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3 Reasons Why You Want The New Subaru Crosstrek With A CVT And Not A 6-Speed Manual

Can you get a manual transmission in the new 2021 Subaru Crosstrek? Yes, but there are three reasons why you don’t want one.


The 2021 Subaru Crosstrek is one of the rare models that still comes with a 6-speed manual transmission, but you don’t want one. Most 2021 Crosstrek trims will come with a Lineartronic Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) automatic, but the Base and Premium trims still come standard with the 6-speed manual gearbox.

Subaru of America told Torque News only 6 percent of buyers want a Crosstrek with a 6-speed manual gearbox and for good reason. Base and Premium are the only trims offering a manual and it’s not available in the other three models. There are three reasons why you want the CVT automatic and you won’t even consider the 6-speed manual gearbox.

2021 Subaru Crosstrek SportFuel mileage improves with the CVT

It’s not surprising Subaru is pushing the CVT because the automatic get such superior fuel mileage. The new 2021 Crosstrek Sport and Limited trims with the 2.5-liter engine come with the upgraded Lineartronic CVT with 8-speed manual mode and steering wheel paddle shifters and gets excellent fuel mileage performance (27/34/29 city/highway/combined).

The 2021 Crosstrek 2.0-liter CVT models achieve EPA-estimated fuel economy of 28/33 city/highway and 30 combined mpg. The 6-speed manual models are rated at 22/29 city/highway and only 25 combined mpg. Subaru improved the CVT’s mpg as the 2021 Crosstrek 2.0-liter engine improved one mpg city to 28 when 2020 models had an estimated 27 mpg city.

2021 Subaru Crosstrek SportCVT with X-Mode and SI-DRIVE

Another reason why you want the CVT is the models come equipped with X-Mode for severe driving conditions and CVT models come with SI-DRIVE that allows the driver to dial-up engine efficiency or performance with Intelligent and Sport modes. You don’t get X-Mode or SI-DRIVE with the manual transmission.

You can’t get EyeSight with the manual transmission

Subaru dropped the 6-speed manual in the Outback, and Legacy in 2015 models and Forester in 2019 because they now offer EyeSight driver assist technology as standard equipment on the three all-wheel-drive cars. EyeSight is not compatible with the safety system. All 2021 Crosstrek CVT models come standard with EyeSight.

We know we’ll get a negative response from purists who still like a 6-speed manual gearbox. I understand because I own one. But the large majority of subcompact SUV buyers will opt for the CVT.

The CVT offers improved fuel mileage, it comes with X-Mode, SI-DRIVE, and EyeSight. For now, the 2021 Subaru Crosstrek is one of the few models that are still available with a 6-speed manual gearbox, but why would you want one?

You Might Also Like: The New Subaru Crosstrek Is Here - Pricing And A Detailed Look At Every Trim Level

Denis Flierl has invested over 30 years in the automotive industry in a consulting role working with every major car brand. He is an accredited member of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Press and the founder of Subaru Report where he covers all of the Japanese automaker's models. More stories can be found on the Torque News Subaru page. Follow Denis on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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Photo credit: Subaru


Nope (not verified)    July 13, 2020 - 9:54PM

MPG yes cvt better. Who cares about xmode and si drive just learn to drive. Eyesight for people who don't like to drive. I only see one reason to go auto over manual.

Brad roper (not verified)    July 14, 2020 - 2:05AM

In reply to by Nope (not verified)

3 reasons you want a 6spd
over a CVT ,cost reliability, and peace of mind that when you drive 20 miles into the forest and camp for the night, your 6 spd. will get you out not leave you stranded like a CVT can.

David Berger (not verified)    July 14, 2020 - 2:04PM

In reply to by Brad roper (not verified)

Reliability is surely debatable, the completely incorrect statement is that the 6 speed is lower cost.
Well no, 6 speed is not better. The superior MPG of the CVT will quickly make back that minor additional investment. Not to mention, good luck trying to sell your car used with the 6 speed.
Change can be difficult for us all, but all things considered, computer controlled transmissions have come amazingly far and now are generally superior.

JohnnyS (not verified)    July 14, 2020 - 5:25PM

In reply to by David Berger (not verified)

Wow, who buys a Subaru and thinks of resale value? A quarter million miles without having to car shop again or have engine or transmission issues is the only reason I'll be buying a Crosstrek.

Eric Barber (not verified)    August 24, 2021 - 2:28PM

In reply to by JohnnyS (not verified)

Ha! That's funny! You're lucky to go 50k miles without a MAJOR failure in ANY subaru nowadays!
Have you seen all the recalls these things have? Engines, transmissions, electrical and the list goes on and on.

