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2021 Subaru Crosstrek: Finally, Subie’s tiny crossover offers an upgraded engine option

2021 Subaru Crosstrek: Finally, Subie’s tiny crossover offers an upgraded engine option

Photo provided by Subaru

In addition to Crosstrek’s familiar 152-hp, 2.0-liter engine, buyers can now trade up to a 2.5-liter flat four with 182 hp. Photo provided by Subaru

Although on a small scale, Subaru’s Crosstrek has embraced an age-old automotive maxim: nothing displaces displacement.

Before the widespread adoption of turbochargers and superchargers, the road to more power was paved with cubic inches. For 2021, Subaru has adopted that theory to address Crosstrek’s one glaring fault -- anemic power.

Heretofore, the only engine available in Subaru’s little crossover was a 2.0-liter, horizontally opposed four that makes 152 hp and 145 lb.-ft. of torque. Still holding sway in 2021 as this guy’s base engine, Crosstreks equipped with that 2.0-liter, we can say from experience, are slower than a school-zone speed limit.

For 2021, however, this subcompact crossover has raided the parts bin of its larger showroom mates, the midsize Legacy sedan and Outback wagon, to borrow their 2.5-liter flat four as an optional upgrade. It’s an engine that boosts Crosstrek’s power to 182 ponies and grunt to 176 lb.-ft. -- increases of 16 and 17 percent, respectively.

Photo provided by Subaru

Photo provided by Subaru

And, yeah, it makes a difference. Behind the base 2.0-liter, Crosstrek is within shouting distance of 10 seconds by the time it reaches 60 mph. A 2.5-liter Crosstrek, we found, makes the same trip in a blink over 8 ticks.

Offered in base, Premium, new-for-2021 Sport and Limited trims, Crosstrek’s entry-level model and its Premium trim get the 2.0-liter. However, Sport and Limited, which is the one we drove, are motivated by the 2.5-liter engine, a horizontally opposed four managed exclusively by a CVT automatic. (The base engine buttons to either a standard six-speed manual or, optionally, the CVT.)

Based on the sporty Impreza hatchback, the all-wheel drive Crosstrek reveals its source material with sharp handling that’s nicely complemented by the newfound power. Adding to the driving athleticism is SI Drive, which is standard on Crosstreks with the CVT. It provides driver-selectable performance choices of “X-Mode” (off-road), “Intelligent” (best fuel economy) and “Sport” (livelier throttle response).

In just over 100 miles of mixed city/hwy driving, we realized 27 mpg -- less than the EPA’s expected 29, but, admittedly, we spent more time than not in the Sport mode. We also noted moderate wind and road noise on the highway. Meanwhile, at stoplights, when the dormant 2.5-liter flat four kicked back on after being muted by the auto-engine-shutoff feature, the entire car vibrated notably.

Photo provided by Subaru

Photo provided by Subaru

Inside, room is fine up front in this tiny crossover, and even the back seat is not bad after passengers negotiate the door sill’s big step-over. That 60/40 rear seat also folds to create 55 cubic feet of flat-floor cargo space.

Regarding infotainment, this little guy has more screens than a multiplex. Happily, all three -- the reconfigurable display in the gauge pod, the hooded screen atop center dash and the touch screen in the center stack -- are easy to navigate once you get the hang of it. That touch screen is 6.5-inches in standard guise, but it grew to 8.0 inches in our top-of-the-line Limited.

Always concerned with modern automotive bubble wrap, Subaru equips every CVT-managed Crosstrek with “EyeSight Driver Assist Technology.” For 2021, that’s been enhanced with Adaptive Cruise Control with Lane Centering. Among its other features are Automatic Pre-Collision Braking, Lane Departure Prevention and the aforementioned Auto Start-Stop and SI-Drive.

Finally, styling, mainly subdued in typical Subaru fashion, is slightly enhanced for 2021 with a toughened front end and sharply sculpted character lines along Crosstrek’s flanks.

Starting at $23,295 for the base model and an attainable $27,545 for the preferable 2.5-liter engine, Crosstrek exhibits plenty of common sense -- and just enough panache to look adventurous.

This content was produced by Brand Ave. Studios. The news and editorial departments of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch had no role in its creation or display. For more information about Brand Ave. Studios, contact
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Dan Wiese is a freelance automotive writer. He is a regular contributor for Brand Ave. Studios and to AAA Midwest Traveler magazine's online Web Bonus.

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