I was finally able to get back behind the wheel of a Subaru, a brand that has a cult-like following, but one that I don’t regularly get time with. And that’s disappointing because I always like knowing and seeing what all the hype is about. This week’s tester, the 2021 Subaru Crosstrek, is a subcompact SUV (crossover?), which is a really tough segment to compete in since it has entries from just about every automaker. Subaru jumped into that arena a few years ago with the Crosstrek and put its own spin on the segment.
Of course, it’s rugged. Of course, all-wheel drive is standard. And, of course, it has the Subaru “vibe.” Just what is that Subaru vibe? It’s hard to explain, but it’s a focus on practicality rather than frivolity, which adds to Subaru’s cult-like following.
Let’s look at some of the pros and cons of this subcompact SUV from Subaru.
For 2021, Subaru adds some pep to the Crosstrek after taking some criticisms about the underpowered base 2.0-liter engine. For 2021, the Limited and Sport trims get a much punchier 2.5-liter four-cylinder Boxer engine that makes 182 horsepower and 176 pound-feet of torque. That is an improvement over the aforementioned 2.0-liter engine, which only produces 152 horsepower.
With this engine, Subaru single-handedly answers one of the over-hanging arguments against the Crosstrek (not powerful enough).
As such, this new Boxer engine offers just enough power and performance to make it serviceable. I personally would’ve preferred a turbo-charged four-cylinder, which is all the craze right now in this segment. But for now, I’ll accept this engine as a marked improvement — even with the continuously variable transmission (CVT).
This is con can be used practically all the way down the product line for Subaru vehicles. However, you don’t buy a Subaru for the lavish interiors. The average Subaru consumer seems to appreciate the simplistic nature of the interior.
For the Crosstek, I found it too sparse and could not find the appreciation for a cabin that was spacious and comfortable yet lacked any wow factor. The touch points and materials felt sub par, too. Chalk this up to auto journalist snobbery, perhaps, but it did not impress me.
If there’s a pro to the CVT, it’s that Subaru’s driver assistance technology, Eyesight, is standard with the CVT. Fair enough. I’ll give it credit in that regard as I enjoy all of these sensor-based technologies. I love adaptive cruise control and find it a must-have when you’re on longer trips. That’s included on the 2021 model with the CVT as part of the Eyesight package. Also included is something a little more annoying – lane centering.
Sure, it can be handy in some scenarios, but if you’re guilty of switching lanes without a turn signal like I am, this feature can be annoying. I did find myself disabling this feature more times than not, but I’m still counting Eyesight overall as pro because the more standard safety features you have on a vehicle, the better.
Each Subaru has a driving personality, which is normally a good thing. However, like other Subarus, the Crosstrek has a hard suspension. Sure that might good for off-road performance, but on the road, it takes away from the comfort and also adds body roll to the con-side of things for this crossover.
Dull steering adds to the overall personality of the Subaru that detracted from its improved engine and overall performance.
Sometimes it’s the small things that you take notice of. The orange stitching on my tester was outstanding. It actually made me take note of the otherwise dull interior. This small detail, although purely aesthetic was impressive. Add in some nice interior “welcome lighting” and the Crosstrek’s interior did have some redeeming qualities.
Subaru has one of the most loyal (aka cult-like) fan bases out there. Subie consumers know what they want and likewise Subaru truly seems to understand its consumers.
I would not be one of those customers, so it didn’t scratch my itch, but certainly, amongst the Subaru loyalists, the 2021 Crosstrek fulfills a need and gives the rugged Subaru brand a competitor in a very important segment.