Subaru Outback estate (2009-2014)
"You won't buy a Subaru Outback for it's fuel consumption, but four-wheel drive and decent practicality mean it's worth a look."
- Standard four-wheel drive so lots of grip
- Lots of space
- Lots of equipment
- Bland looks
- Expensive to buy
- Not much fun to drive
The Subaru Outback is loved by famers across the UK thanks to its durable construction and standard-fit four-wheel-drive system, which gives the car plenty of grip and makes it excellent for light off-roading. The Outback also gets raised suspension, to keep the underside of the car out of the way of rocks and roots, while the estate body shape gives a large and practical load space.
The Subaru comes fitted with just one engine – a 2.0-litre diesel – but buyers can choose between manual and CVT automatic gearboxes. Despite its off-road pretensions, the Outback is surprisingly capable on road, where the car’s four-wheel drive makes it feel stable and secure.
The biggest criticism is the car’s uninspiring looks and drab interior, which cannot match premium saloons from BMW and Audi, or even cars such as the Ford Mondeo and Mazda6.
MPG, running costs & CO2
The Outback may only be available in diesel form, but unfortunately it is still quite thirsty on fuel – with the manual and automatic cars offering up an identical figure of 44.8mpg. By comparison, a 2.0-litre diesel Volkswagen Passat can mange 61.4mpg. The VW does, however, do without four-wheel drive (which uses more fuel) and doesn’t accelerate as quickly as the Subaru. Opting for the automatic Outback means you’ll take a financial hit when it comes to paying road tax. Its CO2 emissions of 166g/km mean you’ll pay £205 annually rather than the manual’s £180.
Engines, drive & performance
The Subrau Outback is surprisingly enjoyable to drive, with steering that is reassuringly weighty in the corners, while also being light in town. Although the suspension can be uncomfortable on broken road surfaces, it does do a decent job of staving off body lean during hard cornering. Potential buyers are limited to one diesel engine, which may put some off, but in manual form it does a decent job of powering the big estate up the road.
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Although quoted performance figures are the same when the car is fitted with the CVT automatic gearbox, it doesn’t feel as quick, while picking up the pace means there’s a constant engine drone audible in the interior.
Interior & comfort
The Subaru Outback’s diesel engine makes a distinctive thrumming noise, which is more pleasant on the ear than many of the car’s diesel rivals. Sadly, opting for the CVT gearbox means more engine noise makes its way into the cabin during acceleration. As the speed rises, tyre noise can also become quite tiresome.
The suspension doesn’t help much either. It is raised to give the Outback more off-road ability than a normal car, but it also means the Subaru’s suspension crashes over bumps, in town and on the motorway.
A saving grace is that the car comes with a standard-fit electrically adjustable driver’s seat, which should make it easy for anyone to get comfortable behind the wheel.
Practicality & boot space
The Outback is a big and practical car, with a 526-litre boot that extends to 1,677 litres when the rear seats are folded flat. Subaru gets the basics right, too, so the boot has no lip (making it easy to slide heavy items into the load bay) and a wide opening. Rear-seat passengers should have plenty of head and legroom, and there is also lots of space up front. Factor in the Subaru’s surprising off-road ability and its cars proven durability and the Outback ticks all the boxes as a ‘do anything’ car.
Reliability & safety
Subaru came 11th out of 32 manufacturers in our 2013 Driver Power survey and the company has an excellent reputation for reliability, as well as being loved by farmers who need a reliable workhorse. Perceived quality isn’t great, though, and the Outback uses cheap plastics in its cabin, which would never grace the interior of similarly priced BMWs and Audis.
The latest version of the Subaru Outback has not been crash tested by Euro NCAP, although the old car scored four stars in 2002. The new model does get front, side, and curtain airbags, while the car’s four-wheel-drive system, which gives it added stability, should limit the chances of an accident happening in the first place.
Price, value for money & options
The Outback is only available in SX trim, but luckily it comes with a solid list of kit, including a Bluetooth connection for your phone, reversing camera, heated front seats, front and rear electric windows, as well as climate control and remote central locking. The Outback also features equipment to help it fulfil its workhorse role, including pop-up headlight washers, an electric rear window demister (with a timer), and self-levelling rear suspension.
You can expect the Subaru to hold its value better than mainstream rivals from Ford and Vauxhall, although it won’t do so well against the likes of BMW, Mercedes, and Audi.