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If you have been thinking about buying a new SUV this model year, you might be trying to figure out whether you should get a Subaru or something else. If you are dead-set on buying a Subaru, you can find quite a few options. The 2021 Subaru Crosstrek and the 2021 Subaru Impreza are to of the options that you can get right now, and both have a lot going for them. However, there are some benefits to owning the Crosstrek over the Impreza. But just what are they?
The 2021 Subaru Crosstrek now comes with a more powerful 2.5-L 4-cylinder engine that comes standard on the Sport and Limited trim levels. Its 182 horsepower is a vast improvement over the base 2.0-L 4-cylinder engine's 152 hp. At least now you get the choice of having a more powerful, robust engine that can take off at a pretty quick clip (a 0-60 mile per hour time of 8.4 seconds, as opposed to the 2.0-L's 10.4 seconds).
Other tweaks for the model year include more driver aids on the automatic-equipped Crosstreks. Plus you get a restyled front and rear bumper that give the Crosstrek a more contemporary look.
You do still get a solid 8.7 inches of ground clearance, which, combined with the standard all-wheel drive (AWD) drivetrain, makes the Crosstrek a capable off-roading SUV. For a hatchback, the Crosstrek is remarkably spacious on the inside and offers an abundance of comfort throughout the well-crafted cabin. The ride quality is excellent, even when you are rolling over jagged road surfaces.
The downsides? Well, the base engine is quite obviously a blight for the Crosstrek. This makes buying the Base or Premium trim levels a little less than ideal. Its 152 hp makes for a sluggish launch and an overall draining performance. With this engine equipped, you have to carefully plot your speed-ups and merges onto the highway. Trying to pass another vehicle takes some effort. Handling isn't a strong point on any of the Crosstrek models, and you do not get as much cargo space as you would in a regular-sized SUV.
The 2021 Subaru Impreza has a few changes for the model year. SI-Drive engine management now comes on the Premium trim level. Other than that, you still get the same ol' AWD system and an optional manual transmission - something that most vehicles do not offer anymore. The Impreza's cabin is quiet even at highway speeds, and there is comfort to be found throughout. You also get a bunch of standard driver aids available with Subaru EyeSight.
The Impreza's 2.0-L 4-cylinder engine is the same one that comes on the Crosstrek. So it too only gets 152 hp. Unlike the Crosstrek, the Impreza does not give you a 2.5-L 4-cylinder engine to opt up to. The Impreza's engine is unfortunately sluggish and makes a great deal of noise. You also have to deal with some lower than average quality interior materials. On top of that, in real world driving, the EPA estimates (the best being 32 miles per gallon in combined city and highway driving) do not hold up, yielding closer to 28 mpg or even less.
Size and Styling
Depending on your need for space, the Crosstrek might be a better option than the Impreza. But the Impreza might be better suited for those who want to choose between either a hatchback or a sedan. The Crosstrek is labeled as a SUV, but it is more of the crossover hatchback variety than a regular SUV. It still has that old-school Subaru wagon vibe, but its styling is quite modern with its raised roof rails and oversized fender arches. Sporty is definitely a word that comes to mind when looking at this vehicle. Also, you get the option of having a hybrid model if you want one.
The Impreza offers a little more diversity in its line-up. You can pick from either the Impreza sedan or its hatchback variant. Both come with standard AWD and the same 2.0-L 4-cylinder engine. There are no hybrid options for the Impreza at this time, so you have to stick with the gas-only powertrain. The Impreza is smaller than the Crosstrek, so if space is something you need, the Impreza might not be roomy enough. The sedan has less trunk space available, so you might need to go with the hatch if you require more room for cargo. Otherwise, the Crosstrek's 20.8 cubic feet of cargo space can be maxed out to 55 cubes when you fold the seats down, offering a bit more room.
You can optionally equip a sunroof on the Crosstrek's Limited trim level. On the Impreza, you can get a sunroof equipped on the Premium, Sport, or Limited trim level.
Unfortunately, both the 2021 Subaru Crosstrek and the 2021 Subaru Impreza are plagued by the awful base engine. The 2.0-L 4-cylinder engine that comes on each only musters up 152 hp, which really is not enough to get either vehicle up and moving to 60 mph any faster than about 10 seconds. It will moan and groan the whole way there, too. At least the Crosstrek now offers the 2.5-L 4-cylinder engine. Its 182 hp feels more appropriate for a small SUV and shaves about 2 seconds off of the 0-60 time that the 2.0-L engine clocks in at. Acceleration feels quicker, and you do not need to spend as much time trying to plan your merges and passes.
