2021 Subaru Crosstrek vs. 2021 Fiat 500X: Compare Crossover SUVs

Small crossover SUVs are all the rage, but only two of them come standard with all-wheel drive: The 2021 Subaru Crosstrek and 2021 Fiat 500X.

While both models cut a more distinct shape than the homogenous subcompact crossovers out there, both automakers spent the last year upgrading their entry-level SUV with a new Sport trim. The 2021 Fiat 500X is the only Fiat on sale in the U.S. for 2021, following the discontinuation of the ungainly 500L and Mazda-made 124 Spider. Subaru doubled down by plunking in a larger flat-4 to fuel rallycross dreams in the popular Crosstrek. 

The Sport elements improve the look of the 500X and the performance of the Crosstrek, but is it compelling enough for us to recommend buying one over the other? Of course, but our recommendation comes down to more practical considerations found across their respective lineups. 

 

2021 Subaru Crosstrek Sport

2021 Subaru Crosstrek Sport

2021 Subaru Crosstrek Sport

2021 Subaru Crosstrek Sport

2021 Subaru Crosstrek Sport

2021 Subaru Crosstrek Sport

2021 Subaru Crosstrek Sport

2021 Subaru Crosstrek Sport

It could be argued that these two cute utes represent the most stylish ends of the small SUV spectrum. The Crosstrek’s body cladding fits it like the rubber sole of a hiking boot, the roof rails like lace hooks on the same boot. Its rising belt line gives it muscular haunches that echo its adventuring prowess.

Made in Italy, the 500X represents the chic cosmopolitan side of parent company Stellantis, formerly known as FCA, while its platform-mate Jeep Renegade draws the off-road crowd. In theory. The 500X exaggerates the rounded shapes of the discontinued 500 city car and wears a petite mustache of a grille up front and, on Sport models, body-colored cladding on the rockers and wheel arches in direct opposition to the Subaru look copied by everyone else. The 500X can paint the town in more than a dozen color choices, and it can be optioned with 19-inch wheels. 

 

2020 Fiat 500X Trekking kicks up snow at the Winter Driving Encounter in Winter Park, CO.

2020 Fiat 500X Trekking kicks up snow at the Winter Driving Encounter in Winter Park, CO.

2020 Fiat 500X Trekking kicks up snow at the Winter Driving Encounter in Winter Park, CO.

2020 Fiat 500X Trekking kicks up snow at the Winter Driving Encounter in Winter Park, CO.

2021 Fiat 500X

2021 Fiat 500X

2021 Fiat 500X

2021 Fiat 500X

The difference in performance between the two leans to the Crosstrek. The 500X has more pop, but the Crosstrek handles more like a lifted rallycross star and is more efficient. The Fiat uses a 177-hp, 1.3-liter turbo-4 that makes 210 lb-ft. Despite the initial turbo lag, it accelerates quickly but heavy acceleration produces loud buzzing in the cabin. The high-riding runabout can be mostly fun except for a 9-speed automatic transmission that hesitates on downshifts. 

Based on the Impreza hatchback, the Crosstrek comes with torque vectoring that automatically brakes the inside front wheel for sharper handling and to maintain higher speeds through turns. Ground clearance is nearly an inch higher than the 500X, and the available hill descent control and an off-road mode for better low-speed traction together let the Crosstrek conquer many off-road obstacles. Crosstrek has the off-road and handling edge, but earns the performance edge in Sport and Limited models. New for 2021, those models come with a 182-hp 2.5-liter flat-4 paired to a continuously variable automatic transmission with stepped gears that simulate an 8-speed automatic. Skip the 6-speed manual that comes with the base 152-hp 2.0-liter flat-4; it’s a pokey proposition that suffers from a lack of safety features standard with the CVT. It also loses 4 mpg combined to the EPA-rated 27 mpg city, 34 highway, 29 combined with the 2.5-liter. The manual is much closer to the inefficient Fiat and its 24/30/26 mpg rating. 

 

2021 Subaru Crosstrek Sport

2021 Subaru Crosstrek Sport

2021 Subaru Crosstrek Sport

2021 Subaru Crosstrek Sport

2021 Subaru Crosstrek Sport

2021 Subaru Crosstrek Sport

2021 Subaru Crosstrek Sport

2021 Subaru Crosstrek Sport

 

Inside, the Crosstrek tends to the busy side with a triangle of screen displays, though we like its available water-repellant vegan upholstery. It’s roomier than the 500X, with 1.7 inches more rear leg room and cargo volume that expands from 20.8 cubic feet to 55.3 cubic feet by folding down the 60/40-split rear seats. Inspired by the Fiat 500, the roofline of the 500X tapers off above the rear wheel with a raked rear windshield that eats into rear head room and cargo space of 14.1 cubic feet with the seats up and less than 40 cubic feet with it folded flat. The cute bubbly interior of the 500X comes with cloth bucket seats or available leather that provide good comfort.

The Fiat 500X cannot match the convenience and safety features in the Crosstrek, especially when paired with the CVT. The $1,350 upcharge not only dramatically improves fuel economy, it bundles Subaru’s EyeSight safety features as standard. In addition to a TSP+ award from the IIHS and a five-star crash rating from the NHTSA, the CVT version of the Crosstrek comes with automatic emergency braking, active lane control, adaptive cruise control, and a rear-seat reminder. The 500X doesn’t. Those features aren’t offered on the base model, and are options even on the top Trekking Plus model. It has not been crash tested by either agency. 

 

2021 Fiat 500X

2021 Fiat 500X

2021 Fiat 500X

2021 Fiat 500X

2021 Fiat 500X

2021 Fiat 500X

2021 Fiat 500X

2021 Fiat 500X

Both models come with smallish touchscreens (6.5 inches in the Crosstrek, 7.0 in the 500X) with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, but the 500X stickers at about $3,000 more than the $23,295 Crosstrek. Add in the CVT, which is a must-buy in our opinion, and the Crosstrek is still about $1,500 cheaper. Rebates are typically common on the 500X. Opting for goodies such as heated leather seats, larger 18-inch wheels, sunroof, navigation, uprated audio systems, and Fiat wants $36,000 for the top Trekking Plus, whereas Subaru asks just over $31,000 for the top Crosstrek Limited and its larger 8.0-inch touchscreen.

The Crosstrek offers a better value, better safety and convenience features, a roomier cargo area, and better off-road and on-road performance with the 2.5-liter. The Fiat 500X might look better in certain eyes. Our TCC Ratings reflect base models, but the gap widens with trim levels; the 6.0 out of 10 for the Crosstrek might be an understatement compared to the 5.6 Rating for the 2021 Fiat 500X.

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