When the Subaru Crosstrek XV was launched in 2013, I remember thinking “what a likeable little car – if only it had just a little more power”. Among the changes it receives for 2021, the Crosstrek’s biggest gain is the new 2.5-litre flat-four borrowed from the Outback wagon and Legacy sedan.
Until its 2018 overhaul, Crosstrek posted only moderate sales numbers in Canada. Now underpinned by Subaru’s Global Platform architecture, the second generation Crosstrek has become the company’s best selling Canadian model.
Outwardly, it hasn’t changed much. There are a few tweaks to the bumper and grille, and some added wheel options. It’s what lies under the sheet metal that helps make the Crosstrek a more compelling little crossover. Aside from the increase in power, the Crosstrek’s expanded list of standard and available driver-assistance technology helps make it an even more attractive option in a highly competitive segment.
For many, the most important thing the new Crosstrek has to offer is that new 2.5 litre flat-four engine. Its output of 182 hp/176 lb-ft of torque is a 20 per cent increase over the 2.0-litre’s 152/145. In these days of four-digit horsepower supercars those may not sound like huge numbers – but they’re enough to elevate the Crosstrek’s performance from lethargic to lively. Unfortunately for enthusiasts, the new engine is available only with a continuously variable transmission, and offered solely on Outdoor and Limited trims.
But most Canadian buyers will probably be more interested in the Crosstrek’s expanded safety technology offerings. Subaru’s Eyesight driver-assistance safety suite is now standard on every CVT-equipped Crosstrek, and for 2021 adds adaptive cruise control and lane-centering assist.
Other key changes include a new Canada-only Outdoor trim, and an automatic exterior light system that actually includes the taillights – good news for those of us who’ve cursed the “zombie cars” encountered on a dark highway.
Our drive took us from the congested hell of Toronto’s 401 highway, to the glorious rolling Northumberland Hills, where we ventured off-road through the Ganaraska Forest. The only test car available was the new Outdoor trim; a rugged soft-roader in exclusive Plasma Yellow Pearl paint, 17-inch alloy wheels, aggressive body cladding, and gunmetal grey grille, mirror caps and fog light accents. Inside the cockpit, yellow accent stitching, and rugged all-weather upholstery distinguish the Outdoor. It’s a basic, but comfortable environment that features a 6.5-inch touchscreen and Subaru’s StarLink connected services. Visibility on the highway is quite good, made even better with blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. The extra power makes this a much more enjoyable car at cut and thrust highway speeds, with immediate response for merging and lane-changing manoeuvres. The suspension feels tight, but doesn’t transmit any harshness to the well-insulated cabin.
The Ganaraska trails would probably seem like child’s play to a Rubicon veteran, but the off camber inclines in wet sand offered a good chance to experience the Crosstrek Outdoors Dual Function X Mode. All Crosstreks come standard with full-time asymmetrical all-wheel drive, but the Outdoor has additional settings for snow, dirt, and mud. It also has a selectable front mounted 180-degree camera and a hill-descent mode for steep inclines.
Despite the additional power, the Crosstrek still manages to deliver some respectable fuel consumption numbers. The 2.0-litre’s official 8.5 city/ 7.0 highway/7.9 combined/100 km put it near the best in segment for fuel efficiency, yet the larger engine is only slightly behind with 8.8/7.0/8.0 per 100 km.
Always likeable, the Subaru Crosstrek is now a much more attractive prospect for buyers looking for value and performance in a compact crossover. Offered in three manual, and four CVT trims, the Crosstrek has kept its base price at $23,795. The top-spec Limited is $34,495.
The vehicle was provided to the writer by the automaker. Content and vehicle evaluations were not subject to approval.