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Which is better? The Subaru Crosstrek vs. the Hyundai Kona


The 2021 Subaru Crosstrek compact crossover goes up against the 2021 Hyundai Kona in a comparison of suburban runabouts.

What we like: Standard all-wheel drive and 8.7 inches of ground clearance; standard Apple

CarPlay and Android Auto; EyeSight safety suite in CVT-equipped models.

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

Overview: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. 

More: How does the Toyota C-HR compare with the Subaru Crosstrek?

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 fog lights on the Premium, and the X-Mode all-wheel-drive system and a water-repellent interior on the Sport Model. 

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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. 

2021 Hyundai Kona

Base price: $21,540 

The 2021 Hyundai Kona


What we like: Great warranty; top safety ratings; EV has 258 miles of range.

What we would change: Cargo space is below average; rear seats are a bit tight; EV only available in 10 states.

Overview: A relatively new entry in the compact crossover/SUV category, the 2021 Hyundai

Kona is a sharp-looking, fun little urban runabout that has room for four or five passengers, useful cargo space, and plenty of standard tech and safety features. Add to that a choice of either a 30 mpg four-cylinder engine, a downright peppy turbo, and even an optional EV boasting 258 miles of range, and the Kona makes quite a statement for itself. 

Also see: Check out VW’s new Taos compact SUV

Front-wheel drive is standard, but all models can be equipped with all-wheel drive as well. We’ve liked past variants so much that the Kona was the winner of our KBB Subcompact SUV Best Buy award in both 2019 and 2020. On top of its tech-friendly basic setup, including a 7-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, the Kona comes with abundant safety features, winning it top marks from both NHTSA and the IIHS. 

The Kona is rather small, however, nearly a foot shorter than the Crosstrek, which makes for somewhat tight legroom in the rear seats and somewhat less cargo space than competitors. Resale values are quite respectable, and the Kona comes with Hyundai’s class-leading 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty.

What’s new for 2021: There’s a new Night Edition trim; Lime Twist and Sunset Orange paint choices have been discontinued.

Features and technology:For 2021, the number of Hyundai Kona trims increases to six, with the new Night Edition slotting in just below the Limited and the top-tier Ultimate. Fortunately, even the base SE model comes well equipped, with a 7-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto integration, 16-inch alloy wheels, and two USB ports up front. Active safety features include driver attention monitoring, automatic emergency braking and lane-keeping assistance.

Read: This year’s best hybrid SUVs

The next tier up from the SE is the SEL, which adds blind-spot monitoring, heated front seats, 17-inch wheels, keyless entry and ignition, roof rails, HD/satellite radio, and an optional contrasting-color roof. The SEL Plus adds an Infinity 8-speaker premium audio system, wireless phone charging, and an eight-way power-adjustable driver seat, among other things.

The new Night Edition slots in next, as the first with the available 175-horsepower turbocharged engine, 18-inch wheels, LED headlights and taillights, and black cloth upholstery. Next is the Limited, which adds leather seats and automatic climate control, and the top tier is the Ultimate, with an 8-inch touchscreen, navigation, a head-up display, rear parking sensors, pedestrian detection, rain-sensing wipers, and automatic high beams.

What does the future hold? Given that the Kona is popular, offers a choice of engines, and is nicely equipped, we only expect mild updates over the next few years, with possibly a hybrid option added. 

Crosstrek vs. Kona: Strengths comparison

Crosstrek benefits: Better in dirt and mud; cargo space.

Kona benefits: EV option; outstanding warranty; more fun to drive; lower starting price.

Crosstrek vs. Kona: Which is better?

We love the all-weather ruggedness of the 2021 Subaru Crosstrek, and it’s definitely the winner if you’re looking for a weekend camping trip companion, but if most of your driving is on pavement, we love the 2021 Hyundai Kona for its sporty handling, great features, sporty looks, and of course that legendary Hyundai warranty. 

Compare the specs at Autotrader.

This story originally ran on Autotrader.com.

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