Japanese baby blends low consumption with a bargain price

Far from disgracing itself in such accomplished company, the Justy was capable, economical and surprising fun to drive. Only a lack of comfort and a questionable image hold it back.

Size matters when it comes to economy, which makes the Subaru Justy a car to be reckoned with in this test. Not only is it the only city model in our line-up, but it also has the smallest engine with the lowest number of cylinders.

With combined fuel economy of 56.5mpg, a five-door body and a deceptively spacious cabin, the Justy could be the surprise challenger of the group. Even though the Japanese baby doesn’t have any economy-boosting gimmicks to help it on its way, its three-cylinder 1.0-litre engine produces official CO2 emissions of only 118g/km. It can’t match its green-labelled rivals from Ford or Volkswagen, but an annual tax bill of £35 means owners pay comfortably less than the £120 facing Alfa and Honda buyers.

The Justy’s ranking in the CO2 battle tallied with its performance over our test route. The Subaru turned in an impressive 52.5mpg – adrift of our eco pairing, but ahead of others. And thanks to the lower pump price of petrol at the moment, the Justy comprehensively trumped the diesel Alfa at the till, completing the trip for £23.33.  In contrast, the Volkswagen did it for £2.83 less – but at what cost? Visit your local Subaru dealer today and the Justy will set you back £9,305. While the Polo is more economical, it costs £14,115 – that’s a premium of £4,810. By our reckoning, if you drive 12,000 miles per annum, it will be more than 40 years before the Polo pays for itself over the cheaper city car!

Admittedly, the Justy does demand compromises of the driver, but not in terms of space. Practicality is first rate, and rear leg and headroom are impressive for such a compact package. The boot really suffers, though – the 225-litre luggage area is the smallest in this test. You don’t miss out on much in the way of kit, because pretty much everything you will need comes as standard. Compared to the BlueMotion Polo, it bristles with equipment. Air-con and an auxiliary input for the sound system both feature on the equipment tally. Where the Justy struggles most is on the road – as it’s just not as refined or as grown-up as its rivals here. We love the thrum of the three-cylinder petrol engine around town, but when cruising on the motorway, it’s less than inspiring.

Performance is strained at higher speeds, and the firm ride means it can’t match the other cars’ comfort. Add limited adjustment to the steering column, and you’ll wonder if this model is suitable for long trips at all.Keep the pace down, though, and the Justy’s light weight pays dividends. Sharp throttle response and direct steering make it feel at home in town. Our car’s weak brakes were a letdown, however, while body roll is alarming if you enter a corner too quickly.

So it’s not the best bet in the small car market, but don’t write the Justy off just yet. If you want to go a long way in a cheap car, and use very little fuel in the process, this Subaru is tough to beat.

Details

Chart position: 4WHY: With a three-cylinder engine, Justy is one of the UK’s most economical petrol models.

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