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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
film
News
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
science
News
Dawkins: 'There’s a very interesting reason why a prince could not turn into a frog – it's statistically too improbable'
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Sport
Malky Mackay salutes the Cardiff fans after the 3-1 defeat at Liverpool on Sunday
footballFormer Cardiff boss accused of sending homophobic, racist and messages
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Amis: Taken to task over rash decisions and ill-judged statements
booksThe Zone of Interest just doesn't work, says James Runcie
Life and Style
life – it's not, says Rachel McKinnon
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

    Corporate Tax Solicitor

    Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - HIGHEST QUALITY INTERNATIONAL ...

    Relationship Manager

    £500 - £600 per day: Orgtel: Relationship Manager, London, Banking, Accountant...

    Marketing & PR Assistant - NW London

    £15 - £17 per hour: Ashdown Group: Marketing & PR Assistant - Kentish Town are...

    Senior Network Integration/Test Engineer

    £250 - £300 per day: Orgtel: Senior Network Integration/Test Engineer Berkshir...

    Day In a Page

    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

    Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

    Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
    eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

    eBay's enduring appeal

    The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

    'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
    Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

    Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

    Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
    Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

    Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

    After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
    Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

    Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

    After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
    Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

    Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

    Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
    7 best quadcopters and drones

    Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

    From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
    Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

    A descent into madness in America's heartlands

    David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
    BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

    BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

    Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home