The best reason yet not to buy an SUV

What is it?

Subaru’s new diesel-powered Legacy has finally touched down in the UK, adding the prospect of 45mpg to Subaru’s traditional values of permanent four-wheel drive and extreme utility.

The new engine has already won rave reviews thanks to its combination of 148bhp and near class-leading fuel economy: the claimed 49.6mpg is exceptional for a vehicle fitted with permanent four-wheel drive.

What’s it like?

In a word: brilliant. The new engine is a gem – smooth, refined and torquey. Low-down urge is particularly impressive, with strong pull available from just 1200rpm onwards, where most modern turbo-diesels are still languishing in off-boost lethargy.

It’s quiet too, although some of Scooby’s trademark flat-four warble has made the translation into diesel. From a standing start, Subaru has engineered one of the world’s best four-cylinder diesels.

The rest of the Legacy is as before – big and sensible, if starting to feel dated compared to some more modern rivals. Range-topping RE trim brings plenty of kit with it, although the button-strewn dashboard makes finding the relevant control a challenge. The driver’s seat feels a bit short on support, too – especially as the agile chassis encourages enthusiastic progress.

And there’s no dynamic downside to report – the diesel Legacy drives as well as its petrol-powered sisters: massive grip, excellent responses and a willingness to adjust its line on the throttle that belies its status as a tonne-and-a-half estate.

The new engine will be introduced in other Subaru models in the next few months. And, on this evidence, it’s set to revitalise the brand like nothing else.

Should I buy one?

If you want diesel running costs and the reassurance of four-wheel drive then yes. The Scooby’s only significant price-point rivals, the VW Passat 2.0 TDI 4Motion estate can’t match the Subaru for ruggedness or fuel economy – and Volvo’s V70 D5 AWD is far more expensive. The diesel Legacy estate is the best reason yet not to buy an SUV.

Join the debate

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Derek Mathers 8 March 2009

Re: Subaru Legacy 2.0TD

My Legacy ReN has now done 22000 miles at an average (tank to tank,not trip) of 48.9.

Car has broken down 3 times with turbo pipe blowing off - now fixed.

Navigation is awful - goes blank on cold mornings after about 10 minutes and the route options are poor. Worst aspect is telling you to turn left or right whilst just indicating a sharp bend with a minor (often very) road joining your main road.

Built in Bluetooth mobile phone kit is equally poor - now use a TomTom and vizor mounted Bluetooth - car is great, but do not buy the navigation.

Tried having the engine chipped - extra torque caused the dual mass flywheel to vibrate in the higher gears with anything other than minimum throttle - felt enough to make the door mirrors fall off - I decided problem was so bad that I returned car to standard although there is obviously terrific potential, as while chip was fitted, if I only used full throttle above 2000 rpm and in the lower gears car went like an Sti.

fentrap 7 March 2009

Re: Subaru Legacy 2.0TD

My Outback is approaching 1 year old and has 21,500 miles on the clock. The last 9,500 miles show an average of 49.2mpg. The engine is running smoothly; uses a bit of oil but loves revs when speed is required. My only bugbear is that the low rev torque is poor and it is easy to get caught out and stall. That said it is hard to fault and the economy is as good as promised.

Arf 25 January 2009

Re: Subaru Legacy 2.0TD

I have now covered nearly 14,000 miles in my 2.0D REN since taking delivery in July 2008.

I love driving the car - performance and handling are just great. I averaged 43.2mpg during the first 10,000 miles, an average that was affected quite considerably by a couple of long trips with bicycles on the roof. So far, I am averaging 44.4mpg since the 10,000 mile mark. (Be warned - the trip computers reset after 10,000 miles). 55mpg is easily achieved on a motorway run at 70mph.

The 12,000 mile service was a pleasant, hassle-free experience, and I have had no mechanical problems with the car.

My only gripes relate to the navigation software. The navigation system on my previous car (2004 Honda Accord Diesel) took ages to compute a route, but did at least provide sensible answers. The Legacy seems to come up with (three) routes in a flash, all of them sub-optimum! If you set a waypoint to give the system a bit of a hint, the distance and duration of the "fastest" route can be improved considerably. Never mind, it's usually not until the end of a journey that the navigation system is useful.

On a similar vein (and possibly related), the journey time estimation is hopelessly pessimistic. On my Honda, I could manually set average speeds for three classes of road, but the Legacy seems to use a fixed speed, or maybe overall average speed, for all journeys - useless on motorway trips. Also, the Honda could be set to show useful places like petrol stations on its map, but not so on the Legacy. Finally, on the Honda you could switch off the LCD display entirely, but this is not possible on the Legacy: It can be quite annoying at night.

In short: Nice car; shame about the software.