefooted on arid, dusty roads. And, I found the Crosstrek to be plenty powerful merging into heavy traffic; it had no hesitation or limit on power for merging, which I really appreciated on 60 MPH highways. 

Related: 2021 Subaru Crosstrek: From Sporty to Refined, This AWD SUV is the Ideal Playmate

The Front Cabin In The Subaru Cross Trek Sport

The front cabin in the Subaru Crosstrek Sport. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Cute Looks that Just Get Cuter

We have been eyeing the Crosstrek for a few years now; its slightly smaller size, which sits between the Impreza and the Forester, makes for a cute and sporty SUV. That size is great for single drivers, couples, or pet parents who need a bit of extra space, but not a lot. Families with growing kids may find the Forester or the very popular Outback to be a better fit. 

But it’s not just the size of the Crosstrek that catches our eye, it’s the wheels and colors. A few years ago Subaru introduced it in an elegant ceramic blue/gray and a fun orange color; paired with snazzy wheels, it’s a head turner. Subaru changes up the paint colors each year, so if you like a color, you’d better get it before it’s gone. Our test model was painted Horizon Blue Pearl, which we thought looked nice with the black cladding that covers the car’s lower quarters, though we also really liked the Cool Gray Khaki, a less blue version of the gray we liked so much, and Crystal White Pearl, which is always a winner. Wheel designs depend on the trim you choose, but all are distinct and look great. I did really like the wheels on our Crosstrek Sport test model. 

The Cargo Area In The Subaru Cross Trek

The cargo area in the Subaru Crosstrek offers nearly 21 cubic feet of space, and more than 55 cubic feet with the rear seats lowered. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Leader of the Pack?

While we get tired of car enthusiasts complaining about the prevalence of SUVs on the road these days, we don’t get tired of SUVs. These versatile, easy to drive confidence-makers are easy to get in and out of on busy days — it’s that 8.7” ground clearance and nice hip-height seats that make loading them up with groceries, luggage or bikes so easy. So it’s no wonder they’ve become so popular. The Crosstrek was among the early entries in the compact SUV category, which has since been joined by the similarly sized and similarly priced Mazda CX-3, Hyundai Kona, Kia Seltos, Honda HR-V, Nissan Kicks and the just introduced Toyota Corolla Cross. 

The Rear Seats In The Subaru Cross Trek

The rear seats in the Subaru Crosstrek are comfortable but legroom isn’t huge. Photo: Scotty Reiss

What This Car Costs 

  • Crosstrek base model with 2.0-liter 4-cylinder Boxer engine with 152 horsepower, all wheel drive, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, one USB port, 6.5” media touch screen, 8.7” ground clearance, cloth upholstery, cargo area grocery hooks and tie down hooks, 17” wheels, spare tire, WiFi hotspot, and EyeSight driver assist and safety system with pre-collision braking, lane departure and sway warning, adaptive cruise control and lane centering starts at $22,245
  • Crosstrek Premium adds fog lights, all weather package with heated front seats, heated side mirrors and windshield wiper de-icer, Starlink connected security system, two USB ports and removable cargo cover; starts at $23,295
  • Crosstrek Sport, with 2.5-liter Boxer engine with 182 horsepower, downhill descent control, 4 USB ports, StarTex leatherette seating with contrast stitching, 2 USB ports and smart key with keyless entry; starts at $26,495
  • Crosstrek Limited, with leather trimmed seating, 8” color media touch screen, power adjustable driver’s seat, rear seat fold down arm rest with cup holders, 18” wheels, blind spot detection with cross rear traffic alert, responsive LED headlights, LED fog lights; starts at $27,995
  • Our test Sport model with upgraded 8” color touch screen media system, blind spot detection with rear cross traffic alert, lane change assist and power moonroof, a $1,600 option and destination charge of $1,095: $29,145
A Look At The Rear Of The 2021 Subaru Cross Trek

A look at the rear of the 2021 Subaru Crosstrek. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Towing Capacity 

The Subaru Crosstrek has tow capacity of 1,500 lbs. and up to 1,000 lbs for the hybrid edition. You’ll need to install a trailer hitch, which is not standard on the Crosstrek, but if you want to tow dirt bikes, a small trailer or small boat, this compact SUV is up to it. Or, pop your kayak on the roof rails and skip the trailer! 

The 2021 Subaru Crosstrek

The 2021 Subaru Crosstrek’s cargo area is great for tailgating. Photo: Scotty Reiss

What We Loved

  • The size and drivability of the Crosstrek
  • This is a cute car! 
  • Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard— so navigation is always available on the media screen! 
  • Standard AWD
  • Nice MPG for an SUV
  • The wheels. I don’t usually geek out on wheels, but Subaru’s are really stylish
  • The ground clearance: 8.7”
  • Nice versatility with fold-down seats and a sizable cargo area
  • Leatherette seats — nice to have on a mid-trim model
  • The price — all this is available for about $26,000
Eli Was Happy In The Cross Trek'S Back Seat

Eli was happy in the Crosstrek’s back seat. Photo: Scotty Reiss

What You Need to Know 

  • Requires regular gas
  • Fuel economy estimated at 27 MPG city/34MPG highway, which is about what we experienced
  • 3 year/36000 mile warranty
  • 5 year/60,000 powertrain warranty
  • Seating for 5 but more comfortable for 4, or even more comfortable for 2 
  • Towing requires a tow hitch to be installed 

Subie fans are a club; they love their Subarus and are fiercely loyal. And I get it; a car that gives you the freedom and confidence to go where you want and need to when you want and need to is a true friend. And, that you don’t need a huge oversized gas-guzzling SUV to do that is a bonus! I can see why the cutie-pie Subaru Crosstrek is still so popular, even after so many competitors have come after it in the world of compact SUVs.

Disclosure: Subaru provided the Crosstrek for this review; all opinions are my own.

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Journalist, entrepreneur and mom. Expertise includes new cars, family cars, 3-row SUVs, child passenger car seats and automotive careers... More about Scotty Reiss