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2020 Subaru Crosstrek vs Outback

2020 Subaru Crosstrek vs Outback
Reviewed & fact checked by
James Murdoch

2020 Crosstrek vs Outback - How do they stack up? What are the differences?

Subaru has made a name for itself in the automotive market. The company is well-known for building reliable vehicles that have great versatility. In recent years, Subaru has worked hard to take advantage of technological innovations to keep people safe, entertained, and connected.

Anyone looking for a practical and durable SUV/crossover will likely have come across the Subaru Crosstrek and Subaru Outback in his or her search. These two-row SUVs have nice-sized cabins and many modern amenities, and they're priced competitively. This guide will go over how these models compare with each other so that people can have a better idea of which one would suit them better.

Size and Styling

Since the 2020 Subaru Crosstrek and Subaru Outback are similar in many ways, examining the dimensions of the two models is one of the best ways to highlight how they differ. When looking at these vehicles next to each other, it's clear that the Outback is the larger SUV. It's considered a mid-size SUV, while the Crosstrek is more of a compact SUV/crossover.

The length of the Outback is 191.3 inches, with the wheelbase being 108.1 inches. It's 73 inches wide and 66.1 inches tall. In comparison, the Crosstrek has a length of 175.8 inches, so it's significantly smaller in this regard. Its wheelbase is 104.9 inches, its width is two inches less than that of the Outback, and its height is two and a half inches shorter than that of the Outback.

How does this translate into what the cabin has to offer? Well, the total passenger volume in the Outback is 109 cubic feet, compared with 100.9 cubic feet in the Crosstrek. Taller passengers will appreciate having a bit more headroom in the Outback than in the Crosstrek. Likewise, the Outback has more rear-seat leg room than the Crosstrek does, with 39.5 inches versus 36.5 inches of leg room. Though it's just a difference of three inches, it can be significant on long road trips.

Cargo volume is also noticeably greater in the Outback. Behind its second row of seats, it has 32.5 cubic feet of storage space, and that area can be expanded to 75.7 cubic feet if the rear seats are lowered. In the Crosstrek, there is a dedicated cargo area in the back that has a volume of 20.8 cubic feet. When the rear seats are folded down, total cargo capacity is 55.3 cubic feet.

Anyone planning on loading up the SUV with people and/or gear will definitely want to consider whether the Crosstrek has enough space to accommodate everything. The smaller size of the Crosstrek can also work to its benefit, as it can be easier to park than the Outback. In the end, the size differential will be a main factor as potential customers decide which model to get.

The style of the vehicles plays an important role as well. While both the Crosstrek and Outback are rugged and have athletic features, there are some ways in which they can be distinguished from each other.

Being that the Outback is the more expensive SUV, it has some nicer elements. For example, the Crosstrek has multi-reflector halogen headlights, while the Outback has LED headlights. The side mirrors on the Outback are available with a satin chrome finish, and the door handles can come with a chrome insert. Other high-end components, such as LED fog lights and integrated turn signals in the side mirrors, are found on the the Premium trim of the Outback; in the Crosstrek, it takes another upgrade to the Limited trim to see comparable features.


Taking a look at the powertrain is another good way to distinguish these two Subaru SUVs. While they both use four-cylinder SUBARU BOXER engines with direct injection, their engines are different sizes. The Crosstrek has a 2.0-liter engine as a standard component, while the Outback has a 2.5-liter engine as its standard model. This translates into 152 horsepower and 145 pound-feet of torque in the Crosstrek versus 182 horsepower and 176 pound-feet of torque in the Outback.

To add more to the comparison, there is a hybrid version of the Crosstrek and several trims on the Outback that are powered by turbocharged engines. The Crosstrek Hybrid uses the same 2.0-liter engine as the other Crosstreks have, but it also has a permanent magnet AC synchronous motor. The two parts work together to generate 148 horsepower.

The Outback trims that have the more advanced engine are the Onyx Edition XT, Limited Edition XT, and Touring XT. Each of these vehicles has a 2.4-liter, four-cylinder, turbocharged engine that can output 260 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque. This would obviously be the engine to choose if anyone really wants to feel the roar of the engine and values performance.

Both the Crosstrek and Outback can be equipped to tow cargo. The Crosstrek, with its smaller engine, can tow up to 1,500 pounds. (The Crosstrek Hybrid can tow up to 1,000 pounds.) In contrast, the Outbacks that use a 2.5-liter engine can tow 2,700 pounds, and those that have a turbocharged 2.4-liter engine have an impressive towing capacity of 3,500 pounds.

Most trims of these two SUVs use Lineartronic continuously variable transmissions (CVT). On the higher trim of the Crosstrek and all trims of the Outback, there is an eight-speed manual mode with paddle shifters that can be used whenever people want to be more in control over shifting. For those drivers who love stick shift, the Crosstrek base model and Premium trim come with a six-speed manual transmission. Not wanting to turn away drivers who don't want a manual transmission, Subaru has given customers the option of getting a CVT instead.

Though the Outback's two engines outperform the Crosstrek's engines, fuel economy in the two vehicles is pretty even, with the exception of the Crosstrek Hybrid. The standard Crosstreks with CVT earn an estimated 27/33 (city/highway) miles per gallon, and those with the manual transmission earn up to 22/29 miles per gallon. With the Outback, the trims with the 2.5-liter engines can achieve up to 26/33 miles per gallon. The Outback XT trims illustrate the usual trade-off between performance and efficiency, as their estimated fuel economy drops down to 23/30 miles per gallon. Of course, the Crosstrek Hybrid is in a league of its own, getting up to 90 MPGe/35 mpg (electric/combined).

