2021 Subaru Crosstrek Problems and Top Complaints – Is Your Car A Lemon?

Engine, powertrain and braking issues are among the top complaints received from vehicle owners

By Brian Jones | Updated on

By Brian Jones | Updated on

It wasn’t that long ago that Subaru was synonymous with reliability, so how does the 2021 Subaru Crosstrek stand up? Well, the automaker claims it is the “most fun-to-drive Crosstrek ever.” Yet, the internet is riddled with complaints, including a defective engine, a malfunctioning powertrain, a shoddy structure and poor visibility. High tech EyeSight Driver Assist Technology is another problem and owners maintain it is directly linked to random braking.

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Problems with the Engine

A well-running engine is the most important part of any vehicle. Still, Crosstrek customers are having serious motor issues.

One NHTSA complaint states, “I was crossing two lanes of a very busy ocean front street when the engine ‘bogged down.’ I let off on the gas pedal and then depressed it again, which then caused the engine to go off. I then quickly restarted the engine and was able to get out of the way of oncoming traffic. This was the only time the engine failed, but on about three or four previous times, the engine ‘bogged down’ when I depressed the gas pedal but recovered after I quickly depressed the pedal again.”

Subaru doesn’t have a whole lot to say when it comes to defective engines. The only worthwhile communication can be found with Service Bulletin #09-77-21R that discusses limited power and hesitation. To correct the problem, Subaru must add new ECM reprogramming files to the engine, altering how it runs when between 1500 and 3500 rpm. Maybe after the update, this Subaru will be the “most fun-to-drive Crosstrek ever,” but it’s clear it wasn’t before the tweaks.

Problems with the Powertrain

The powertrain works hand-in-hand with the engine to create the power needed to tackle any terrain. However, the new Crosstrek powertrain is lackluster.

One Edmunds review points out, “I had a 2019 Crosstrek and put about 21,000 miles on it with no issues at all. Loved the car except for the sluggish acceleration. I got a great deal on a 2021 Crosstrek Sport so I bought it about 2 months ago. I was driving back from Colorado, car has about 3000 miles on it at the time, and out of nowhere the dash lit up with errors. AT Transmission Oil light was blinking, check engine light came on and eyesight quit working. There was no warning or anything. We had already driven about 400 miles that day out of 600 with no issues. It was very scary.”

The review goes on to say: “I pulled over for a while and then started the car again. All the warning lights were off and we continued on our trip. We did make it home, but when I took the car in to get it looked at they said it was a solenoid that triggered the error message PO977. I asked them what they were going to do about it and they said I would have to wait for it to happen again. WTF Subaru? So next time it happens I can be stranded in the middle of nowhere. I think I am going to have to take the car back and see if I can trade it in for a Honda or a Toyota. Huge Subaru fan, but this is an epic fail in my books.”

As part of Service Bulletin #16-132-20R, Subaru does address a chain slip condition with the CVT. When this happens, it can feel like the car is slipping gears and driving erratically. Of course, an out-of-control Crosstrek is not what the customers are looking for, so Subaru’s reputation is now being damaged. Maybe if the automaker had reliable engineers working on these vehicles, the powertrain would run as it should.

Problems with EyeSight & Random Braking

Subaru boasts that EyeSight Driver Assist Technology is the culmination of everything Subaru engineers know about safety. They’ve sold more than 1 million vehicles equipped with EyeSight, but owners are discovering that it isn’t all it’s made out to be. NHTSA has an increasing number of complaints that it malfunctions.

Examples of Random Braking Complaints (NHTSA)

Here’s a complaint from an owner in Texas. “The automatic braking system engaged at highway speed while changing lanes with no other vehicle or object in front of the vehicle. I was accelerating to change lanes when the sensor started beeping and the car slammed on the brakes causing a sliding skid. I was able to maintain control and fortunately there was no one behind me. I believe the EyeSight control malfunctioned. I do not believe this is a safe feature as it not only puts my safety at risk but also the safety of anyone on the road around me.”

