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2021 Subaru Crosstrek vs. 2021 Jeep Renegade: Which Is Better?

In the subcompact SUV category, the 2021 Subaru Crosstrek and 2021 Jeep Renegade both offer decent all-weather driving. But which is better when it comes to all-around practicality?

Quick Facts

  • Renegade Trailhawk edition includes low-range and a Rock crawl mode.
  • 2019 Subaru Crosstrek was the winner of KBB’s Best Resale Value in the Compact/SUV category.
  • Both are good for all-weather driving.

2021 Subaru Crosstrek

2021 Subaru Crosstrek

Base price: $23,295 Read our 2021 Subaru Crosstrek Review

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: Straddling a couple of different categories, 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. 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 continuously variable 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.

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 foglights on the Premium, and the X-Mode all-wheel-drive system, and a water-repellent interior on the Sport model. The upper-level 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. Find a 2021 Subaru Crosstrek for sale near you

2021 Jeep Renegade

2021 Jeep Renegade
Base price: $24,325 / Read our 2021 Jeep Renegade review

What we like: Trailhawk trim is a true off-roader; rugged design; standard safety and driver assistance features; headroom; easy to maneuver and park.

What we would change: Fix the automatic transmission; offer a manual transmission; increase cargo space.

Overview: The smallest member of the Jeep family, the 2021 Jeep Renegade is a subcompact SUV offering rugged looks, plenty of driver-assist and safety features, and respectable off-road skills when in Trailhawk trim. Looking as if the engineers at Jeep took parts of the Wrangler and Cherokee, combined them, and then shrunk them down, the Renegade benefits from its small size. Combine that with short overhangs and a tight turning radius and it makes for a decent city car. The base engine makes decent power to propel the Renegade (which is a bit heavy), although we prefer the 1.3-liter turbo upgrade for its low-end torque. The automatic transmission has been problematic in the past, and while improved, still needs some work, and there are definitely better choices if regular highway cruising is on your agenda. There’s also no manual offered. Jeep has built an 80-year reputation as a maker of serious off-roaders, and the Trailhawk trim shows it means business, with 8.7 inches of ground clearance, skidplates, a low-range setting, Rock mode, and hill-descent control, among other things. Pricing for the Renegade is a touch high for the segment, but the base model includes decent standard equipment, including dual-zone automatic climate control, a 7-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto integration, and satellite radio. There are also some nice little touches on various trims, including such things as a dual-pane sunroof and some Hawaiian-themed touches on the Islander Edition.

What’s new for 2021: Changes for this year primarily involve additional features at various trim levels, but most significantly, more safety features now become standard. Beyond that, the base Sport trim gains the 7-inch touchscreen and satellite radio, and the Latitude trim includes a 7-inch full-color LCD driver display and an alarm. The Limited trim now includes an 8.4-inch touchscreen and navigation, and the Trailhawk trim adds some more standard equipment. New editions this year include the Jeepster (based on the Sport trim), the 80th Anniversary edition (based on the Latitude), and the Islander Edition (based on the top Limited trim). These add some extra themed features.

Features and technology: The 2021 Jeep Renegade comes with a choice of engines, either front-wheel or all-wheel drive, and four trim levels, from the base Sport to the Latitude, the off-road-ready Trailhawk, and the top Limited trim, with a few different special editions as well. The base Sport trim comes decently equipped, including power windows, dual-zone climate control, heated side mirrors, and 16-inch steel wheels. New for 2021 are more features such as forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, and lane-keeping assistance. Also is an upgraded infotainment system with a 7-inch touchscreen, satellite radio, and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto integration.

Moving up is the Latitude trim, which adds automatic headlights, cornering foglights, a USB port in the second row, 17-inch alloy wheels, and a premium simulated leather-wrapped steering wheel.

Most notable above that is the Trailhawk trim, which comes with the upgrade turbocharged engine, four-wheel drive with a low-range crawl setting, terrain-select with Rock mode and hill descent control, tow hooks, a full-size spare, and skidplates. Also included are a power-adjustable driver seat, leather seats, heated front seats, keyless ignition, and a 115-volt outlet. These features are also available on the Limited trim.

Beyond that, the 80th Anniversary Edition (based on the Latitude trim) adds a navigation system, Granite Crystal-finished 19-inch wheels, an 8.4-inch touchscreen, and Berber mats. The Islander Edition adds some Hawaiian touches and a dual-pane sunroof.

What does the future hold: Jeep has been a steady brand and an American institution for 80 years, providing military vehicles and now popular outdoorsy SUVs and crossovers. Changes for the future will likely include feature upgrades and possibly a more powerful base engine. We’d love to see a manual transmission option. Find a 2021 Jeep Renegade for sale near you

Crosstrek vs. Renegade: Strengths comparison

Crosstrek Benefits: Standard all-wheel drive on all trims; better highway ride; optional manual transmission; cargo space.

Renegade Benefits: Base power; unique looks; serious off-roading on Trailhawk trim; individuality.

2021 Subaru Crosstrek vs. 2021 Jeep Renegade: Which is better?

To our reasoning, the main reason to buy a Jeep is for its off-roading ability. And if you want a subcompact SUV that can take to rock-strewn trails, the 2021 Renegade Trailhawk trim is a great choice. But if you’re looking for a subcompact SUV that checks a lot of boxes, including a decent drive, a good upgrade engine, some good standard features, and some respectable all-weather chops, and the ability to go camping on the weekends, we say the 2021 Subaru Crosstrek is the way to go. Find a 2021 Subaru Crosstrek for sale or Find a 2021 Jeep Renegade for sale

2021 Subaru Crosstrek 2021 Jeep Renegade
Popular Powertrains
Engine 2.0-liter flat-4 2.4-liter I4
Horsepower 152 hp @ 6000 rpm 180 hp @ 6400 rpm
Torque 145 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm 175 lb-ft @ 3900 rpm
Transmission Manual, 6-Spd Automatic, 9-Spd
Fuel Economy 25 mpg (22 city, 29hwy) 25 mpg (22 city, 30hwy)
Also Available 2.5-liter flat-4; CVT 1.3-liter I4, turbocharged
Basic Warranty 3 years or 36,000 miles 3 years or 36,000 miles
Powertrain Warranty 5 years or 60,000 miles 5 years or 60,000 miles
NHTSA Overall Safety Rating 5 Stars n/a
Max Seating Capacity 5 5
Wheelbase 104.9 inches 101.2 inches
Overall Length 176.5 inches 166.6 inches
Width 79.0 inches 74.2 inches
Height 63.6 inches 66.5 inches
Turning Diameter 35.4 feet 36.2 feet
Headroom, Front 39.8 inches 41.1 inches
Headroom, Rear 38.0 inches 40.5 inches
Legroom, Front 43.1 inches 41.2 inches
Legroom, Rear 36.5 inches 35.1 inches
Shoulder Room, Front 56.7 inches 55.9 inches
Shoulder Room, Rear 55.6 inches 55.1 inches
EPA Passenger Volume 100.9 cu. ft. 100 cu. ft.
EPA Cargo Volume 55.3 cu. ft. 50.8 cu. ft.

Doug Lloyd
Doug Lloyd
Doug Lloyd is an author specializing in comparison tests. A veteran of the automotive press world, Doug started at Sports Car International and Vintage Motorsport magazines and has worked at both Porsche Panorama magazine and Doug is also a jazz piano player and a composer for television.

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