Subaru Crosstrek Vs. Subaru Outback: Which Is Better?

The Subaru Outback is a better SUV than the Crosstrek—and it’s not even an SUV! Find out why with our in-depth Subaru Crosstrek vs. Outback comparison.
Written by R.E. Fulton
Reviewed by Jessica Barrett
The Subaru Crosstrek beats the Outback in terms of affordability—but the Outback is the overall winner when it comes to performance, safety, and insurance costs.
The Subaru Crosstrek and the Subaru Outback have a lot in common. They’re both practical, outdoorsy vehicles equipped with standard all-wheel drive and an impressive suite of safety features. In other words, they’re both Subarus through and through.
What separates Subaru’s smallest crossover SUV from the only mass-market station wagon available in the US today—and which one is the right Subaru for you?
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Crosstrek vs. Outback: which is more expensive?

Let’s start with costs. The starting MSRP for a 2022 Subaru Crosstrek is $24,320—that’s $4,500 less than the Outback’s starting price of $28,820!
Not only does the Outback start at a higher price, but its many trim levels climb all the way up to the $40,000 range (i.e., luxury car territory). Compare the pricing options for the two vehicles, and there’s a clear winner for affordability:
Starting MSRP
Starting MSRP
Crosstrek Base
Outback Base
Crosstrek Premium
Outback Premium
Crosstrek Sport
Outback Limited
Crosstrek Limited
Outback Onyx Edition XT
Crosstrek Hybrid
Outback Wilderness
Outback Touring
Outback Limited XT
Outback Touring XT

Ownership costs

But initial pricing isn’t the only thing that matters—let’s talk about the long-term ownership costs for each vehicle. 
Edmunds estimates that the true five-year ownership costs for a 2022 Subaru Crosstrek will be $34,905. That’s over $10,000 on top of the initial MSRP. By comparison, Edmunds puts the five-year ownership costs for a 2022 Outback at $37,779
While the total cost of ownership is higher for the Outback, it’s less expensive in comparison to starting MSRP, adding just $8,959 to that opening cost over five years. What makes the difference? 
Cheaper maintenance and insurance make the Outback slightly more affordable to own long-term. Keep in mind, though, that these estimates are based on the base model for each vehicle—if you’re eyeing a more expensive trim level, your ownership costs might be different from Edmunds’s estimate.  

Insurance costs

Speaking of cheap insurance, let’s compare the average insurance costs for both vehicles. 
On average,
Subaru Outback insurance costs
are a little cheaper than for the Crosstrek. For a base model, the Outback typically costs about $2,152 each year, or $179 per month, to insure. By comparison,
Subaru Crosstrek insurance costs
average $2,646 per year, or $220/month. 
Why does the Outback cost less to insure than the Crosstrek even though it costs more to buy? Every insurance company estimates premiums a little differently, but the reason they’re likely to charge less for a policy on an Outback comes down to safety: the Outback has slightly higher safety ratings and a larger body than the Crosstrek, making it more likely to come out of a collision with lower repair costs.
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Winner: Subaru Crosstrek

In terms of outright affordability, the Subaru Crosstrek is the clear winner in this face-off. Its starting price and ownership costs are ultimately lower across the board. 
However, if you’re looking for a vehicle to go the distance, the Outback might just edge out the Crosstrek thanks to lower insurance costs. With an average insurance cost of $495 less than the Crosstrek’s, you could make up the $4,500 difference in MSRP in under 10 years! 
MORE: The best used Subaru to buy

Subaru Crosstrek vs. Outback: In-Depth Comparison

The Subaru Crosstrek is less expensive than the Outback—but which is really the better vehicle? In this section, we’ll run through all the specs you might miss at the dealership to determine which Subaru actually gives you the most bang for your buck. 

Body style and size

Size is the biggest difference you’ll notice between the Crosstrek and the Outback if you look at them on the lot. The Outback is a lot bigger than the Crosstrek, both inside and out. The Crosstrek is a subcompact crossover SUV—smaller than the compact Forester—and while the Outback is technically a station wagon, it competes in the mid-size SUV segment. 
What does that difference look like? The Outback is visibly longer than the Crosstrek, and you’ll feel the difference in rear legroom and overall headroom when you get inside. And if toting a lot of luggage, sports equipment, or pets is a concern, the Outback’s cargo space is way bigger: it can fit two adult bicycles easily, while the Crosstrek can squeeze in just one with the front wheel turned up.
2022 Subaru Crosstrek
2022 Subaru Outback
104.9 inches
108.1 inches
Passenger volume
100.9 cubic feet
109 cubic feet
Headroom (front/rear)
39.8/38 inches
40.1/39.1 inches
Legroom (front/rear)
43.1/365 inches
42.8/39.5 inches
Cargo volume w/seats up
20.8 cubic feet
32.5 cubic feet
Cargo volume w/seats down
55.3 cubic feet
75.7 cubic feet
Ground clearance
8.7 inches
8.7 inches
Base curb weight
3188 lbs
3637 lbs
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Engine and performance

