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Subaru Legacy Review

Subaru Legacy Tested July 2010

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Quick Summary

Average. There is a lot to like about the Legacy, but a few niggles prevent it from seriously competing with the best in class.

Road Test

The rough and rugged image that the Legacy has enjoyed in the past is no longer enough to sell cars in a sector that is offering far more in terms of luxury and equipment.

Subaru must have recognised this because the latest Legacy has certainly smartened up its act. There's no longer the feeling that the car is using its off-roading capabilities as its main selling points. Sure, the all-wheel drive remains, and the Legacy will still tackle fields and tracks with aplomb even if it doesn't boast the ground clearance to be a genuine SUV, but things have been tidied up inside, and there is a decent level of specification to cater for an audience that might otherwise be considering a BMW 3 Series or an Audi A4.

This means you get electrically adjustable seats, cruise control, satellite navigation and an electronic parking brake as standard or on the options list depending on which trim level you opt for. However, the presence of these toys isn't enough to make the Subaru feel special compared to its premium rivals. Sadly it is let down by mild irritations, such as a stereo and entertainment system which lacks preset buttons and is not intuitive to use.

The diesel engine that arrived in the previous generation of the Legacy is carried over, and it will split opinion now just as much as it did then. The Boxer layout means it drives like a petrol engine, which means it revs pleasingly and smoothly, but this makes it infuriating at other times. It is at its most frustrating around town, especially when paired with the manual gearbox. It is almost impossible to drive smoothly while crawling along in low gears and the electronic handbrake tends to bite that bit too long when pulling away from a standstill.

The petrol engine and automatic gearbox pairing is the more pleasing to drive, but the combination's compromised fuel economy and emissions rating mean it is hard to recommend them over the diesel option.

Despite the lack of low-end pull that a free-revving diesel engine brings, the Legacy still succeeds in doing the things it built its reputation on. The load-carrying capacity is aided by a flat entry to the boot, and a useful under floor storage section. There is plenty of room for four adults and stuff for a week away, and it will cope with loose or tricky terrain without feeling like you have opted for a rugged off roader.

But much as though we want to love the Legacy (and many people other than us will) it doesn't feel like it is quite doing what it set out to do on any front. It's not quite the rugged workhorse it once was, and is not the well-equipped family estate it feels it ought to be these days - its disappointing compromises means it's caught somewhere between the two.

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