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Auto review: 2021 Subaru Crosstrek SUV powers up to take on new rivals

By Mark Phelan, Detroit Free Press on

Published in Automotive News

The Subaru Crosstrek didn't leave a lot of room for improvement, but the 2021 model gets more power and better ride and handling. A new animal-free upholstery that delivers comfort and breathability also arrives to help the Crosstrek ward off a host of new competitors like the Chevrolet Trailblazer and Kia Seltos.

Competition among subcompact SUVs has grown fierce since the Crosstrek arrived as one of the class' pioneers in 2012. Smaller than popular SUVs like the Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Escape and Honda CR-V, the Crosstrek's high seating position and standard all-wheel drive made it a hit, paving the way for models like the Chevy Trax, Honda HR-V and Jeep Compass.

Crosstrek is one of the larger and more accommodating small SUVs. "Small SUV" is an unavoidably vague term, by the way. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, arbiter of well-defined classifications like "compact" and "midsize" for car sizes, has yet to catch up with the proliferation of types of SUV.

The EPA's official list of small SUVs includes everything from the three-row Cadillac XT6 (a foot longer than a Crosstrek) to the Trax, 8.9 inches shorter than the Subaru.

The Crosstrek further complicates the discussion by being nearly as roomy inside as more expensive models like the Escape and the Nissan Rogue, but priced to compete with vehicles that are pretty clearly a class smaller.

That combination of room and value are part of Crosstrek's appeal. Subaru's impressive list of standard safety features and reputation for reliability complete the picture.


Driving impressions

Nobody ever bought a Crosstrek for sporty handling and lively throttle response, though. An enthusiast's evaluation on those fronts would likely be "adequate," if he or she were feeling magnanimous.

The 2021 model raises that bar.

Subaru added an optional engine, a 2.5L four-cylinder that produces 182 horsepower and 172 pound-feet of torque. Those figures won't put you on pole position in many races, but they're a healthy 30 hp and 31 pound-feet up from the base 2.0L. The Crosstrek's 0-60 mph time fell a whopping 1.5 seconds, to 8.2 seconds.


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