In case its profile didn’t tip you off, the Crosstrek isn’t a particularly high-riding SUV. Though Subaru’s claimed 8.7 inches of ground clearance ranks in the SUV big leagues, the Crosstrek tied for the lowest driving position among the four SUVs in Cars.com’s comparison by our measuring tape. Modest height aside, occupant room is good. The front seats are reasonably large, if a bit unsupportive, and the backseat affords acceptable knee and head clearance for adults — never a given among entry-level SUVs. Ditto for visibility, where the Crosstrek’s narrow roof pillars and large windows aid sight lines in all directions.
Cargo space is less generous. We measured 13.0 cubic feet behind the Crosstrek’s backseat, landing it last in measured volume among the four SUVs in our comparison. That’s well short of the Kia Seltos’ group-leading 16.2 cubic feet. (Note that these cargo volume figures stem from Cars.com’s independent measurements, as we’ve found manufacturer-published cargo specs to be unreliable.)
Interior styling is too scattershot for my taste, but cabin quality rates well. Low-budget plastics are mostly hidden at eye level, and areas where your arms and elbows touch are dutifully padded. The dashboard and armrests have double-stitched accents, and the headliner sports a genuine woven material. Subaru dropped the ball with a few rickety controls, but it’s nice to see the Crosstrek avoid most of the rampant cost-cutting we find inside most entry-level SUVs.
2021 Subaru Crosstrek | Cars.com photo by Christian Lantry
Despite some updates for 2021, the Crosstrek’s roster of available technologies underscores that the current generation is entering its fourth model year while going up against a few newer rivals on the scene. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, but both require wired connections, not the wireless setup that’s spreading in this class. Wireless smartphone charging is unavailable, and the Crosstrek’s touchscreen lacks the instantaneous response, high-def resolution and plus-sized dimensions you’ll get from a few rivals’ displays. (A 6.5-inch display is standard, while higher trim levels like our test car get an 8-inch unit.)
Hands-on lane centering joins the Crosstrek’s available EyeSight bundle of safety and driver-assist features for 2021. It works in conjunction with adaptive cruise control, and both systems can function from highway speeds down to a halt in stop-and-go traffic. That’s a rare pairing for an affordable vehicle, but the adaptive cruise control won’t automatically hold you at a stop for more than a few seconds before you have to step on the brake. Most adaptive cruise control systems do that now courtesy of an electric parking brake, but the Crosstrek retains an old-school mechanical handbrake.
Value in the Market
Outdone on a few technologies, the Crosstrek landed in second place in our comparison of four SUVs. (The Kia Seltos came in first.) Parents with young children will appreciate the current generation’s strong scores in our evaluation of car-seat accommodations, as well as Subaru’s wealth of safety features. Stick-shift models don’t have EyeSight, which bundles lane-centering steering with adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking and lane departure intervention. (Subaru’s emergency braking technology has been well rated by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety up through the 2020 Crosstrek, but as of this writing, the agency had yet to publish ratings on the 2021 model.) EyeSight comes standard on Crosstrek models with the optional CVT, which accounted for 97% of all new 2021 model-year Crosstrek inventory on Cars.com as of this writing.
With standard AWD, an automatic-equipped Crosstrek will set you back at least $24,645 (all prices include destination). That’s a tad steep for the class even after you add AWD to competitors. A stick-shift Crosstrek, if you can find one, will save you $1,350. Priced with all the available factory options, the 2021 Crosstrek tops out around $31,500. That’s a reasonable ceiling for the class, though its options are fairly basic, lacking niceties like a panoramic moonroof, power liftgate and dual-zone climate control.
Second-place finish notwithstanding, the Crosstrek is a clear market success. Consider: The Impreza hatchback is essentially a de-contented, lower-riding Crosstrek that costs thousands less, yet through the first nine months of 2020, the Crosstrek had outsold Impreza hatchbacks and sedans combined by more than 2 to 1. Indeed, it’s among the more popular entry-level SUVs out there, and it’s easy to see why. In a class of offbeat choices, the Crosstrek is a breath of the ordinary.
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