Picking the Superior Subaru Crosstrek: Gas-Only Engines vs Plug-in-Hybrid
We've already talked about how in just over a decade, the Subaru Crosstrek has gone from a new, quirky addition to Subaru's lineup to being one of the most unique and popular subcompact CUVs on the market.
And with that increasing popularity has come an expansion of options for Crosstrek buyers, with no less than three different powertrain options available on the current model for the North American market.
So we thought we'd give some insight and recommendations to those looking to buy a new or used Crosstrek and see if we can figure out which powertrain delivers the best performance and value.
Crosstrek 2.0L? Probably Skip it Unless You Need a Manual
Until 2021, the volume engine in the Crosstrek was a rather underpowered 2.0 liter naturally aspirated boxer engine. And that engine continues to be the base engine, making 152hp.
There's nothing especially wrong with the 2.0, but in era when many of its competitors offer turbocharged engines with improved performance, this engine can be found lacking..
The one reason an enthusiast might want the 2.0 engine is that it's the only way you can get the Crosstrek with a manual transmission, and we do like the fact that Subaru still gives Crosstrek buyers the option to row their own gears.
Subaru's 2.5L Engine: The Sweet Spot
For the '21 model year Subaru finally delivered what buyers had been asking for: more power. It came in the form of the 2.5 liter naturally aspirated boxer engine from the Forester and Outback and it was standard on the new Crosstrek Sport model as well as the top-grade Limited trim.
No the 2.5 doesn't turn the Crosstrek into an all-terrain hot hatch, but at 182 horsepower it provides a significant boost in performance, upgrading its acceleration and passing power from "slow" to "pretty decent."
And best of all, unlike a lot of engine upgrade options on crossovers, opting for the larger engine comes with no penalty in fuel economy. In fact, it delivers the same EPA combined fuel economy as the 2.0. For us, the Sport model is especially easy to recommend as you get the more powerful engine for a pretty modest increase in MSRP.
Crosstrek Hybrid: A Proper PHEV CUV?
Last but not least, there's the Crosstrek Hybrid which was added to the lineup for the 2019 model year. And more than just a traditional hybrid, the Crosstrek Hybrid is actually a PHEV which means it can plug-in and run on electric power alone.
When done right, a PHEV can be the best of both worlds, operating as an EV during local drives and using gasoline during long trips. But compared to its plug-in competition, the Crosstrek Hybrid is lacking many ways.
First up is the rather small battery and short EV range of 17 miles, which is limited to speeds below 65 miles per hour. And while acceleration is better than the base 2.0 Crosstrek, its also a much heavier vehicle and is outperformed by the 2.5 liter version.
Additionally, the battery pack of the Crosstrek PHEV eats into its cargo space, something which could be a big deal if you are looking to carry outdoor gear in the hatch. And finally there's the price, which starts at $38,000, nearly $10,000 more than a Crosstrek Sport.
As mentioned a moment ago, the 2.0 liter Crosstrek is a hard sell with the more powerful 2.5 liter engine now in the lineup. And unless you are deadset on a manual transmission, or are looking for the lowest priced version we recommend choosing one of the 2021+ models that comes with the 2.5 liter engine.
The more interesting choice is between the 2.5 liter models and the Crosstrek Hybrid. While the Crosstrek Hybrid is currently the only hybrid in Subaru's lineup and offers some unique features not found in other subcompact CUVs, our pick would probably be the 2.5.
The hybrid has a short EV-only driving range, is significantly more expensive than the non-hybirds and has other compromises that limit its practicality.
While we love the idea of plug-in Crosstrek, the current version feels a bit half-baked and short on value. Here's hoping Subaru can improve on this for the next iteration.
At the moment, if you want a better performing, more usable PHEV, look to something like the Toyota RAV4 Prime or skip the hybrid altogether and go for an AWD Subaru Solterra EV.
For now, our choice is the 2.5 liter Crosstrek which makes an ample amount of power for a fairly small price premium and no penalty in fuel economy, And until Subaru fulfills our wish and puts the WRX's 2.4-liter turbocharged engine in the Crosstrek, it's the enthusiasts' pick of the bunch.
More From Driving Line
- Another important fact for those considering the Subaru Crosstrek is that a new third-gen model should be here pretty soon. It's already debuted in Japan.