Subaru Crosstrek Problems

Subaru Crosstrek Problems: A Complete Guide

Along with most other Japanese manufacturers, Subaru is known for making reliable cars. But Subaru Crosstrek is an ill-famed child in its family. Subaru Crosstrek problems are a widely discussed topic on the internet.

But how does an otherwise dependable manufacturer create a car like the Crosstrek that is riddled with problems? Let us find out if the Subaru Crosstrek problems are real or just another internet fad.

Subaru Crosstrek history

Subaru Crosstrek was launched at a time when crossovers and SUVs had strengthened their assault on the industry. In 2012, Subaru had a dismal crossover lineup. Subaru did try their luck with some products but could not cook up a fruitful recipe. The smallest of them was the Outback Sport, which was just a raised version of the Impreza hatchback. There were the larger Subaru Forester and Outback, but they were more like people carriers than crossovers. This left Subaru in a rut, with effectively no SUVs or Crossovers in the lineup when the entire market was asking for one.

Enter the Subaru Crosstrek. Subaru’s desperate attempt to create a crossover to cash on started with the Crosstrek. The Crosstrek replaced the Outback Sport from the lineup. But nothing changed much. Just like the Outback Sport, the Crosstrek was also a raised Impreza hatchback. The Crosstrek was based on the fourth-generation Impreza hatchback and looked exactly like it. Credit where it is due, they did put a bit more effort into it to make it look distinct. But this could not do much for the Crosstrek.

Concept to Reveal

Subaru showcased the concept form of the Crosstrek to the world for the first time in 2011. This first appearance happened at the 2011 Auto Shanghai and at this point, it was named the Subaru XV concept. It had a 2.0-liter four-cylinder DOHC boxer engine hooked up to a CVT.

The Subaru XV Concept did not have to wait a lot to morph into a production form. At the 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show, the production version was showcased as the Subaru XV. It retained this name when it went on to sell in its home market, Japan, in late 2012.

At the 2012 New York Motor International Auto Show, Subaru Crosstrek entered the US market with the new name. It shared its internals with its twin, the Impreza. The 2.0-liter four-cylinder boxer engine churned out 148 hp, and the CVT channeled it to all four wheels through Subaru’s Symmetrical all-wheel-drive system. This, in no way, was impressive. Even for a market looking for a frugal no-nonsense crossover, the Crosstrek seemed underpowered.

Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid

In 2014, Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid was launched, catering to the needs of a market that was growing increasingly eco-conscious. This was the brand’s first production hybrid car. It was not an impressive hybrid technology but was good enough for the first shot at it. The Crosstrek Hybrid added an electric motor good enough for 13 hp and 48 lb. ft to the powertrain. The same story repeats here too. Nothing impressive, just enough for the job.

Second Generation Crosstrek

This is where things got heated up at a crossover level. The new Subaru Crosstrek came in 2017, adopted the brand’s new Subaru Global Platform, along with the Impreza. But this was where the Crosstrek received its visual bulk that it deserved as a crossover in the first place.

The design of the second-generation Subaru Crosstrek was more rugged than ever. Even though it still took after the new Impreza hatchback, it had its own identity. The vehicle was raised, and the black cladding was made more pronounced.

In this iteration, it came with an uprated 2.0-liter boxer engine with 154 hp and 145 lb. ft. It also received a six-speed manual transmission. Later, in 2019, Subaru re-introduced the Crosstrek Hybrid as a Plug-in Hybrid with an all-electric range of 17 miles.

Subaru Crosstrek Problems 2

Subaru’s reliable history and Crosstrek, the anomaly

Subaru is a car brand known for its reliability. Many cars they made still run with thousands of miles on their clock. This was in the same veins as most other Japanese brands. But the Crosstrek was an anomaly, well, almost.

There was fundamentally nothing wrong with the Subaru Crosstrek. It was built on the proven platform of the Impreza, with the same tried and tested mechanicals. But Subaru Crosstrek problems surfaced on the crossover in its initial years, making it stand apart from the sedan. On top of this, it suffered from a bunch of recalls as well.

But do not be worried, Subaru Crosstrek problems are in no way critical like the ones that Northstar engined Cadillacs had. Nor is it a troubled creation, like the Chevrolet Cruze. The story of Subaru Crosstrek problems starts with several key issues plaguing the first models and then progressing on to being one of the most reliable cars in the market right now. This progression had Subaru’s continuous improvement to thank, which almost annihilated these Subaru Crosstrek problems.

Major Subaru Crosstrek Problems

If you are looking for a list of blown-up engines or broken driveshafts in this list, you may not find it here. This is a Subaru after all. But that does not mean that the Subaru Crosstrek problems did not exist at all. Let us have a look at what made the Crosstrek the minger in their lineup.

Low power

Yes, this is not one of the Subaru Crosstrek problems. But this is the area where it received the most criticism. The 2.0-liter boxer engine of the Subaru Crosstrek used to churn out 148 hp, which was puny compared to most of its rivals. It was an okay engine for a small car like the Crosstrek, but Subaru could have given the option of a more powerful engine.