Both the Crosstrek and the Outback have two Boxer® engines available depending on the trim you choose. 
In the Crosstrek, the base engine is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder that generates 152 horsepower and 145 lb-ft of torque. It’s not exactly a powerhouse—but neither is the standard engine for the Outback, a 182-hp 2.5-liter engine with 176 lb-ft on offer. With either engine, the Crosstrek’s maximum towing capacity is just 1,500 pounds
The Outback’s standard engine is actually the Crosstrek’s upgrade engine, unlocked at the Sport and Limited trim levels. For the Outback, the upgrade (available on all XT models) is a turbocharged 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine boasting 260 horsepower and 277 lb-ft of torque. It’s a nice little turbo, and it takes the Outback’s towing capacity from an unimpressive 2,700 pounds up to a decent 3,500—but it costs a minimum of $7,450 over starting MSRP. 
Both the Crosstrek and the Outback, like all Subarus, come with standard symmetrical all-wheel drive (AWD). A continuously variable transmission (CVT) is standard for both models, but it can be swapped out for a six-speed manual transmission on the Crosstrek’s Base and Premium trims. The Outback, on the other hand, is only available with an automatic transmission—bad news for fans of three-pedal driving. 
The Crosstrek also has a secret wild card the Outback doesn’t: a hybrid powertrain. While the Crosstrek Hybrid costs over $7,000 more than any other Crosstrek model, its plug-in hybrid setup is good for a combined 148 horsepower. 
The bottom line? The Outback is more powerful across the board than the Crosstrek, and it’s better for any towing or light off-road action you have lined up. In regular driving, though, neither car’s winning any speed tests. 

Fuel economy

The Crosstrek and Outback are essentially neck-and-neck when it comes to fuel economy, at least with the standard gas-powered setup. Both are rated for 33 mpg on the highway, while the Crosstrek edges out the Outback just slightly with 30 and 28 miles to the gallon for combined and city driving compared to the Outback’s 29 and 26 mpg. 
The real winner, of course, is the Crosstrek Hybrid. The EPA rates the hybrid model for 35 mpg in combined city/highway driving, and up to 90 MPGe in hybrid mode. 


Both the Crosstrek and the Outback are safety superstars—that comes with the territory for any Subaru. But the Outback fares slightly better in expert testing. 
Subaru’s standard EyeSight suite of driver assist technology is comparable in both vehicles: both start out with forward-collision mitigation, adaptive cruise control, and lane keeping assist. And there’s more on offer at higher trim levels for both vehicles. 
In testing, however, the Outback is the clear winner. Both vehicles get a five-star safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), but the Crosstrek’s overall frontal crash rating drops to four stars for both driver and passenger sides, while the Outback gets dinged only for the passenger side. The difference holds up in ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS): the 2022 Outback is a Top Safety Pick Plus, with phenomenal ratings across the board, while the 2022 Crosstrek is only a Top Safety Pick. 


The Crosstrek prioritizes better standard technology than the Outback, but the station wagon offers more options for some seriously great tech upgrades. Both vehicles start with standard smartphone integration (both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto) and relatively small touch screens commanding Subaru’s StarLink infotainment system. The Crosstrek’s base touch screen is half an inch smaller than the Outback’s, but it’s better organized and more intuitive to use. 
If you’re looking for luxury tech, though, you’ll be able to get it with the upper trims of the Outback, which include tech goodies like a 12-speaker Harman/Kardon audio system, a WiFi hotspot, built-in navigation, and a gorgeous 11.6-inch touchscreen. 

Interior and comfort

Like all Subarus, the Crosstrek and Outback prioritize practicality over sleek finishes—but the Outback builds in comfort as well. Dual-zone climate control, a power-adjustable driver’s seat, and heated front seats are standard equipment on all Outbacks past the base trim, with options for heated rear seats and ventilated water-repellent leather upholstery on upper trims. 
The Crosstrek has similar options, but the build quality is a little cheaper, and there’s no option for heated rear seats. Overall, you’ll feel the price difference in the Crosstrek’s interior—and not in a good way. 

Winner: Subaru Outback

Taking all the factors above into consideration, the 2022 Subaru Outback comes out on top in our comparison thanks to its more powerful engine, better safety ratings, and lower insurance costs. Although it’s more expensive up front, it outclasses the Crosstrek in build quality and practicality, making it a better value. 
Of course, some factors are up to personal preference. If you’re looking for a smaller, cheaper vehicle, the compact crossover Crosstrek might be right for you. But for families, outdoor enthusiasts, and anyone looking to save on long-term vehicle ownership costs, it’s hard to beat the Outback.  

How to save on Subaru insurance costs

The Crosstrek might be the cheaper Subaru, but its insurance costs are steeper than the Outback’s. In fact, Subaru Outback insurance costs are some of the cheapest of any vehicle! 
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