Subaru Jeff (not verified)    October 31, 2021 - 1:47PM

In reply to by Eric Barber (not verified)

Starter solenoid failure in 2019 Crosstrek 28mos young, but 2k over the 36k warranty limit, so no dealer fix and part is $500 and not available!
How am I going to get 250k miles with this frequency of repairs?

Billy G Andrews (not verified)    July 14, 2020 - 7:27PM

In reply to by David Berger (not verified)

Not so about resale. I sold my 5 speed Tacoma within 24 hours. First thing the guy said was “ I didn’t think I’d ever find one with a stick”.

D. Lonesome (not verified)    January 23, 2022 - 9:44AM

In reply to by David Berger (not verified)

As the owner of a outback 2015 let me say under stress the cat transmission will quit on you. They apparently have a fail safe built in that will not keep trying to push the vehicle. For off-roading this not transmission for this purpose.

Don (not verified)    July 16, 2020 - 7:29PM

In reply to by Nope (not verified)

I dont like my car trying to tell me what to do therefore manual gearbox.
All that fancy ass crap make for lazy drivers that spend even more time on the phone rather than paying attention.
Remember, if you aint bustin a buck pullin g’ aint driving

Jeremy Moore (not verified)    July 22, 2021 - 5:39PM

In reply to by Nope (not verified)

Learning to drive? Do you know how to lock one or two brakes so your open differentials doesn't leave you stranded?
*Most of the planet can drive a manual. It's not actually a special skill

Dave (not verified)    March 7, 2022 - 10:36PM

In reply to by Nope (not verified)

Manual owners on Fuelly suggest their manuals are beating fuel ratings regularly. I think the 6th gear should have been given a heavier ratio to drop rpms closer to 2. With the 6th speed, why not do this? The cvt let's the engine run just under 2krpm at 110 kph, so it could have been done.

Jerry Williams (not verified)    July 13, 2020 - 11:01PM

if the Crosstrek CVTis like the one ine the Gen 4 outback, then the AWD split is 90% front, 10% rear. On my 2010 Outback with the 6 speed, Iget a 50/50 split. I drive a stick because I enjoy it. I chose a Subaru for the AWD system. The CVT's, while impressive as far as fuel economy is concerned, are BORING.

Deez nuts (not verified)    July 14, 2020 - 1:57AM

I can name 10 reasons why a manual is better than a CVT, but 2 of your points are personal preference and not a valid reason. Drive modes in the CVT would make it act more like a 6 speed with revving higher before shifts, but at the end of the day..its still a CVT that is known to be a hunk of junk. The Subaru 6 speed manual is light years ahead of the CVT as far as performance and strength. Eyesight is a waste of money. It's a add on feature so the overall price of the car cost more and with all the issues with randomly breaking windshields and the cost to recalibrate the eyesight, a person may spend enough to buy a 6 speed straight out . Fuel economy possibly could be better with the 6 speed. If shifted properly and keeping the RPM's low there is no reason other than the CVT having a lower drive gear that it would be better on fuel economy, but with that gearing makes it worse when it comes to towing which a lot of people may do with that vehicle.

No (not verified)    July 14, 2020 - 5:58AM

Except, cvts suck to drive, aren't reliable and can't take extra power. I would prefer a conventional torque converter automatic to crappy soul sucking cvt Subaru equips with their cars. How, Subaru does not have a dual clutch for their enthusiat models (WRX, STI, and what the fuck happened to the Legacy? It used to be a sporty car but now the short bus family car for fat Americans),

JEREMY Shawn MOORE (not verified)    July 22, 2021 - 5:42PM

In reply to by No (not verified)

Early CVTs from some brands aren't reliable. I have 280k on my Escape Hybrid and know people with over 400k on their CVTs. I also know people with over 200k on their Crosstrek and Forester CVTs. Other than the first version, they're proving to be as reliable as their 4eat which I also have

Subaru salesperson (not verified)    July 14, 2020 - 6:55AM

The manual would have been great with the 2.5L that the Sport and Limited are getting.

The reason the manual sucks is it's paired with the torqueless 2.0L. With that motor, you definitely want the CVT to make the most of the power and torque bands.

They probably know that at SoA but just want to keep pushing the CVTs, they're not a company that likes to have a ridiculous amount of options and configurations, so I think they're slowly killing the manual on this car on purpose.

