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Subaru’s Crosstrek Sport – Adventure and Youth Distilled

Car Reviews

Subaru’s Crosstrek Sport – Adventure and Youth Distilled

Subaru’s Crosstrek Sport – 

Adventure and Youth Distilled

Subaru has developed two new trims for the high-volume Crosstrek’s 2021 model year: the Sport and the Limited. Both models share the introduction of the larger and more powerful 2.5-liter direct-injection SUBARU BOXER engine to the Crosstrek family. While the Limited comes with upgraded 18-inch wheels and everything but the kitchen sink, it is the Sport model that keeps you falling in love with Subaru as a brand. The Sport contains the core elements of the great Crosstrek but in a distilled, more concentrated, manner.


These distilled elements start with the fact that the Crosstrek is more a true SUV than the newer competitive crossovers being introduced in this compact vehicle category. With segment leading ground clearance of 8.7 inches and the standard, symmetrical 4-Wheel Drive of Subaru (versus All Wheel Drive systems of competitors), it is an SUV, not a crossover with SUV styling.

Those Sport model elements responsible for the stronger statement begin on the exterior.  It has a unique gun metal color scheme on exterior parts – starting with the grille design, a new and exclusive 17-inch wheel design with gun metal (gray) color, and the side mirrors and the badging. The front bumpers are beefier in look while the wheel arches have a unique, more angular (and bolder) design.

Dynamically, these accents are not just for show. They reflect the fact that there are upgraded coil springs and dampers for improved off-road performance, while better managing the extra power of the 2.5L engine.

And speaking of the stronger engine (shared with the Limited model): The 2.5L engine produces 182 hp – that’s a +30hp jump over the regular 2.0L engine. Torque is also raised +31 lb-ft to 176 lb-ft. This extra power and strength is managed with an upgraded torque converter and a taller top gear selection. And all of these improvements come with almost no impact on fuel economy!

A dual-function X-MODE is exclusive and standard on the Crosstrek Sport model – with settings for snow, dirt, and mud. Again, distilling the goodness of all Crosstreks and making this element even more special in the 4WD system’s effectiveness.

(X-MODE® with Hill Descent Control is a 4WD control system for the brand that electronically optimizes the engine, transmission, and other systems for increased traction in slippery conditions).

There are of course new colors for the model as well – a Plasma Yellow Pearl and Horizon Blue Pearl.  Both are quite dynamic and look interestingly different as the day light progresses.

Going forward, Subaru expects the Sport and Limited may represent up to half of all Crosstrek sales. Sport (specifically) is planned to get 15-20% of the total (leaving Limited with almost 30%…or more). So over half of new Crosstrek buyers may end up with the new 2.5L engine – a significant shift for the brand and model line.


Overall, the Crosstrek is the 3rd highest sales volume for Subaru at 130,000+ sold in 2019. While representing near 20% of total brand sales, it has been the fastest-growing model line in Subaru’s history, and has already sold over three-quarters of a million (757K) units since introduction in 2012.  The Crosstrek attracts the youngest SUV buyers for those seeking a Subaru – they are in their 30s (or younger) and have a comparatively active and adventurous lifestyle. 

The Crosstrek lifestyle is the real deal – being rated the highest in six vehicle descriptors from actual owners.  It is the leader among all 16 competitors in terms of being:

  • Durable and able to withstand hard use without being damaged 
  • Designed to handle poor road conditions
  • Driven off-road
  • Used for camping
  • Used to carry outdoor sports gear
  • Purchased for safety

There is a hybrid model (a Plug-In Hybrid), which is the only electrified vehicle for Subaru so far.

The Crosstrek began in 2012 as a dedicated model name as an offshoot from what was then called the Subaru Outback Sport (funny enough, another “Sport” trim)! So, this version of Crosstrek is really the 4th generation of this model (not 2nd).


The new-to-Crosstrek 2.5 liter engine

The extra power in the Sport (+30 hp and +31 lb-ft torque) is all the more amazing as it only impacts fuel economy overall by 1mpg – almost nothing.  In fact, for highway mileage it is actually one mpg better (34mpg highway), which increases overall range for the vehicle to well above 500 miles. 

