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2021 Toyota C-HR vs. 2021 Subaru Crosstrek: Which Is Better?

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?

Quick Facts

  • The 2021 C-HR adds a black-out Nightshade trim package to its model range.
  • A new 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine option is added to the Subaru Crosstrek.

2021 Toyota C-HR

2021 Toyota C-HRBase price: $22,620 / Read our 2021 Toyota C-HR Review

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 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 CarPlay and Android Auto integration.

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 foglights, 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.  See the 2021 Toyota C-HR models for sale near you

2021 Subaru Crosstrek

2021 Subaru CrosstrekBase 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: 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 car-like 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 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.

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-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.  See the 2021 Subaru Crosstrek models for sale near you

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.

Find a Toyota C-HR for sale or Find a Subaru Crosstrek for sale

2021 Toyota C-HR 2021 Subaru Crosstrek
Popular Powertrains
Engine 2.0-liter I4 2.0-liter flat-4
Horsepower 144 hp @ 6100 rpm 152 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque 139 lb-ft @ 3900 rpm 145 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm
Transmission CVT CVT
Fuel Economy 29 mpg (27 city/31 hwy) 30 mpg (28 city/33 hwy)
Also Available n/a 2.5-liter flat-4; 6-spd manual
Warranty 3 years or 36,000 miles 3 years or 36,000 miles
Powertrain warranty 5 years/60,000 miles 5 years/60,000 miles
NHTSA Overall Safety Rating 5 Stars 5 Stars
Max Seating Capacity 5 5
Wheelbase 103.9 inches 104.9 inches
Overall Length 172.6 inches 176.5 inches
Width 70.7 inches 79.0 inches
Height 61.6 inches 63.6 inches
Turning Diameter n/a 35.4 feet
Headroom, Front 38.1 inches 39.8 inches
Headroom, Rear 38.3 inches 38.0 inches
Legroom, Front 43.5 inches 43.1 inches
Legroom, Rear 31.7 inches 36.5 inches
Shoulder Room, Front 49.0 inches 56.7 inches
Shoulder Room, Rear 52.5 inches 55.6 inches
EPA Passenger Volume 86.0 cu. ft. 100.9 cu. ft.
EPA Cargo Volume 36.4 cu. ft. 55.3 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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