By Eric Peters
If you’re thinking about a small crossover wagon and looking for a reason to favor one over another, Subaru’s got something to show you that is hard-bordering-on-impossible to find in any other crossover: a pedal to the left of the brake pedal.
What It Is
The Crosstrek is a compact-sized, five-passenger crossover with standard all-wheel drive and a standard six-speed manual transmission.
Prices start at $22,245 for the base trim with the stick, a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine and all-wheel drive. If you prefer to let the car shift for itself, a CVT automatic is available; this bumps the price up to $23,595.
Advertisements - Click the Speaker Icon for Audio
Sport ($26,495) and Limited ($27,995) models come standard with a larger and stronger 2.5-liter engine, also paired with standard all-wheel drive.
However, these versions of the Crosstrek are CVT automatic-only.
In addition to the new engine, all 2021 Crosstreks get a minor cosmetic refresh, the first change in external appearance since this model made its debut in 2018.
The Sport trim adds new luminous yellow accents for the interior and hunkier fender flares.
Manual availability infuses this small crossover with personality.
Manual availability isn’t limited to the base, not-much-other-stuff trim.
All-wheel drive doesn’t cost extra — in any trim.
What’s Not So Good
Oddly, manual isn’t available with the Sport trim.
The optional stronger engine is only available with the CVT automatic.
A stronger engine comes standard — for less — in rival CX-30; rival Honda HR-V comes standard with more rear-seat legroom.
Under the Hood
When it first came out back in 2018, some reviewers criticized the Crosstrek for being under-engined. However, its standard 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine — which makes 152 horsepower — is stronger than the smaller 1.8-liter, 141-horsepower engine that’s standard in the Honda HR-V, one of the Subie’s primary rivals.
It’s also stronger than the 2.0-liter, 147-horsepower four-cylinder that’s standard in the Hyundai Kona, another rival.
And if you need more power, the newly available 2.5-liter engine makes 182 horsepower.
You can get the 2.0 engine with either the six-speed manual transmission or an optional CVT automatic. The larger 2.5 engine is paired only with the CVT — but both engines are paired with all-wheel drive, which costs extra in other models in the class.
On the Road
The Crosstrek is an interesting mashup of practicality — something every crossover offers — and fun, which is harder to find in a crossover. The almost 9 inches of ground clearance and the tenacity of Subaru’s standard all-wheel drive make it the best thing to be in during a blizzard since a BRAT — even if it hasn’t got rear-facing jump seats.
It isn’t super fast, even with its optional 2.5-liter engine. But it feels faster than it is even with its standard engine because of the action that attends balancing clutch and throttle and shifting — as opposed to just sitting and steering.
At the Curb
Like all crossovers, the Crosstrek has a lot of room for its size.
The hatchback layout lets you overlap the cargo area into the passenger area. Drop the rear-seat backs, and you more than double the 20.8 cubic feet behind the back seats to 55.3 cubic feet — which is about three times as much space for cargo as you’d have in the roughly 16-cubic-foot trunk of the typical full-size sedan.
Where the Crosstrek comes up a little short is in the category of back seat legroom, where it has 36.5 inches versus the HR-V’s class-roomiest 39.3 inches.
The Crosstrek’s stereo includes a CD slot! These are even harder to find than a clutch pedal or a pull-up hand brake.
It’s nice to be able to play your CDs directly and use Bluetooth for your iPod. It’s also nice to be able to turn up the fan or adjust the temp by feel. Those are easy to do because the Crosstrek’s fan and temperature controls are rotary dials, not can’t-tell-by-feel icons on a flat-screen display.
Subaru also lets you upgrade to a better stereo with six speakers and get heated seats — without giving up the clutch. Most of the few new cars you can still get with a manual transmission limit the availability of the manual to the marginally equipped base trim only — forcing you to choose between the clutch and amenities like heated seats and a better stereo.
The only deficit — or, really, more of an oddity — is that the Sport trim isn’t available with the stick. Which is kind of like a cheeseburger without the cheese. But you do get sportier looks, including unique simulated leather seat covers with contrast-yellow stitching and snarky fender flares. And the more powerful 2.5-liter engine is part of the deal.
The Bottom Line
The Crosstrek injects some much-needed fun into a class of vehicle that is so practical it practically puts you to sleep.
Eric’s new book, “Don’t Get Taken for a Ride!” is available now. To find out more about Eric and read his past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.
COPYRIGHT 2020 CREATORS.COM