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2021 Subaru Crosstrek vs Toyota RAV4

2021 Subaru Crosstrek vs Toyota RAV4
Reviewed & fact checked by
James Murdoch

2021 Crosstrek vs RAV4 - How do they stack up? Which is Better?

The 2021 Subaru Crosstrek and 2021 Toyota Rav4 are both subcompact crossover SUVs. Both vehicles offer all-wheel drive (AWD) and respectable off-road capabilities. These crossover SUVs may be smaller, but they still offer plenty of room for both passengers and cargo. Both vehicles have a rugged and adventurous design that is backed up by their capabilities and performance.

Each of these two crossover SUVs has four doors and a rear hatch for the cargo area. Both have room for up to five people. Not only are the Crosstrek and Rav4 in the same vehicle class, but they both share similar price points as well. This has naturally lead to the two vehicles being compared with one another.

The Powertrain

The 2021 Subaru Crosstrek is more powerful than ever and comes with the choice of three different powertrains. The base model has a 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder Boxer Engine. A Boxer Engine is sometimes referred to as a horizontally-opposed engine. This allows for better fuel efficiency and a smoother, vibration-free performance when compared to traditional inline or V-shaped engines.

The Crosstrek's 2.0-liter power plant can produce 152 horsepower (hp) with 145 pound-feet (lb-ft) of torque. This engine comes with a 6-speed manual transmission or an optional automatic CVT. A Crosstrek equipped with this engine and a manual transmission will get up to 22 miles-per-gallon (mpg) in the city and 29 mpg on the highway. With the CVT, those numbers go up to 28 mpg and 33 mpg, respectively.

Subaru also offers a 2.5-liter DOHC engine for their Sport and Limited trim levels. This engine produces 182 hp with 176 lb-ft of torque. These trim levels automatically get the Lineartronic CVT. This model should get around 27 mpg in the city and 34 mpg on the highway. Subaru rates both gasoline engines as capable of towing up to 1,500 pounds (lbs) when the Crosstrek is properly equipped.

Subaru even offers a hybrid model of the Crosstrek for 2021. This model goes back to using the 2.0-liter engine, but this time gets only 137 hp and 134 lb-ft of torque. This engine is paired with an electric motor that is charged by the gasoline engine while the vehicle is being driven. It can also be plugged in for a complete charge. This allows for electric-powered driving around town and gasoline-powered driving for longer commutes.

Every version of the Crosstrek gets Subaru Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive. Acceleration is excellent no matter which powertrain is equipped. The 4-wheel disc brakes provide adequate stopping power. Subaru offers a New Car Warranty for up to three years or 36,000 miles, whichever comes first. There is also rust protection for five years and unlimited miles, while the powertrain is covered for five years or 60,000 miles.

Toyota's 2021 RAV4 offers a traditional gasoline engine as well as a plugin hybrid model. The gasoline engine is a 2.5-liter with four cylinders, dual overhead cams and variable-valve timing. It will come stock with an 8-speed Electronically Controlled Automatic Transmission. This setup will crank out around 203 hp with 184 lb-ft of torque. Toyota estimates that a RAV4 with this powertrain will have a combined fuel-economy rating of 30 mpg.

Specifically, the RAV4 with a gasoline engine could get up to 27 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on the highway. The hybrid model boasts an impressive combined fuel-economy rating of 40 mpg. The hybrid models will have a 2.5-liter engine and an HV electric motor. This gives the RAV4 a combined power rating of 219 hp. This model of the RAV4 comes with an automatic CVT.

The hybrid RAV4 models will offer a number of driving modes for various terrain types and driving conditions. These come with all-wheel drive (AWD). Regular gasoline models get Sport, ECO and Normal settings. These come stock with front-wheel drive (FWD). Both versions are quite capable of tackling some light off-road duties.

Toyota offers the same basic warranty coverage of three years or 36,000 miles that Subaru offers. The powertrain is again covered for five years or 60,000 miles. The hybrid powertrain gets 96 months or 100,000 miles of coverage. Toyota currently has one of the best reputations in the business for producing reliable, long-lasting vehicles.


The 2021 Subaru Crosstrek offers a smooth ride, thanks in part to the Boxer Engine. The placement of the pistons and the balance of this engine means vibration-free operation. The lack of vibrations makes for a noticeably smoother ride. The Subaru also offers an excellent 4-wheel independent raised suspension. This adds to the Crosstrek's refined ride quality both on and off of roads.

Sound proofing is decent enough to negate most road and other outside noises. All five occupants will have ample room to ride comfortably in. There is 39.8 inches of headroom and 43.1 inches of legroom both upfront and in back. The Crosstrek also has 20.8 cubic-feet of cargo volume. This can be expanded up to 55.3 cubic feet by folding down the rear seats. Hybrid models have slightly less cargo space in back.

The driver's visibility is good here. This is further enhanced with some nice driver-assist features that increase the driver's awareness of their surroundings. These will be covered in more detail in the Safety section of this article. Steering and handling dynamics are fantastic.

The Crosstrek comes with manually-adjustable front seats at the lower trim levels. Most trims, however, do offer heated seats up front. The highest trim level provides power-adjusted seats. The upholstery is basic cloth with leather trim available for the top-tier models. The gauge cluster is neatly designed and all controls are within easy reach of the driver.

