The Subaru Crosstrek is a bit like the person in the grocery store checkout line who is seemingly dressed for a hike. You’ve seen them: dark socks with Merrell boots, a spaced-out mien, daydreaming about artisanal hammocks while taking occasional sips out of a plastic Nalgene bottle covered in stickers. Like the person in that costume, the Crosstrek is an Impreza hatchback with an about-to-go-hiking look provided by a suspension lift, a new front bumper, and black-plastic body cladding. On the car-to-truck crossover spectrum, the Crosstrek is way over on the car side, alongside vehicles such as the Mazda CX-30 and Toyota RAV4.
For 2021, the Crosstrek offers a 182-hp 2.5-liter flat-four, which comes standard on the top two trim levels, the new Sport as well as the Limited. The engine enjoys a significant 30-hp advantage over the base 2.0-liter and hits 60 mph in 7.5 seconds, a substantial 1.6 seconds quicker than before. In the merge-onto-the-freeway 50-to-70-mph test, the old engine took 6.6 seconds, the new one is quicker, but it’s still a lengthy 5.4 seconds. While we appreciate the extra power, the sounds remain as joyless as the smaller flat-four and pairing it to a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) intensifies the flat-four’s waffling drone under acceleration. Unfortunately, the smaller engine’s playful six-speed manual can’t be had with the 2.5-liter. In our hands, the larger engine’s superior acceleration doesn’t affect fuel economy. The 2.5-liter posted an identical 23 mpg same as the last 2.0-liter CVT Crosstrek we tested. And, curiously, the 2.5-liter model gets a better EPA highway rating than the 2.0-liter model: 34 mpg versus 33.
The new Sport model comes standard with the 2.5-liter engine and starts at $27,545. Sport models slot in above the base Premium model and below the top-tier Limited trim of our test car. In addition to the engine upgrade, our $31,440 Limited model arrived with hill-descent control and X-Mode (a sort of low-speed off-road cruise control), 18-inch machine-finish wheels, and orange stitching inside, plus the one major $2395 option package that includes a moonroof, 8.0-inch center screen with navigation, and stereo upgrade. Despite the dress up, much of the hard plastic inside is a reminder that the Crosstrek shares a lot with a $20,220 base Impreza. Strong sales indicate that Crosstrek buyers don’t seem to sweat fit and finish too much. Some competitors such as the Mazda CX-30 boast richer interiors, but buyers who want a car with SUV traits, its 8.7 inches of ground clearance, supple ride, and new engine ensure it’ll be ready for a nice hike.
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