The 2.5L engine is much more refined than I ever expected from a Subaru boxer engine. It may be due to the new global platform in use since 2018 (implemented on Impreza and Crosstrek first), but it really makes a difference in smoothness and feel and does away with what has always been a negative for me about Subarus – the roughness coming from vibration, along with the accompanying engine noise. The extra power is just right and really pushes away any negative feedback one might have if you were aware that it was a CVT. Most regular drivers don’t care that it is a CVT, but this engine makes it even more forgettable. There were also paddle shifters on the steering wheel that contributed to the overall fun-to-drive factor of this distilled Sport model. It’s actually hard to use all eight ‘gear’ (a CVT doesn’t have gears – only programming which gives the semblance of gears) choices of the transmission that are available when in manual/paddle shifter mode – but it is fun trying.

Lane Centering and “Advanced ACC” (Adaptive Cruise Control)

Overall, Subaru – like many of the Japanese brands – has a suite of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) that are standard for all (or almost all) models.  For Subaru this is called EyeSight® and is standard for 2021 on all Crosstreks.  New for 2021, though, is the addition of Lane Centering technology as part of the Advanced ACC. Subaru’s system uses the cameras in the front of the vehicle to track the side and center lines of the lane you are in. As such the software literally steers the vehicle to the “center” of the lane.  Where this gets very cool is on a curve. When approaching a curve the vehicle actually begins to steer into the curve to keep the Crosstrek in the center of the lane. In essence, it feels like it is anticipating the curve. As a driver, it makes me a better driver and keeps my attention on the road as I can anticipate the curve earlier due to the feel of the wheel starting to turn. While I don’t love all driver aids, this one I really like for the anticipatory feel it can give the driver. Additionally, this element is not widely available yet – so kudos to Subaru for developing their own version of it and bringing it to the masses as standard. 

StarTex TM Seating Material

The StarTex seat material is one of the nicest designs and softest looking and feeling alternative seat materials I have experienced. For the Sport model we love the model name stitched into the seat back in yellow stitching. The environmental  statement is strong – StarTex has no PVC, Pthalates, Chlorine, or animal content. 25% of the backing material is recycled PET. The material is also lighter than leather. As a kicker, the carpeted floor mats also have recycled content and can be easily cleaned by the carpet cleaning dublin service. 


Yellow Accents on Steering Wheel

While the overall yellow accent stitching is effective and looks great everywhere, there is one exception. The “decor” U-shaped trim piece on the bottom of steering wheel up close doesn’t match well with all the stitching. While being consistent, sometimes it also just looks like a different color (maybe it is a material and size/shape thing), but perhaps it can have an option for a customized accessory to switch out – to carbon fiber trim or black enamel, etc.

Lane Centering engagement

The Lane Centering system seems to disengage or ‘non-active’ quite frequently, which as a driver liking that ‘feel’ kept me trying to re-engage it while driving. This was actually distracting and not an aide. Perhaps the system can be recoded to be on for longer durations (before shutting off)?

Dual Function X-Mode and Driver Modes

Choosing 4WD modes can only be done when not moving. Can the speed at which it can be selected be increased? Additionally, while moving another mode system graphic appears to flash between “S” and “I” transmission modes that makes one think the 4WD mode system may be overridden. This interface to the driver of what modes are ‘on’ or ‘chosen’ should be expanded/improved so it is clearer and more constantly present.  


The Compact SUV segment continues to experience explosive growth.  Everyone seems to want an SUV, even if in name and style only. Many of the newest crossovers are being introduced in this segment. The leaders (besides, of course, the Crosstrek) include:

Honda HR-V (latest)
Toyota C-HR (latest)
Hyundai Kona (latest)
Jeep Renegade (latest)
Jeep Compass (latest)
Chevrolet Trailblazer | new (latest)
Kia Seltos | new (latest)
Mazda CX-30 | new (latest)
Nissan Rogue Sport (latest)


The Subaru Crosstrek Sport and Crosstrek Limited are both available now in Subaru retailers.

The MSRP of the Crosstrek Sport is $26,495.

The MSRP of the Crosstrek Limited is $27,995.

Considering the average new car transaction price is almost $38,000 now, these price levels seem like a great value for all the content and unique, distilled elements you get in the Sport model.  

I guess that is why the Subaru Crosstrek is consistently awarded best value awards. Currently, Kelley Blue Book named the Crosstrek as the Best Resale Value in its class for 2020, and the Crosstrek has had the highest residual value in its segment for four years running; this according to ALG.

For additional specifications and configurators, please go to:


to see if the Subaru Crosstrek of other Compact SUVs best connect to you.

Partner, Car-ED

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