The Crosstrek has 8.7 inches of ground clearance, which makes for some good off-roading with the standard AWD drivetrain. The handling performance feels subpar though, as the vehicle's hard tires struggle to get a strong grip on road pavement. You also have a tall ride height that produces a fair amount of body roll while the Crosstrek rounds through turns. Other small SUVs offer more exciting handling performances than the Crosstrek.
So, how does the Impreza stack up in terms of drivability? The engine detracts from its overall performance, but there are some other issues too. However, you get brakes that modulate with ease even in panic stops, and body roll is kept under control better than on the Crosstrek due to the Impreza's lower ride height. Also, the steering feels swift and responsive.
Comfort, Options and Performance
Comfort is the name of the game on the 2021 Subaru Crosstrek. The ride quality could use some improvement, as it does tend to shudder inside of the cabin when rolling over bumps. However, bigger dips and juts in the road surface can be dispatched with ease. The cabin does offer plenty of space for comfort, with only some head room getting trimmed down in the rear in favor of that sloping roofline. This will only be a bother to passengers who are over 6 feet tall; everyone else should find that they have an abundance of space.
The most noise you will incur comes from the base engine, which has a tendency to get loud when put under pressure. Just try taking it up to full throttle on the highway, and you will hear the growl. Otherwise, wind and road noise are pretty well muted out.
The one complaint we have about interior comfort in the Crosstrek is how awkwardly the HVAC vents are placed. There are some up front right next to the driver's hands. Having hot or cold air blown onto your hands while driving can be unpleasant, and it means that the air is not flowing as quickly into the rest of the cabin. Otherwise, you can enjoy kicking back in the comfy, well-padded (if not a tad on the firm side) seats. The front seats could use more bolstering, especially for keeping you locked in place while rounding through turns. This is not a huge issue, but it is something you might find yourself wishing you had as you put the extra effort into making turns in the tall and boxy Crosstrek.
The Impreza performs quite similarly to the Crosstrek in terms of comfort, if not slightly better. The ride itself is quiet and smooth, save for the grumbly engine. The CVT whines a bit, but you will not hear any wind noise coming in. The rear seats are flat but cozy, and the front seats are firm but comfy too. As is the case with the Crosstrek, the vents in the Impreza are not appropriately placed. The front vents will blow air directly onto the driver's hands, which is not exactly ideal. Your fingers will get cooler faster than the cabin.
The Impreza's cabin is also quite functional with clear, easy-to-use controls. You can also see out of the rear with clarity, especially if you get the hatch. The rear seat is slightly cramped for taller folks, but the cabin is otherwise spacious for its segment. The driver's seat and steering wheel offer plenty of adjustability to help you find a good driving position.
The Impreza's technology is much like the Crosstrek's. The read-outs are easy to see, and there is no guesswork involved with the no-frills touchscreen display. The standard stereo system does not offer the best sound quality, but the Sport and Limited can be optionally equipped with the 8-speaker Harman Kardon premium sound system. It is an upgrade that we would recommend regardless of whether you get the Crosstrek or the Impreza.
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Subaru offers a slew of standard safety features on both the 2021 Subaru Crosstrek and the 2021 Subaru Impreza. Each comes with the Subaru EyeSight bundle of standard driver aids. This gives the vehicle features like adaptive cruise control (which sets a safe following distance from the vehicle in front of the Subaru) and lane keep assist (which will make minor corrections to the steering in order to keep the Subaru in its intended driving lane). Opting up from the base trims can get you a blind spot monitoring system with a rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive LED headlights, and rear automatic braking (which will apply the brakes if the rear sensors detect a potential collision with an object behind the Subaru).
Which Model to Choose?
The clear winner in this competition is the 2021 Subaru Crosstrek. The addition of the new 2.5-L 4-cylinder engine for the higher trim levels makes a huge difference in terms of drivability. Its extra 30 hp aligns more with what we would expect from a vehicle of this ilk. The Crosstrek offers a little more refinement overall, plus you get slightly more space in the cargo area. The only thing that the Impreza does better is control its body roll. The Crosstrek's taller stature makes it more prone to body roll. However, aside from that one issue, the 2021 Subaru Crosstrek is the better of these two Subaru vehicles.