The Subaru Crosstrek boasts a tough-look appearance that’s currently in vogue, with a hiked-up ride height that provides extra ground clearance.

The Subaru Crosstrek boasts a tough-look appearance that’s currently in vogue, with a hiked-up ride height that provides extra ground clearance.

2021 Subaru Crosstrek

Pound for pound, one of the best values for an all-wheel-drive small utility vehicle

In only a few short years, the relatively obscure Crosstrek has become one of Subaru’s most sought-after models.

The automaker has made its mark building all-wheel-drive sedans, hatchbacks and wagons that can handle the worst possible road and/or weather conditions, or both. These can-do attributes attract outdoorsy buyers and those who live in areas with traction challenges.

Although heavily based on the Subaru Impreza hatchback, the Crosstrek is more distinctive by design. A hiked-up ride height provides extra ground clearance, which allows you to traverse all but the toughest rock-strewn landscapes and deeply rutted pathways without risking physical-contact damage to the engine, transmission and suspension. But what’s equally important for many is the Crosstrek’s tough-look appearance that’s currently in vogue with people who rarely if ever venture past the edge of the asphalt.

The Crosstrek is Impreza-based, but there’s enough ground clearance for nearly any obstacle that would be encountered on a back-road commute. PHOTO: SUBARU

The Crosstrek is Impreza-based, but there’s enough ground clearance for nearly any obstacle that would be encountered on a back-road commute. PHOTO: SUBARU

If there’s an obvious shortfall, it’s the Crosstrek’s diminutive size that provides less space than, for example, the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4 and Chevrolet Equinox. The Crosstrek isn’t exactly tiny, however, with interior space similar to that of the Hyundai Tucson and the Kia Sportage.

For 2021, the Crosstrek has been given a mild makeover – the first since the 2018 model year — plus a new trim level and a performance upgrade that should enhance the vehicle’s appeal.

There’s a new grille, bumper and bigger fog lights, and there’s a bit more darkened trim at both ends and surrounding the front and rear wheel openings. The Crosstrek also has new 17- and optional 18-inch wheels.

The interior remains pretty much as is, but Subaru has enhanced the existing suite of dynamic safety technologies that are part of the EyeSight Driver Assist package (optional for manual-transmission models). Included is adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist and a rear-seat reminder that alerts you to check for kids or pets before exiting the vehicle. Also standard with EyeSight is Subaru’s StarLink touch-screen infotainment system, that’s integrated with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity.

For buyers who think the 2.0-litre four-cylinder – with 152 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque – doesn’t provide sufficient get-up-and-go, there’s a new option: A newly available 2.5-litre four-cylinder (the same engine that’s used in the bigger Forester) with 182 horsepower and 176 pound-feet.

The 2.0 comes with a six-speed manual transmission. Optional is a continuously variable unit (CVT) with paddle shifters for controlling eight built-in steps. It’s standard with the 2.5.

For best fuel economy, the CVT-equipped Crosstrek with the 2.0 achieves 7.9 l/100 km in combined city and highway driving, compared to 9.4 for manual-transmission versions.

Pricing starts at $26,100, including destination fees, which is pretty decent for any all-wheel-drive utility vehicle.

To get the more potent engine, you’ll need to order the new Sport model. It also comes with Subaru’s X-Mode system with Snow/Dirt and Deep Snow/Mud settings, combined with Hill Descent Control (standard on all models) for reining in the Crosstrek when heading down a slippery slope.

The Sport also gets unique interior faux leather seats, carbon-fibre-look trim, water-repellent seat coverings and a dark grille and wheels.

At the top end, the $36,850 Limited (which also gets the 2.5-litre engine) adds leather-trimmed upholstery, power driver’s seat, 18-inch wheels, steering-responsive headlights (pivoting right or left when turning) and automatic reverse braking to avoid unseen obstacles.

Optional equipment includes a power moonroof, auto-dimming rearview mirror and a premium Harmon-Kardon-brand audio system with navigation.

For 2021, Subaru takes an already good package and refines it to essentially eliminate any of the negatives. As such, the Crosstrek will continue to be at the top of the company’s sales charts based on value, capability and safety, which is what the automaker is known for.

The faux-leather interior of the new Sport model is water repellent. Other goodies include the X-Mode system with drive settings to handle various traction situations. Note that the manual transmission is not available with the Sport because this model comes with the 2.5-litre engine. PHOTO: SUBARU

The faux-leather interior of the new Sport model is water repellent. Other goodies include the X-Mode system with drive settings to handle various traction situations. Note that the manual transmission is not available with the Sport because this model comes with the 2.5-litre engine. PHOTO: SUBARU

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: 2021 Subaru Crosstrek

  • Type: Four-door, all-wheel-drive compact utility vehicle
  • Engines (h.p.): 2.0-litre DOHC H-4 (152); 2.5-litre DOHC H-4 (182)
  • Transmission: Six-speed manual; continuously variable (opt.)
  • Market position: Within the vast assortment of compact utility vehicles on the market, most offer all-wheel-drive only as an option. With the exception of the BRZ sports car, Subaru’s entire lineup is strictly AWD.
  • Points: Mild makeover enhances what was already a good-looking vehicle. • New engine option addresses any complaints about power. • Less interior space than in a number of key competitors. • Subaru steers buyers toward the automatic transmission with standard EyeSight safety tech. • Proven AWD hardware ensures off-road agility, especially with the Sport trim level. • Plug-in hybrid model returns later in the model year.
  • Dynamic safety: Blind-spot warning with cross-traffic backup alert (opt.); adaptive cruise control (opt.); front and rear emergency braking (opt.); rear-seat alert (opt.); lane-keeping assist (opt.); pedestrian detection (opt.)
  • L/100 km (city/hwy) 8.5/7.0 (2.0); Base price (incl. destination) $26,100

BY COMPARISON

Hyundai Tucson

  • Base price: $28,250
  • Similar size to Crosstrek and available with a 181-h.p. I-4. AWD is optional.

Honda CR-V

  • Base price: $28,900
  • Top-tier utility model has a 190-h.p. turbo I-4. Hybrid version makes 212 h.p.

Ford Escape

  • Base price: $30,500
  • Redesigned-for-2020 model comes with turbo I-3 and I-4 engines. AWD is available.

-written by Malcom Gunn, Managing Partner at Wheelbase Media

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