The 2021 Subaru Crosstrek is an all-wheel-drive hatchback/wagon/crossover that goes head-to-head against the spunky 2021 Toyota C-HR compact crossover. Which is better?

What we like: Sporty handling, standard safety features, reputation for reliability, and good resale values.

What we would change: Add option of all-wheel drive; offer a more powerful engine upgrade or a turbo; improve rear visibility.

Overview: While it’s considered a compact crossover, Toyota’s
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2021 C-HR lacks the all-around usability of many of its competitors, as it doesn’t even offer the option of all-wheel drive. It’s more of a city dweller, with decent handling and futuristic styling, although it’s a bit underpowered for our tastes.

What’s new for 2021: Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 safety suite upgrade; new Nightshade Edition brings black accents; different paint choices.

Features and technology: There are three available trim levels, all of which come with a respectable amount of standard equipment, including Toyota’s Safety Sense 2.0 suite of driver aids, including forward collision mitigation, low-speed emergency braking with pedestrian/cyclist detection, adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams, and lane departure alert. The base model, known as the LE, comes with LED headlights, dual-zone automatic climate control, and an 8-inch touchscreen with Apple
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CarPlay and Android Auto integration.

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The next trim up is the XLE, which adds 18-inch allow wheels, power-folding mirrors, keyless entry and ignition, and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert. An optional add-on for 2021 is the Nightshade Edition, which adds black-finished wheels with black lug nuts, black cosmetic accents, and black fabric upholstery. An optional audio upgrade package adds Bluetooth audio streaming and HD/satellite radio.

At the top is the Limited trim level, which adds leather upholstery, an eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, heated front seats, adaptive headlights, LED fog lights, and rain-sensing wipers.

What does the future hold: Considering our main gripe with the 2021 C-HR is its lack of power, we hope Toyota adds an upgraded engine or at least an optional turbocharger, although since the C-HR is a relatively new model, we expect only cosmetic changes.  

2021 Subaru Crosstrek

Base price: $23,295

The Subaru Crosstrek


Subaru

What we like: All-wheel drive comes standard; EyeSight safety suite in CVT-equipped models; decent off-road chops and 8.7 inches of ground clearance.

What we would change: Weak base engine; poor fuel economy with manual transmission.

Overview: In what has become a signature of the brand, the 2021 Subaru Crosstrek is neither a compact SUV nor a hatchback, but rather something in between, with a carlike ride but also some of the attributes of a crossover/SUV. With standard all-wheel drive and 8.7 inches of ground clearance, the Crosstrek is a solid camping vehicle, comfortable on anything from mud to dirt to snow, although it’s still not a great choice for true off-roading on rocky terrain.

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We find the standard 2.0-liter engine to be a bit underpowered, but are more than satisfied with the upgrade 2.5-liter engine. We also don’t much care for the manual transmission, since not only does the CVT deliver better gas mileage, but CVT-equipped models come with a more sophisticated AWD system, which offers Hill Descent Control. CVT models also come with SI-Drive, a driver-selectable powertrain management system that goes from more fuel-efficient to more sporty.

The interior is comfortable and roomy, with a clear 360-degree view out front and 55.3 cubic feet of space with all seats folded.

What’s new for 2021: Style changes include a redesigned grille and front bumper, while inside, Sport and Limited models get a 182-hp 2.5-liter engine, and adaptive cruise control comes standard on all CVT-equipped models.

Features and technology: Trim levels for the Crosstrek range from the base model up to the Limited, with the two lower levels offering either a manual or CVT transmission and the upper two with CVT only. Prices range from nearly $24,000 for the base model up to $29,000 for the base Limited, which includes more standard equipment.

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Standard features include 17-inch alloy wheels, a 6.5-inch touchscreen, and automatic climate control. As we have mentioned, such things as SI-Drive and EyeSight are offered only on CVT-equipped models. Upper trim levels include such things as paddle shifters and fog lights on the Premium, and the X-Mode all-wheel-drive system and a water-repellent interior on the Sport Model. The upper-tier Limited comes with 18-inch wheels, push-button ignition, a leather interior, an 8-inch touchscreen, and LED headlights, among other things. Other options include a moonroof on the Premium and up and a Harman Kardon audio system on the Limited.

What does the future hold: Subaru says there is a hybrid variant of the Crosstrek coming in 2021, but details are vague. The 2020 Crosstrek plug-in hybrid had 17 miles of all-electric range. 

C-HR vs. Crosstrek: Strengths comparison

C-HR Benefits: Fuel economy; sportier handling; standard safety features.

Crosstrek Benefits: Standard all-wheel drive on all trims; higher safety rating; excellent resale value.

C-HR vs. Crosstrek: Which is better?

If all you’re looking for is a little urban runabout with a lot of style, respectable fuel economy, and good reliability, then the 2021 Toyota C-HR is the choice here, but in terms of all-around crossover usability, from its significantly larger cargo space to the all-weather sure-footedness of its all-wheel drive, our choice here has to be the 2021 Subaru Crosstrek.

This story originally ran on Autotrader.com.



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