An owner in Ohio mentions random braking. “Subaru Pre-collision braking activates when no danger (is) present. It detects exhaust steam or smoke as an obstacle.”

An example this owner describes happened while accelerating from a stop light in winter (February 2021).

“EyeSight falsely detected the exhaust of the car in front of me as a danger and slammed on the brakes to a full stop causing the car behind me to bump into me. Thankfully this driver was paying attention and no damage was caused. This function overrode my foot being on the accelerator.”

In late spring the same year, “While using cruise control on the highway, 70+mph, a diesel truck accelerated to merge. The EyeSight again detected the exhaust as a hazard and slammed on the brakes causing the drivers behind me to take evasive actions and put them at risk for no reason. During both incidents, the collision warning lights fully activated.”

The owner spoke to the dealership about these incidents and was told “to turn off the pre-collision system on cold days and watch out for diesel exhaust.”

Problems with the Structure

One look at how defective the structure is and it becomes clear that Subaru isn’t putting a lot of time into making things right.

Another Edmunds review states, “Bought my car brand new at the end of July 2021. Since then, the seats have started to fade, and so has the black plastic molding around the doors on the exterior. Car is not parked in direct sunlight, and I’m the only one that occupies the cabin, so it’s not like I have kids and pets in there causing premature wear. Transmission making a whining noise which is amplified if the radio is off; the transmission also is a bit “jerky” if you have to step on the gas to merge. Steering wheel leather wrap starting to develop wrinkles, and there is a strange clunking noise coming from the rear when shifting from reverse to drive. Car has 3972 miles, and this is absolutely unacceptable. Spend an additional $5000 and get a Toyota or something else, you’ll make up for the additional cost with less aggravation and fewer headaches.”

Service Bulletin #12-311-21 also discusses how the windshield side cowl panels needed to be redesigned because there was a rattling or buzzing type of noise heard while driving. The whistling sound could be a good reminder for customers why they should avoid a Subaru. After all, if a car manufacturer hasn’t perfected this simple design yet, it probably doesn’t care about the level of comfort for customers. This is as good as it gets.

Problems with the Visibility

The durability and integrity of Subaru’s auto glass have been in question for some time now, with nothing changing any time soon.

An NHTSA complaint states, “Among a few other headaches, the windshield cracked on the highway with only 2300 miles on the odometer. This 7 inch crack appeared after a 300 mile road trip. I recall hearing a small thud on the windshield with no immediate cause for concern. After driving another 10 miles, the crack has grown an additional 2 inches.”

Along with glass that seems to break on its own, there are also possible class-action lawsuits happening because of the defective EyeSight system. It turns out that the pre-collision braking feature doesn’t seem to operate as it should. Even when there is nothing in the pathway of the Crosstrek, it can brake on its own, leaving occupants at risk of an accident. If the Subaru stops itself in the middle of the road, it might be time to consider leaving it behind. This vehicle isn’t worthy of anyone’s time and money.

Your Lemon Law Legal Rights

Think you have a lemon? Sit back and let the experts work out your lemon case at no cost to you. The law makes Subaru pay legal fees. You may be able to get your lemon out of your life. Every year, auto manufacturers buy back, replace or pay cash settlements to thousands of ‘lemon’ owners like you.

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Brian Jones

About the Author:

Brian Jones spent more than 20 years working as an ASE Certified Master Tech and Parts Specialist at multiple dealerships. Brian has become an authority in the industry, traveling across the country to consult for car dealerships and contributing his expertise as a writer for several major automotive publications. In his spare time, Brian enjoys working on pickup trucks, muscle cars, Jeeps and anything related to motorsports.

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  • Wayne T

    When driving with cruise control engaged with eyesite, if a person in front of you makes a right turn, the car comes to a major breaking insident thus causing person in rear of you to slam on breaks not to ram you.

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