Subaru’s diesel (the company's first ever) is a fine effort, with adequate performance and good refinement and it works well in the Legacy. It is, however, different in character from diesels that arrange their cylinders more conventionally in line. If anything, the boxer diesel shares more with a petrol engine, such is its willingness to rev. Peak power of 148bhp is produced at a relatively low 3600rpm, but the engine will happily rev to its 4600rpm limiter without feeling strained or coarse.
That is a good thing, because in town driving you can find yourself revving the Legacy more than seems normal for a diesel. This is because of a seemingly odd spacing of first, second and third gear ratios. First and second are relatively close, but the gap to third seems unnecessarily high.
Change too early, though, and you’re met with, at best, a dull response and, at worst, an awkward judder. At higher speeds – on the motorway in sixth gear, for instance – the Legacy responds smoothly from low revs.
The gearshift itself isn’t satisfying to use, either. The action is positive enough but occasionally notchy, and the gearlever is not especially comfortable to grip (the position of the reverse lockout collar is to blame).
The 2.5-litre petrol comes with a CVT ‘box as standard. It’s an odd combination, robbing the car of any performance aspirations it may have, to the extent that its official figures show that it’s slower from zero to 62mph than the 2.0-litre petrol with its manual gearbox. It's best avoided.
The 2.0 litre petrol has the advantage of a standard gearbox, and has enough go to almost match the diesel to 60mph (albeit at almost 10sec). It isn't very refined, either. Only if you drive less than 10,000 miles a year does it make a case for itself.
The brakes have a recognisable Subaru quality of a firm pedal, with almost zero dead travel, and the need for a fraction more pressure than with some other systems. Once accustomed to this (which takes very little time) the Legacy stops very well, although their performance drops off quickly under prolonged hard use.