Subaru builds vehicles that do well in a variety of situations, and this is illustrated by the Crosstrek and Outback. Both have symmetrical all-wheel drive to provide them with additional traction in slippery situations. All-wheel drive is ready to engage at any time, and it can prove useful when heading up steep hills and taking turns in addition to driving over snowy or icy roads. These Subarus also have Active Torque Vectoring, a system that can apply braking power to either front wheel when turning. It can result in better handling and easier steering.

The two models have a ground clearance of 8.7 inches, which can come in handy if venturing over rocky terrain. Further helping in this situation would be X-MODE. This system boosts the all-wheel-drive ability of the vehicle, resulting in reduced wheelspin and greater traction, especially when the driving conditions are poor. X-MODE is standard across all of the Outback trims. On the Crosstrek, it's available on the first two trims and standard on the other two.

Comfort, Options and Performance

While the cabins of the two Subaru SUVs have same feel, the general theme is that the Outback offers a bit more. In many areas, the Outback has higher quality details and/or more features.

For instance, it requires upgrading to the Crosstrek Limited in order to see a power driver's seat and a leather-wrapped transmission handle. On the Outback, one only has to go from the base model to the Premium to find those same features. Plus, the Outback has several available components that the Crosstrek doesn't have, such as a power front-passenger's seat, a two-position memory function for the driver's seat, heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear outboard seats, and Nappa leather. In total, the Outback can come with cloth, SofTex, leather, and Nappa leather seats, while the Crosstrek starts with cloth and then moves to leather.

The same idea holds true for other interior amenities. A hands-free power rear gate is available on the Outback but not the Crosstrek, and the Outback also has an overhead console for extra storage, an available auto-dimming rearview mirror with a compass and HomeLink technology, and an available dual-zone climate control system.

USB ports seem to always be in high demand, and there are several in both vehicles. The base model of the Outback has two USB ports in the front, and the Premium has two in the front and two in the back. The base model of the Crosstrek, however, only has one USB port. Its Premium trim has two front USB ports, and its Limited has two in the front and two in the back.

Just by looking at the touchscreen, one can see that the Crosstrek's infotainment system isn't quite the same level as the one in the Outback. The Crosstrek comes standard with a 6.5-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The higher trims have SiriusXM, HD Radio, a CD player, and an eight-inch touchscreen. Navigation is an option on the Limited and Hybrid.

On the other hand, the Subaru Outback starts with a seven-inch touchscreen with smartphone compatibility and SiriusXM Radio. Just one trim above the base model comes with an 11.6-inch touchscreen and available navigation. The higher trims feature navigation as a standard component, as well as a Harman Kardon premium sound system. This same audio system is only an option on the Crosstrek.

Buying Tip:

To avoid overpaying on a new car, shop prices online first. Get up front pricing before you walk into a dealership. We recommend the following free services; Car Clearance Deals, NADAguides, CarsDirect & & Motortrend.
These free services will offer you the lowest prices and supply you with multiple competing price quotes. You will know the best price before you visit the dealer.


Subaru has focused a lot of its attention on safety, and it has incorporated EyeSight Driver Assist Technology into many of its vehicles. This safety package is standard on all trims of the Outback, as are automatic high beams. With the Crosstrek, only the Limited and Hybrid have these mechanisms.

EyeSight Driver Assist Technology gives vehicles the ability to sense potential issues, warn drivers about them, and take action if necessary. A Subaru with this capability can alert people if they're veering out of a lane or swaying back and forth, and with lane keep assist, it can gently correct steering. Pre-collision braking puts pressure on the brakes if the Subaru is approaching another vehicle too quickly, and adaptive cruise control constantly works to maintain proper distancing with other vehicles by adjusting speed.

On both the Crosstrek and Outback, the higher trims have blind spot monitoring, lane change assist, and rear cross-traffic alert to give drivers information regarding what they cannot see. Reverse automatic braking starts to be included at the Limited trim on both vehicles, and it prevents people from hitting obstacles while they're in reverse.

To make sure people are paying attention to the roads, the Outback has a DriverFocus Distraction Mitigation System. It can figure out if someone behind the wheel is distracted or tired, using an in-vehicle camera that monitors the positioning of a driver's eyes. It's works in a similar fashion to how facial recognition software works. It will chime if a driver's eyes spend too long looking away from the road, whether they're closed or are looking down at a phone or something other than what's important.

Which Model to Choose?

It should be evident by now that the Outback is a more premium vehicle, in addition to being the larger SUV out of the two Subaru models. The drawback of the Outback in comparison to the Crosstrek is that it's more expensive. Customers will have to weigh the benefits and costs of these two vehicles as they decide which one would be the right fit.

The base model of the Crosstrek costs $22,145, with the Premium requiring a modest jump to around $23,200, the Limited being offered for $27,395, and the Hybrid being priced at $35,145.

The Subaru Outback starts out at $26,645, so it's right under the Crosstrek Limited in terms of affordability. It quickly jumps up to almost $29,000 with the Premium trim, and all the rest of the Outback models cost well more than $30,000. The Outback Touring XT tops out the line-up at $39,695.

The Outback will appeal more to people who want more cargo space and a nicer cabin, as long as they can find a way to afford all of those extra advantages. The Crosstrek is capable and well-equipped on its own, and it would definitely be able to satisfy people who want versatile, compact, and modern SUVs.

Used 2020 Subaru Crosstrek: