Subaru Legacy

At last, the design catches up with quality

Model: Subaru Legacy 2.0;
Price: £16,500 approx. On sale November;
Engine: 1,997cc, flat-four cylinders, 16 valves, 140bhp at 5,600rpm;
Transmission: Five-speed gearbox, four-wheel drive;
Performance and economy: not yet quoted.

Subaru is a company populated by left hands and right hands seemingly unaware of what the other is up to. Here is a car maker ploughing its own proud furrow which it plants with flat-four engines, frameless door windows and four-wheel drive to make an intriguing if unconventional cocktail. An effective one, too, judging by the number of wins scored by Subaru in the World Rally series over the years.

Subaru should have been a sort of Japanese Audi with attitude, but kept missing the point. The styling has been almost there: a fussy line here, an opportunity for visual integration passed by there. And the interiors have been unimaginative, unappealing surfaces moulded into shapes by designers whose hearts were elsewhere. Were it not for the glory reflected by the Impreza rally cars, whose roadgoing cousins have achieved near-cult status, Subaru's admirable attributes would be ignored.

But salvation is at hand. Subaru, encouraged by its part-shareholder of recent arrival, General Motors, has started a new, cohesive approach. Designers from different departments now talk to each other, and they have good things to say. Subaru even has a new advanced design chief, Andreas Zapatinas, of Alfa Romeo.

The Legacy Subaru has had done to it all the things we have wished could have been done to Subarus. The surfaces are soft to the touch, the dashboard looks sleek and inviting, the storage compartments (door pockets excepted) have rubber or felt liners, the carpet, boot included, is of high quality.

The stereo system is properly built in, and aluminium trim accents add a hi-tech touch. Fake wood is confined to the accessory catalogue in Japan, and we must hope the British importer resists the temptation to smear it all over UK cars. This is a cabin of Audi-like quality, but with a confident style. Same goes for the outside. The shape is broadly similar to that of the previous model, but there is a flow and tension that had been missing. The bumper-to-body join lines are discreet and in line with the side rubbing strake, and the wheelarches are gently flared instead of being bounded by thick swages. The shoulder line is a ridge instead of a crease, the roof pillars are slimmer and the wheels fill the arches more completely. There is more.

The front corners are more chamfered, the headlights cut into the bumper, flanking a lower front grille. At the back, the old full-width red strip (early-90s Japan) has gone, and neat trapezoidal tail lamps take its place. And, in a clear reference to the perceived German ideal, the door mirrors have the indicator repeaters built into their lower surfaces.

This Subaru is a new car. Although a little bigger and more spacious, it weighs less, and the engine has been greatly revised. One change is to the exhaust manifolds, which improved the pulling power but slightly smothered the flat-four beat, a Subaru aural trademark.

Here lies a contentious bone. In Japan, you can have a Legacy Turbo which has a big air-scoop on the bonnet and 280bhp. But it has yet to be certified for European emissions and Subaru's resources have concentrated on the base-model engine the German market wanted first. Our Turbo arrives in two years, with a two-camshaft 2.0 and 140bhp, a 2.5-litre version with 165bhp and a glamorous 3.0-litre flat-six (think Porsche 911) with 250bhp. I tried the Turbo and a four-camshaft, 190bhp Legacy on the Mount Fuji race circuit. The Turbo is rapid, has much less of a delay in accelerator response than past turbocharged Subarus, and that four-wheel drive makes it easy to drive quickly and confidently.

Our 3.0 will have the quicker-acting steering and firm ride, to make it more performance car than boulevardier. I also tried the 190bhp 2.0, which has a more supple ride and lighter, slower steering. I suspect that our Euro-spec 2.0 and 2.5 will be smooth, refined and civilised.

Subaru's new Legacy is impressive and individual in equal measure. Saab is chasing the same ideal, but without the unique engineering motifs. It is ironic that Saab's new, US-only 9-2 hatchback is, in fact, a rebodied Subaru Impreza.

THE RIVALS

Alfa 156 2.0 JTS Turismo: £17,900
The most sensuously good-looking saloon on sale has a frugal but fizzy direct-injection engine and a sporty attitude. Just facelifted with a deeper front grille.

Audi A4 2.0: £19,175
Premium-brand, premium-price: this cheapest 2.0-litre A4 is no fireball but is handsome and beautifully built. But it appears poor value in this company.

Saab 9-3 1.8t Linear: £18,495
Built on a Vectra platform, but Saab's rear suspension and turbo engine make the new 9-3 a sharp, responsive drive. Design remains uniquely Saab, and engine is really a 2.0.

Voices
Stephanie first after her public appearance as a woman at Rad Fest 2014
voices

Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol
art'Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' followed hoax reports artist had been arrested and unveiled
Voices
Oscar Pistorius is led out of court in Pretoria. Pistorius received a five-year prison sentence for culpable homicide by judge Thokozile Masipais for the killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp
voicesThokozile Masipa simply had no choice but to jail the athlete
Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
Russell Brand at an anti-austerity march in June
peopleActor and comedian says 'there's no point doing it if you're not'
Arts and Entertainment
Sister Cristina Scuccia sings 'Like a Virgin' in Venice
music

Like Madonna, Sister Cristina Scuccia's video is also set in Venice

News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
James Blunt's debut album Back to Bedlam shot him to fame in 2004
music

Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'

Life and Style
The Tinder app has around 10 million users worldwide

techThe original free dating app will remain the same, developers say

News
news

Endangered species spotted in a creek in the Qinling mountains

News
Bryan Cranston as Walter White, in the acclaimed series 'Breaking Bad'
news
News
peopleJust weeks after he created dress for Alamuddin-Clooney wedding
Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Life and Style
health

Some experiencing postnatal depression don't realise there is a problem. What can be done?

Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Senior Pensions Administrator

    £23000 - £26000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

    Nursery Nurse

    Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery NurseI am currently...

    KS2 Teacher

    £21000 - £34000 per annum + Excellent rates of pay, CPD, Support : Randstad Ed...

    Nursery Nurse

    Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery nurse required for ...

    Day In a Page

    Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

    Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

    Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
    British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

    British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

    Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
    Let's talk about loss

    We need to talk about loss

    Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
    Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

    'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

    If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
    James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
    Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

    Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

    Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
    Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

    Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

    Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
    How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

    How to dress with authority

    Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
    New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

    New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

    'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
    Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

    Tim Minchin interview

    For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
    Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
    Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

    Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

    Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album