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2021 Subaru Crosstrek Sport First Drive Review with a more powerful engine

With a more powerful engine and improvements to driver assistance technology, Subaru's compact 2021 Subaru Crosstrike becomes a more competitive option

2021 Subaru Crosstrek


Subaru's compact and capable Subaru Crosstrike has received a very big update for 2021, but you probably won't notice it at a glance. The mid-cycle refresh leaves the exterior almost unchanged, aside from some styling modifications and some arched wheel cladding on the new sporty model we see here. Instead, the Crosstrek changes happen heavily in the engine compartment and in the roster of standard and available driver assistance technologies - all of which go a long way toward making the Subaru compact crossover even more compelling than before


New 2.5-liter engine 2021 Subaru Crosstrike

The Crosstrek can now be selected with a larger, more powerful 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, which is cleaning it from the senpai, Subaru Forester. On the lighter Crosstrek, the engine feels 182 hp and 176 pounds of torque responds a bit more, but most importantly, the crossover is noticeably more agile than it was with the older 2.0-liter engine - which is still available, by the way. Compared to the 2.0, the 2.5 performs with an additional 30 horsepower and 31 additional pounds of torque. This represents a 20% increase in getting service off and on


Subaru's symmetric four-wheel drive system is standard. The Crosstrek's Lineartronic CVT isn't all that bad when getting around town and commuting, but it doesn't serve up any Subaru when you're asked to clamor, regardless of whether the SI-Drive powertrain selector is set to Smart or slightly sporty More aggressive


The overall ride quality is good and most of the time the 2021 Subaru Crosstrek Sport looks more like a hatchback than most people might think of when they read the "small SUV". Above the bumps, the Crosstrek is comfortable and gives 8.7 inches of ground clearance an impressive amount of tracking ability. This ride height becomes somewhat of a burden if you feel a tight grip from the steering, with plenty of body rolls to let you know when it's time to relax

Interestingly, the 2.5-liter engine is almost on par with the 2.0-liter boxer quad when it comes to fuel economy. Rated at 27 miles per gallon in the city, 34 mpg on the highway and 29 mpg combined, the more efficient engine only sacrifices one mile per gallon of combined rating compared to the smaller, less powerful engine option

Aside from the increased cost of stepping up to the new Sport or top tier Limited trim levels  which, in fairness, also include more standard features for the money -- there's really no tradeoff for going with the bigger engine. Then again, the 2.0-liter, with 152-hp and 145-lb-ft of torque, is still the only way to get the optional six-speed manual transmission, if that's your jam. Sadly, the manual gearbox comes with a few hidden costs including stepping down to just 25 mpg combined and losing access to many of the Crosstrek's driving aids


The new Sport model Subaru Crosstrek


The 2021 model year ushers in a new Crosstrek Sport trim with some interesting performance and amenity enhancements. Visually, the Sport has a more pronounced front bumper and wheel arch cladding, as well as a dark finish for the grille and exterior trim. The Sport's 17-inch wheels are done up in a dark gray finish, too


Inside, you'll find seats upholstered with water-repellent StarTex fabric and Sport-embroidered floor mats made of 25% recycled material. Bright yellow trim pieces and contrast stitching go nicely with the Sport's exclusive Plasma Yellow Pearl paint, which I personally think is a fantastic hue. My girlfriend, however -- who is normally a huge fan of the Crosstrek -- thought it was a bit too much, calling it "vomit-y." I suppose there's no accounting for poor taste


Sport models come standard with the new 2.5-liter engine, but upgrade to a dual-function version of Subaru's X-Mode terrain management system, adding Snow/Dirt and Deep Snow/Mud programs for the all-wheel-drive system and brake-based traction control. Other CVT-equipped models feature single-mode terrain management -- basically, on or off. Hill-descent control adds a bit of surefootedness to steep grades and is part of the X-Mode tech whether or not you opt for the Sport

  • Safety technology
Nearly every Subaru Crosstrek (at least, every one with a CVT) comes standard with Subaru's EyeSight Driver Assist Safety Package. This year, EyeSight acquired adaptive cruise control that now includes lane-centering assist. The steering system works well; It's not as robust as some of the systems I've tested, but it's also not intrusive, which lends Subie's relaxed behavior on the road. Meanwhile, the pre-collision braking, pedestrian detection, and lane departure warning were relayed from last year

This sports tester is equipped with an optional $ 1,600 package that adds blind spot monitoring with lane change assist and rear cross-traffic alert, as well as an electric sunroof and upgraded dashboard technology. For the best driver assistance experience, go for the Limited model where you'll get high beam support and reverse automatic braking standard

I kinda expected that the EyeSight upgrade would include Subaru's DriverFocus Attention Monitoring System, which monitors the driver's face and alerts him if he is distracted or drowsy, but unfortunately, it's not included in the 2021 Crosstrek. Currently, this system can only be found on Subaru Outback and Forester crossovers, as well as the Legacy sedan

Subaru Crosstrik infotainment system


Subaru's Starlink infotainment suite is mostly unchanging, here in the upgraded multimedia specification with an 8-inch touchscreen and TomTom-powered navigation software. It's a decent setup with a well-organized menu structure and responsive interface, but also nothing to write about at home. However, I honestly think I'd prefer this smaller, simpler system over the huge vertical screen you'll find in the new Legacy and Outback. The smaller option is easier to turn my head around. Plus, with standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, I don't think anyone carrying a modern phone will leave a passion for premium media streaming apps or navigation software, even if they forgo the tech upgrade and stick to the standard 6.5-inch Crosstrek display

Crosstrek also features Starlink subscription-based remote services from Subaru. Starlink Safety Plus and Security Plus provide remote control and vehicle monitoring via a smartphone app, allowing drivers to lock / unlock doors, start Crosstrek remotely using pre-set climate controls on cold or hot days, and receive notifications when a car alarm is triggered. Collision notifications, SOS emergency assistance, and roadside assistance are the kind of features you hope you'll never use, but will be happy to have them when you do. Parents can take advantage of features like geofencing and overspeed notifications - useful when loaning the Crosstrek to a younger driver

There is also a Starlink Concierge package that opens "in-car assistance with restaurant and hotel reservations, purchasing of sporting / theatrical event tickets, and scheduling of service appointments," according to Subaru. This looks cool, but it's also a little bit a plus for anyone with a phone that works in their pocket