2021 Subaru Crosstrek Sport : First Drive

The Crosstrek has been a winner for Subaru since its introduction in 2012. For the most part, it’s just a lifted Impreza, but with each version Subaru pushes the Crosstrek further away from its sibling in both styling and capability. The 2nd generation Crosstrek launched in 2018, and instantly became one of our favorites, especially in that sexy orange paint. Unfortunately for 2021, the orange is gone, replaced with “Plasma Yellow Pearl”, which can appear almost green in some lighting situations. While we like the new color, we truly mourn the loss of orange from the color choices, but welcome all of the other changes that come with a new trim: the Crosstrek Sport.

Available in dealerships now, the 2021 Subaru Crosstrek features aesthetic tweaks (like revised front-end styling), more driver assistance technology, the new Sport trim, and a new 2.5L engine option. If you remember our review of the 2018 Subaru Crosstrek, we found that model fun to drive, but under-powered. Subaru listened to us (and more likely their customers) and are now offering a 2.5L boxer engine (standard on Sport trim) that adds 30 horsepower and 31 lb-ft of torque to the standard 2.0L. That upgrade made quite a difference, and the new 182 horsepower engine feels much better suited to the Crosstrek’s customers who often use it to haul skis, bikes, and kayaks on mountainous roads. Although we still wish they had a Turbo available. 

All Crosstrek models are equipped with Subaru Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive, Active Torque Vectoring and 8.7 inches of ground clearance. This makes the Crosstrek more capable than most (but not all) buyers realize. Subaru noticed that many of their customers were taking the Crosstrek and making it more extreme with All-Terrain Tires, and even using it for overlanding. So they embraced those customers by adding the new Sport trim level which includes Subaru’s dual X-Mode traction control with Hill Descent Control and terrain settings. While our drive route was a bit tame, we did get a chance to play around with the terrain settings to see how the AWD system responded. See the video review we embedded at the bottom of this feature for a look at how the Crosstrek Sport handles off-road.

The new Sport trim also provides unique exterior trim elements that include specific wheel arch moldings, Sport-type 17-inch alloy wheels with dark gray finish, and gunmetal finish for the front grille, side mirrors and badges. We’re so happy to see that Subaru resisted the urge to equip their Sport model with larger wheels, instead opting for the smaller diameter wheels which are preferable in rougher terrain. 

Additionally the sport trim gets a unique yellow accented interior with exclusive StarTex (lightweight, urethane material manufactured without polyvinyl chloride (PVC), phthalate or chlorine) upholstery with yellow stitching. For some reason, those yellow interior accents (while fabulous) are not the same color as the yellow paint on the exterior, but they’re included on all Sport models, regardless of exterior paint color. 

The 2021 Subaru Crosstrek improves upon an already successful vehicle where it needed it most with the 2.5L boxer engine. We love the new Sport trim, and think the enthusiast crowd will embrace it too, despite the loss of their favorite color and ours, orange. At just $26,495, the Crosstrek Sport offers more power and more style over the base model, with only a minimal hit to gas mileage. It’s available in dealerships now, if you can find it. We understand the new Crosstrek is experiencing tremendous demand, and for good reason.

Philip Van der Vossen

Philip Van der Vossen founded and hosts the Trail Trek Tour, a traveling series of off-road events for automotive media. In 2020 he launched the off-road travel site, OffRoadTripz.com, as the content focused side of TrailTrekTour LLC. Philip has been an online publisher since 2008, and has covered the automotive industry since 2010. Prior to founding Trail Trek Tour, he served for three years as the Rally Director for the Washington Automotive Press Association.

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