Every model of the Crosstrek gets an Automatic Climate-Control System. The infotainment system is Subaru's STARLINK Multimedia System with a 6.5-inch touchscreen display. Higher trim levels get STARLINK Multimedia Plus with a larger, 8-inch touchscreen and an integrated navigation system. There's an HD AM/FM stereo and CD player with a four- or six-speaker audio system depending on the model.

The Limited models of the Crosstrek offer a premium audio setup by Harman Kardon. The Crosstrek infotainment system has Bluetooth Technology for streaming and Voice-Command Technology for hands-free operation and phone calls. The system also offers 4G LTE Wi-Fi capabilities.

The 2021 Toyota RAV4 also offers a good ride quality and great steering dynamics. It is, unfortunately, louder inside of the RAV4 than it is inside of the Crosstrek. The RAV4 has a much louder engine. The suspension system here may be even better than the excellent system installed on the Crosstrek. The RAV4 has an Independent MacPherson Strut and Stabilizer Bar up front. The rear features a Multi-Link Suspension with Stabilizer Bar.

Toyota's RAV4 offers 37.7 inches of headroom and 41 inches of legroom up front. There is 39.5 inches of headroom and 37.8 inches of legroom in the rear. The rear-seat area isn't small or cramped like many of the other vehicles in this class. The Subaru does offer a bit more passenger space than Toyota, but it's close.

The RAV4 has 37.6 cubic-feet of cargo space that can be increased to 69.8 cubic feet by folding down the rear seats. The rear seats fold down nice and flat, making it easy to load and unload. While the RAV4 has slightly less passenger space, it has significantly more cargo room when compared to the Crosstrek. Driver visibility is equally good when comparing the two vehicles.

The base model of the RAV4 has a basic Climate-Control System. Higher trim packages come with a Dual-Zone Automatic Climate-Control System. The driver's seat is 6-way manually adjustable and the front-passenger seat is 4-way manually adjustable. Higher trim levels get 8-way power adjustments. The rear seats are 60/40 split-bench seats that can recline or be folded down flat.

The RAV4 seats will either be covered in basic cloth or Toyota's SofTex-trimmed upholstery. The interior is well designed with a large gauge cluster that is attractive and easy to see. All of the controls are neatly laid out and easy for the driver to get to. The overall quality of the materials here are not quite as nice as what the Subaru Crosstrek has to offer.

Toyota's audio and multi-media systems feature either a 7-inch or 8-inch touchscreen display. The basic system has six speakers, but there's also an available JBL system with 11 speakers, a subwoofer and an amplifier. There are numerous USB ports and Bluetooth Technology for streaming and hands-free calls. The system is compatible with popular apps like Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Amazon's Alexa.

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.


The 2021 Subaru Crosstrek comes packed with plenty of safety features and driver-assist technology. The Crosstrek has an Advanced Frontal Airbag System. Airbags are also located to protect the rear passengers. The driver gets an additional bag around the knee area. The Crosstrek's seats were designed with whiplash protection in mind. The rear has child safety locks and the LATCH system to tether child safety seats down.

Vehicle Dynamics Control and Traction Control make the vehicle more stable and easier to drive in extreme weather. Subaru's Eyesight Driver Assist Technology offers a whole package of safety features. This includes Advanced Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Departure and Sway Warning, Pre-Collision Braking and Pre-Collision Throttle Management. There is also Blind-Sport Detection with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert.

Every Crosstrek gets a Rear-Vision Camera and Tire Pressure Monitoring System. A Brake Override System gets in during emergencies. Daytime Running Lights make the Crosstrek more visible to other drivers.

The 2021 Toyota RAV4 also comes equipped with plenty of safety features and modern technology. Every RAV4 has eight airbags and three-point seat belts for every seating position. Just like the Crosstrek, the RAV4 has a Blind-Spot Monitor with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert and a Tire-Pressure Monitor. The LATCH system is also found in the RAV4, just as it was in the Crosstrek.

The RAV4 has a rear camera with guidelines. Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 is a complete package of driver-assist features similar to what Subaru offers. There's a Pre-Collision System that can even detect pedestrians. There's also a Lane-Departure Alert with Steering Assist that helps drivers quickly get back into their own lane if they veer off too far. There is also a Road-Sign Assist feature.

Which Has the Best Value?

The base trim level of a 2021 Subaru Crosstrek starts at just $22,245. The Limited models start at $27,995 while the hybrid models come in at $35,345. The 2021 Toyota RAV4 starts at $26,150 with the Limited coming in at $34,680. The Toyota TRD Off-Road model has some serious off-road capabilities, but will set buyers back by $35,880. The hybrid models start at $34,600.

For one of the best bargains out there, the base model of the Crosstrek offers good value. It's excellent for anyone with a tighter budget. If the buyer is set on a hybrid model, then the RAV4 is the better value. Both vehicles have a good amount of convenience and safety features, but the Toyota gives more for your money at most trim levels.

Which Is Better?

The Toyota RAV4 offers more cargo space and better off-road performance. It's a good match for anyone who needs the extra space. For drivers who want to do a lot of off-road driving, it's the better choice too. The Crosstrek may be the better choice for drivers who want comfort and luxury with the option to occasional wander off of paved roads.

Most buyers will be happy with either option here. Both crossover SUVs offer good fuel efficiency with either the gasoline engines or the hybrid setups. Both are rugged, reliable and capable vehicles. The Subaru has a nicer, quieter and more comfortable interior. The Toyota has better performance and a nicer infotainment system. Which is best ultimately depends on the driver's preferences here.

Used 2021 Subaru Crosstrek: