Subaru Legacy Sport Tourer

All-wheel-drive carrier looks a strong choice with its practicality and character

Think Subaru, and the chances are you imagine a flame-spitting Impreza blasting through a forest on its way to World Rally Championship glory. But before the Japanese brand established itself as sporty, its foundations were laid in the UK by practical estates like the old L-Series.

The latest cars still subscribe to this model’s workmanlike approach, although the Legacy continues to be viewed as an alternative choice. It was given a makeover last year, but the heavy-handed changes have taken away some of its appeal. While the clean and attractive lines are now more distinctive than the original’s, we’re not sure the sharper features are an improvement.

Inside, Subaru didn’t go far enough with its updates. Although there’s enough space, with more rear legroom than in the Volvo and Honda, the Legacy’s cabin is sure to polarise opinion.

The design is incredibly dated compared to its rivals, and while build quality is beyond criticism, the cheap plastics and switchgear are no match for Europe’s best. The large glass area does provide a light and airy feel, though, and our SE model comes generously equipped, with heated front seats, plus leather trim, as in the Skoda and Volvo.

Of course, these cars are all about load space, and the Subaru picks up points here. With the seats in place, its large 526-litre boot is competitive; fold them, and it expands to 1,677 litres. Plus, at the side of the load area is a set of nifty handles, which release the rear backrests. The rest of the boot is unflashy but effective, although it misses out on the lidded cubbies, sliding rails and boot dividers included in the Skoda and Volvo.

The Subaru’s unique selling point is its all-wheel-drive transmission, which holds obvious appeal if you plan to use the car for towing, or tackling wet grass or bumpy back lanes. In these conditions, the Legacy is peerless – but it’s less convincing on the road. The 2.0-litre boxer diesel is outclassed by the more powerful Skoda and Honda units. While in-gear punch and overall refinement are fine, the notchy gearbox emphasises the short first ratio. Plus, the light steering doesn’t inspire confidence and takes some getting used to.

The firm’s sporting heritage shines through on twisty roads, where the Legacy generates lots of grip and impressive traction. There’s plenty of body roll if you attack bends with commitment, but the Subaru is engaging and its 4WD chassis is reassuring – especially on slippery surfaces. The price you pay for this all- weather ability at the pumps is small. Our long-term Legacy averaged 40.0mpg, not far behind the Skoda and ahead of the Accord. But CO2 emissions of 168g/km are the highest here, so it isn’t the green choice.

Details

Chart position: 5WHY: The sole all-wheel-drive model in our line-up is a unique proposition. Tourer is powered by the world’s only boxer diesel, and brand is an alternative choice.

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