Tuesday, 2 April 2013

REVIEW - Subaru Legacy ES Nav

The Subaru Legacy has always been in the shadow of the Impreza. It too has a clever AWD system and this has always made it the vehicle of choice for farmers and other country folk. But is it any good? Well to find out I decided to test one for a week. Read on to find out what I thought about the Legacy; does it justify its name?...

Looks -5/10

The first thing you notice about the Legacy is the sheer size of it. It is long and relatively tall, and does nothing to hide this fact. The front end styling is an acquired taste, and looks good in the right colour. Sadly the rear end is just big and box-like; this is no sleek estate car. On the outside my test car was fitted with small wheels too which didn't help the looks at all. Some privacy glass would be nice too. I definitely got the impression that the Legacy has looks which employ function over style, as does the car itself.

On the inside things do improve somewhat. I really liked the instrument panel, and thought the steering wheel was particularly nice to look at. Perhaps that was the Subaru badge, or the paddle shifts behind the wheel. One thing letting the dials down was the presence of a microphone for the bluetooth handsfree. It looks a bit like an afterthought, and doesn't fit in. The rest of the dash is relatively inoffensive and the interior is a nice place to be. The seats are comfortable but look more like wingbacks. It appears that there are some touches of the Legacy which have been left behind in the times somewhat, and with estate cars bringing new levels of style to the marketplace you notice more that the Legacy lacks somewhat in the styling department.

Handling/Performance - 6/10

The engine underneath the bonnet of my test car was a 2.0-litre petrol producing 150PS and 196Nm of torque. This was put onto the road via an AWD system and a lineartronic CVT gearbox. This makes for a 0-62mph dash in 11.3 seconds and a top speed of 124mph. In auto mode the CVT gearbox works well, moving through the gears effortlessly with an infinite amount of ratios to choose from. If you switch to paddle mode there is a slight delay when changing gear, but it is more involving to drive. The Legacy is never going to be a mind-bendingly fast car, but it does get going if you allow it to climb into its rev band more.

The biggest success of the Legacy is the AWD system which makes it a great handling car. Round a twisty road you could be forgiven for forgetting that you were in a large estate car. With my test car being fitted with 16" alloy wheels there was a degree of tyre roll through the bends at speed, but this was only once pushing a bit harder. Generally the Legacy was sure footed and stuck to the road well. On the motorway the ride is comfortable, but the gearbox presents itself with a slight problem. In 6th gear the revs are low and this means any incline results in a downshift to maintain speed. Overall the Legacy was pleasant to drive thanks mainly to the brilliant AWD system which means you can take the legacy on a farm track and barely notice.

Economy - 5/10

Unlike most cars, the Legacy automatic is actually more efficient than the manual. Combined fuel economy for the automatic is 34.9mpg and the emissions are 187g/km. This puts the auto in VED band J. Road tax will cost you £250 for 12 months and the first year rate is £460. Driving around town I struggled to hit 30mpg and in a car these days you would expect more. On the whole the Legacy range could be improved, and at present the diesel S model is the most efficient.

Practicality -10/10

One thing I couldn't fault the Legacy on was practicality. The boot is huge, and if you fold down the rear seats then it becomes a small barn. Another great feature of the legacy is the handles near the boot opening to drop the rear seats makes it incredibly easy. As a mountain biker, I found loading two bikes and all our gear and equipment effortless, and there was more than adequate space for everything. The loading area is plenty big enough and there is a rear bumper protection strip to aid when loading.

From other aspects of practicality there is a rear-view camera to help reversing, a sat-nav to help with unfamiliar journeys, and tons of legroom for all cabin occupants. There is cruise control to aid with motorway driving, and bluetooth hands-free connectivity for your telephone. You can attach your iPod and control it through the touch-screen media system. There were a lot of useful features in the Legacy which makes it a great car to live with day-to-day, and a score of 10 is well deserved here.

Fun -3/10

In many ways the Subaru Legacy lacked fun. I did manage to find ways that the Legacy was fun however. Firstly, the boot capacity means that I could load up the bikes and head out whenever I wanted. The AWD system means that you can take any of the single track roads to reach the best spot to unload and hit the forest trails, and the media system means you can listen to your favourite music along the way. The Legacy is never going to be a car that wills you to drive it for the sake of driving it, but that's not to say it's a bad car.

Concluding Remarks

Overall the Legacy does exactly what it says on the tin. It is a large, practical estate car which offers a large cabin and a good level of equipment. The styling may not be perfect, but there is a good car underneath. In particular the AWD system is superb and works incredibly well. The CVT gearbox is good for economy and in paddle-shift mode is more involving to drive. I found myself wanting more from the legacy, and maybe think a diesel version would be much better in reality. The economy of the petrol models does not quite fit with the demand of the modern society when it comes to emissions and fuel consumption.

Total Score -29/50


  1. For years I wanted a Subaru and couldn't afford one. Now that I can afford one there's nothing in the range worth having. The Legacy would be an ideal car for me but it's lost all of its sporty and fun side. This is a company that seems to have seriously lost its way, and given its recent sales figures, I wonder how much longer it will sell in the UK at all. What a pity for a once much admired brand.

    1. I couldn't agree more. The Legacy used to be a (slightly) more sensible Impreza, whereby it still had the sporty edge to it. Sadly that isn't the same anymore; t handles well but lacks some urgency. I'm yet to test the XV and have a BRZ arriving this week. Granted, the latter isn't the most practical for a family, but it's probably one of the most fun cars on sale today.