In many pages and forums, cries for a Subaru Crosstrek WRX are loud and clear. It makes proper sense too. A turbocharged engine would be the perfect answer to this Subaru Crosstrek problem. With its compact body, a potent engine, and a brilliant all-wheel-drive system, a Crosstrek WRX could have been the driver’s crossover. And in these SUV-crazy times, it is no secret that it will rack up good numbers. But Subaru, weirdly, did not make one.

In the 2021 facelift for the second generation, Subaru tried to address the most criticized of all Subaru Crosstrek problems.  With a larger 2.5-liter engine as an option, the Crosstrek could make 182 hp. Better than before? Yes. A proper answer to the WRX demands? Not really.

Head Gasket Issue

This is the biggest of all the Subaru Crosstrek problems, head gaskets. In fact, it is one of the issues that many Subaru models face, despite their reputation for being reliable. Since the 1990s, Subaru has been fighting this trouble, yet it turned into one of the Subaru Crosstrek problems later. This problem is more prevalent on the larger 2.5-liter engine. These were on pair with the Northstar engine of the time.

What does a gasket do?

The gasket is a thin strip of metal that forms a seal between the cylinder block and cylinder head. The gasket is responsible for proper oil and coolant flow. If this is blown, oil and coolant can leak out, overheating the engine and damaging the internals.

As the replacement of the head gasket involves opening the engine, it can be a ginormous maintenance task. No DIY repair should be attempted on it. It is always best to leave it to a seasoned professional.


If you do have a blown gasket, the first sign will be overheating of the engine. White smoke coming out of the exhaust can also be an indicator. If you choose to drive even when this Subaru Crosstrek problems pop up, it can end up frying the engine. Not a great situation to end up in.

How much does it cost to fix?

As always, swapping a gasket is a hefty task. The only remedy is to open the engine head and replace the gasket. The repair job cost is as complicated as the procedure itself. A gasket replacement can cost upwards of $1,500 just for labor. The parts cost will add in another $1,100 to $1,200 just for the gasket and an additional $700 for other associated parts. So, if you do the math, a gasket replacement can cost….a lot.

Rodent attack

How can this be one of Subaru Crosstrek problems? We had the same question when we read about it the first time. Turns out, it was a good deed from Subaru that turned around and bit them, quite literally.

Subaru, in a bid to be as eco-friendly as possible, swapped some of the synthetic plastic electrical wire coatings with a green material. This bio-degradable soy-based coating was great for nature as it reduced the synthetic waste going to landfills. It was also cheaper, helping Subaru save money.

But in the eyes of a rat, this was a large chew toy nestled in a dark, safe environment warmed up by an engine after a drive. Rat heaven maybe. The soy-based compound was constantly attacked. Many owners woke up to severed fuel lines or torn-out wiring harnesses.

Subaru was not the only manufacturer caught in this mess. Along with Subaru Toyota, Honda, Hyundai, and Kia had lawsuits filed against them. These were made by furious customers who were enraged to find out that their warranty does not cover this damage. The repair bills for replacing what is left of the rat dinner were humungous.

CVT Issues

In 2018, Subaru announced a warranty extension program for its Continuously Variable Transmissions (CVTs). This hiked the warranty for the transmission from the original 5 years or 50,000 miles to 10 years or 100,000 miles, whichever comes first. This extension applied to almost all their models, including the Crosstrek, Legacy, Forester, Impreza, WRX, and Outback.

Subaru claims that there were no customer complaints or concerns raised against the CVT. The warranty extension was more of an added assurance about the reliability of the CVT, they reported.

But customers had a different story. According to, almost 1,500 complaints are logged in connection with this issue. Customers experienced shudders, stalling, and knocks from the CVT. In short, the CVT started to give a jarring ride, a few years into the life of the vehicle.

Under this warranty, customers could get free repair and replacement of parts if they were facing problems with their CVTs. Dealers conducted free inspections even for vehicles that did not have any symptoms.

Excessive Oil Consumption

This is yet another of the Subaru Crosstrek problems that are shared with its sister models. Many Subarus, including the Crosstrek, from the years 2012 to 2015 were found to have consumed more oil than it is used to.

Subaru dealers were replacing pistons and oil rings to bring this issue under control. But they later decided to replace the entire short block assembly as a final remedy to these Subaru Crosstrek problems.

Faulty positive crankcase ventilation (PCV) Valve

Out of all Subaru Crosstrek problems, most of them are relevant for the older models. But this is a problem found in the second generation Crosstrek, built after 2018.

The PCV valve keeps the waste gases from building up inside the crankcase. It lets the gases escape back into the intake system for reuse. But this valve can go wrong.

If the PCV valve fails, the engine oil may enter the combustion chamber. It can be even worse, as the parts of a PCV valve can also enter the engine, damaging the internals.

A recall was issued for this problem. If the PCV valve was found to be faulty in these vehicles, it was replaced. If the faulty valve had already caused damage to the engine, the entire engine was replaced, free of cost.

Brake Light Switch Defect

A trivial problem can cause king-sized issues. Out of all the Subaru Crosstrek problems, this may sound like the smallest of them all. But it was one of the most inconvenient.