JohnnyS (not verified)    July 15, 2020 - 3:17PM

In reply to by Subaru salesperson (not verified)

What! Stick only comes with the anemic 2.0 that I've been waiting all this time for them to offer an upgrade to? A reasonable motor which doesn't need a turbo for power? What a nonsense decision stab in the back. Screw it all, we're just buying a V6 Camry, unless they're dumping a CVT trash transmission in that too.

Ivette (not verified)    August 8, 2020 - 3:08PM

In reply to by JohnnyS (not verified)

Unfortunately that is also the case. I hate the fact that all companies are switching over to that lazy ass transmission. I have a Lexus with it and its so slow and it don't matter that its a Hybrid, when i step on it? it uses a lot of gas bc of that stupid transmission. I wanted a stick but don't want to have the2.0. I am going with the sport because Ive been waiting a minute to get this car. On the other hand I can tell you that we have a Forester and is quiet impressive to see how well that cvt works. Do a test drive at least so you can see the difference.

JS (not verified)    July 14, 2020 - 8:30AM

Why even offer the manual on a Crosstrek? Almost no Crosstrek drivers are trying to drive like people with a manual these days do.

Don't get me wrong. A real STI Crosstrek or just finally giving us a new WRX hatch would be epic.

Buffout (not verified)    July 14, 2020 - 9:48AM

Nice. Another car journalist helping to kill the manual. I wish car manufacturers would start improving manuals to make them more fuel efficient instead of dumping the option for something completely unenjoyable to drive. This article appeared in my news feed, but I have no interest in a site that has torque in the name but appears to cater to the elderly. Maybe someday computers will write articles for us too, but y'all probably won't mind since you want them to drive your car for you. Lame

Uhhhh (not verified)    July 14, 2020 - 9:48AM

So... literally one reason...mpg...which can be controlled by the thing attached to your leg. Eyesight isn't a reason, neither are the rest of the "safety" features that "help" people actually drive less. Make people actually pay attention and drive again. Stop giving them gadgets to use as an excuse to not pay attention while driving.

yunk yard gre… (not verified)    July 14, 2020 - 11:06AM

I work at a junk yard and I could tell you from first hand experience cvt is garbage is basically a giant rubber band inside the transmission once it break or rips you are going to get fucked on the ass with no lube by a mechanic$$$$$. On the other hand a 5 or 6 speed manual I see them at work with well over 250 thousand miles on Kia's nissans and even Ford's chevys and subarus because they are so reliable and easy to work on that any grease monkey like myself could work on them for 12 pack of beer and some Meth. The point that I'm trying to make here is simple.. You want a CVT for 5 years or a manual transmission for the next 15 years??? Again if you enjoy getting$$$$ butt raped by mechanics $$$and losing cash$$ go ahead get a CVT..

MT (not verified)    July 14, 2020 - 11:39AM

Are you kidding me? CVT is for people that just want to get from point A to point B
I just turned 57. I love my 6 speeds manual, keeps me alert and is fun to drive. PLEASE STOP TRYING TO KILL MANUAL TRANSMISSIONS.
If is a luxury car, I understand your point, but Let us keep having fun or else we will stop buying new cars all together. I refuse to be forced to buy a product that I am not happy with.

Jonathan Miles (not verified)    July 14, 2020 - 4:29PM

The Crosstrek is marketed to outdoorsy people who will be driving it off-road, but CVTs are terrible for that purpose and have been shown to kill power to the tires in more "extreme" off-road situations. I have a 17 year-old Subaru Forester with a 5-speed manual and it will trash a CVT Crosstrek off-road all day long! Not to mention CVTs have been failing early on and are expensive to fix.

JohnnyS (not verified)    July 14, 2020 - 5:18PM

Durability! Durability! Durability! Those 3 reasons are irrelevant. Keep the go-kart transmission for the mainstream pablum masses.
Sorry, I'd NEVER consider a CVT vehicle.

Sarge (not verified)    July 14, 2020 - 6:48PM

Funny how there's only 3 reasons to want a CVT. But there's more than 3 reasons in more than 3 reputable sources for more than 3 decades NOT to want a CVT. Stay away from those things!

Gav (not verified)    July 14, 2020 - 8:24PM

Lame article. There's nothing wrong with manuals. I don't want a boring driving experience with technology that drives for me. I would never purchase a CVT. Never.

fatboy (not verified)    July 14, 2020 - 10:23PM

3 reasons to prefer manuals
• Manuals would keep cell phones out of people's hands and pay attention to the road.
• Manuals are more dependable, easy to repair. CVT often break or malfunction even before the warranty expires and are costly to repair.
• Learning a manual is a skill that can be carried over to motorcycles, trucking and other various vehicles.