FRESH FLAGSHIP After a spell in the sales doldrums, Subaru is entering 2010 with an upbeat attitude, confident that its fresh fifthgeneration Legacy and Outback models will herald a much-needed profitable new era. Thanks to the combination of the Japanese firm’s capable boxer diesel engine’s respectable emissions and improved economy with a more premium feel, it’s hoped that the models will finally entice customers away from more mainstream marques, as well as appealing to valued die-hard Subaru fans. The Legacy will initially be available as a five-door Tourer with the company’s familiar 2.0-litre boxer diesel engine mated to a sixspeed manual gearbox.
Attractive, substantial and sporty looking for an estate, the new Legacy has presence and demonstrates a dash more design flair than its Volvo and Volkswagen rivals. Inside, there are better quality materials, with all major controls sensibly situated. The cabin is light and airy with excellent visibility throughout, helped by practical large side mirrors. The seats are comfortable and the 10-way electrically adjustable driver’s seat means it’s easy to achieve a comfortable driving position. Venture into the back and there’s ample leg, shoulder and head room, even for the tallest of passengers, while there’s acres of storage space with the rear seats up or down. The extra room has been liberated thanks to a longer wheelbase, and larger dimensions in every direction.
On the road, the 148bhp 2.0-litre boxer diesel engine proves a willing, smooth revving runner, albeit with a lack of low down punch when pressed hard. The six-speed manual gearbox is a bit of a disappointment – it has a notchy action and both road and wind noise are quite noticeable. Alas, we weren’t let loose over the Peak District to give its acclaimed four-wheel drive system a serious adverse surface and conditions test, but the car’s excellent traction on wet tarmac inspires confidence, as the car feels stable and planted through corners. There’s a choice of three trim levels and what Subaru claims to be class leading equipment levels. Entry level S models feature 16-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control, xenon headlights, electric sunroof, heated seats and electric folding heated mirrors, as well as the normal long list of goodies. SE trim adds 18-inch alloys, leather upholstery and a sportier look, while SE NavPlus specification includes a DVD satellite navigation system and keyless entry, with a start/stop button.
Subaru’s decision to bump up the Legacy’s price, over and above the old model is risky, as it places it firmly in the premium brand territory. Despite this, its comprehensive equipment levels and decent engine compensate, and make it an attractive, if less traditional, choice of estate. And unlike most of its competitors, Subaru offers the peace of mind of its highly respected all-wheel drive system.
RIVALS: HONDA ACCORD TOURER, VAUXHALL INSIGNIA SPORTS TOURER, VOLVO V70, VOLKSWAGEN PASSAT ESTATE
- Engine: 1998cc, 4-cylinder, turbodiesel
- Gearbox: 6-speed manual
- Max power: 148bhp at 3,600rpm
- Max torque: 258lb ft at 1,800 to 2,400rpm
- Max towing weight: 1,700kg
- Max speed: 120mph
- 0-62mph: 9.6secs
- Combined consumption: 46.3mpg
- CO2 emissions (taxband): 168g/km (H)
- Boot space: 526/1,677litres
- Insurance group: 12