With a touch of sportiness added, the 2021 Subaru Crosstrek comes out of the gate with a much-needed boost in horsepower and some added ruggedness to make the journey, well, more fun.

The sub compact SUV looks more like a lifted station wagon but has the chops of a small crossover with enough cabin finesse to offset its practical side.

Pros: All-wheel-drive all the time, some safety gear standard, reasonably priced

Cons: No speedster, lacks power seat adjustments, cabin layout unchanged

Now in its seventh production year, the new Crosstrek adds a Sport model with 20 percent more power. Its 2.5-liter flat-four Boxer engine is borrowed from the Forester, Legacy and Outback and is fitted into a lighter weight frame. It provides much needed giddy-up, something the Crosstrek has lacked all along.

Crosstrek is available in Base, Premium, Sport and Limited trims ranging in price from the low $20,000s to $30,000s, a remarkable value considering the standard equipment included. Unfortunately, the Base and Premium trims come standard with the outdated 2.0-liter, 152-horsepower engine mated with a six-speed manual transmission.

All Crosstreks feature a black grille with gunmetal finish and new front bumper design. Our Sport tester has its own set of upgrades including dark gray oversize wheels, mirror coverings, sound insulating windshield and wheel flares. Inside, the Sport is a standout with yellow stitching all around the interior with CROSSTREK stitched onto front seat backs.

Interior refinements standout from the moment you get behind the wheel. Soft touch material borders dashboard and door panels. Intuitive controls are within easy driver reach and center on an available eight-inch touch screen that is tablet-like with swipe and scrolling features and touch-sensitive buttons to control menu items.

The Sport also adds unique snow/dirt and deep snow/mud driving modes for mild off-roading by optimizing engine throttle and transmission gears while tweaking the all-wheel-drive system for improved performance at speeds below 25 miles per hour.

Behind the wheel, the Crosstrek feels solid. Its all-wheel-drive and electric steering deliver an athleticism that few cars possess. Body roll is minimal in turns and braking pressure feels strong to the touch. The Sport trim tester made the sprint from zero to 60 miles per hour in 8.1 seconds compared with 9.3 ticks with the smaller engine.

Whether you use it or not, Crosstrek is a mild off-road crossover with an impressive 8.7-inch ground clearance on par with the Jeep Trailhawk.

Available safety features include blind spot and lane departure warnings, rear cross traffic alert, adaptive cruise control and emergency braking. Subaru EyeSight has been upgraded with dual interior mounted cameras on either side of the rearview mirror, part of its collision avoidance that stops or slows the car to prevent a collision. They resemble police radar guns pointed outward instead of toward you, a much-preferred result.

We found EyeSight to be a useful safety tool although it tends to beep often while monitoring lane changing images.

Comparable four-cylinder models to shop include the Honda HR-V, Jeep Renegade, Hyundai Kona and Kia Seltos.

Contact independent automotive columnist Len Ingrassia at lenscarcorner@comcast.net.

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