Let us talk about the effects first. If your vehicle has this problem, you may face any of the following situations.

  • If your Crosstrek has a push-button start, it may not start even when you press the brake pedal.
  • You cannot shift out of park
  • Vehicle Stability Control warning light pops up while driving
  • Brake lights stop functioning

What causes it?

All the above-mentioned issues can be traced back to a single fault. The brake light switch in a Subaru Crosstrek is exposed. Over time, silicone deposits can build upon this, from some products used to clean the car. This stops the light switch from sending a signal. When there is no signal from the brake light switch, most functions that need an OK from the switch get disabled.

Recall fixing the issue

The only fix for this problem was to replace the brake light switch. Subaru announced a recall in 2019 for more than 2.3 million vehicles to replace their brake light switches. The vehicles included in this recall were the Crosstrek, Forester, Impreza, and WRX.

Failure of Subaru Eyesight

Subaru Eyesight is a suite of driver-assist technologies that helps improve safety. It includes active safety systems pre-collision automatic braking, lane-departure alerts, collision warning, and adaptive cruise control.

The Eyesight technology can fail to function properly and turn into one of the Subaru Crosstrek problems. In fact, this problem can be traced back to the name of the technology. “Eyesight” is just like our actual eye which gets hindered by fog, water spray, and a myriad of other environmental conditions.

To make matters worse, Eyesight used monochrome cameras in its earlier versions. This made it difficult for it to spot and cognize brake lights. Though Subaru swapped it for smaller, color cameras starting in 2015, it still was not all good news.

Another one of the Subaru Crosstrek issues that we talked about before meddles with the Eyesight. The faulty brake light switch in many Subaru Crosstreks has been found to disable the Eyesight function.

Steering Issues

The next one of the Subaru Crosstrek problems is associated with the steering of the vehicle. Mainly found in 2016 Subaru Crosstrek, this problem can be a pain to live with. The steering of these vehicles reportedly gets locked while driving or made a clicking noise while turning at full lock. The car also may pull to one side while driving. This one is particularly a little frustrating one among the Subaru Crosstrek problems but would not be a massive headache to fix.

Cracking Windshield

Many reports of windshield cracking have been reported, forming another one of the Subaru Crosstrek problems. Many owners reported their windshield cracking without an impact. The crack may spread rapidly across the windshield. Obviously, the only fix for this issue is to replace the windshield. The problem, however, is not rampant. Only a few vehicles are found to have developed this Subaru Crosstrek problem.

The positive side

We have established that Subaru Crosstrek problems have their own ugly side. But Subaru being Subaru, strives to hold up their reliable image. This reconstruction of their image is aided by consistent improvement of the Crosstrek, along with regular recalls.

This proactive approach to the development of the Crosstrek helped them mend the dent, at least a little bit of it. The consistent improvement helped them get rid of most Subaru Crosstrek problems and improve overall reliability.

The 2021 Subaru Crosstrek problems

The 2021 Subaru Crosstrek, unlike the first-generation Crosstrek, is known for being reliable. Though not surprising from Subaru, the fact that it grew from the problem-riddled first-gen Crosstrek is commendable.

As per, 2021 Subaru Crosstrek is awarded 4.8 out of 5 stars by the consumers. This was a strong leap from the 3.9 out of 5 scored by the 2019 Subaru Crosstrek. It is an impressive feat, as the segment it competes in is quite crowded. The consumers are presented with a lot of choices that the slightest glitches can displeasure them.

Leading automotive data analytics firm, J D Power is also impressed by the latest Subaru Crosstrek.

Safety Improvements

Even though safety was not one of the major Subaru Crosstrek problems, it had room for improvement. Subaru did their work on this, and this shows in the latest model.

If you head over to the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) website, you can see the proof of this growth. The Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid is given the prestigious title of Top Safety Pick+, both for 2020 and 2021. Its less green twin, the Subaru Crosstrek earned the title of Top Safety Pick for 2020 and 2021.

Subaru Eyesight and steering responsive headlights of the Subaru Crosstrek also earned it the coveted IIHS Superior Front Crash Prevention honor. It also scored the highest score possible for front crash prevention from IIHS, when kitted up with Eyesight.

This video sums up the 2021 Subaru Crosstrek as a prospective new buy

So, are the Subaru Crosstrek problems that bad? Can I buy one?

If you need a long answer, it starts with a long ummmmm. But if you need it short and sweet, not really. The initial years of the Subaru Crosstrek problems were quite bumpy. People who expected bullet-proof reliability from their Subaru were not delivered the right product.

Yes, the Subaru Crosstrek had problems. So do many other cars. We do not intend to name and shame any other cars but many of them record more complaints in a year than the Crosstrek did in its entire life.

So, almost all the online hate it garnered was due to its identity as a Subaru. But that does not take away the fact that it had its fair share of problems. Will you be safe buying one?

If you want a proper Subaru, go for the latest Crosstreks which is known to have fewer issues. They can be as reliable as any other Subaru, if not better. If you are in the used market, looking for a steal, you can still choose the Crosstrek. Subaru Crosstrek problems will haunt you a little, but you will certainly be better off than buying the most unreliable cars in the market right now.

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