Thinking of buying a Subaru? Here's all you need to know about the brand that claims to have kickstarted Australia's love of the SUV.
Subaru is a fabled car builder known for its use of the less conventional boxer engine, dominating the mid-90s World Rally Championships and specialising in all-wheel drive vehicles.
Read our comparison reviews of each Subaru model below.
A brief history of Subaru
In Japanese, Subaru means "united". The term is also the name for the Pleiades open star cluster, which is depicted in the car manufacturer's logo. Subaru's first-ever production car was a micro or "Kei" car, known as the 360. Subaru would go on to build an estimated 392,000 360s over a 12-year production run.
In 1966, Subaru launched the 1000, which marked the start of the company's association with the boxer engine. A boxer engine has horizontally opposed pistons and also goes by the name of a flat-four (a four-cylinder boxer). Other brands that make use of this atypical automobile powertrain include the VW Beetle and the Porsche 911.
In 1977 Subaru introduced the groundbreaking Brumby light ute, followed by the Liberty in 1989. News articles at the time said that Subaru was stunned by the success of the four-door sedan and wagon. Dealers in Australia had to order an extra 1,300 units to cope with demand.
In 1997, the Forester crossover was described by the motoring media as the best of both worlds. Between 1996 and 2005, Subaru bagged 10 Australian Rally Championships and 6 WRC titles.
By 2013, the Japanese automotive company had sold 700,000 vehicles over 40 years in Australia.
Which Subaru model should I buy?
Subaru currently sells eight different models, across a mix of body styles and vehicle classes.
Comes as either a sedan, starting from $25,490 or a hatchback that costs $25,690. The hatch model is one of the only vehicles in its class with AWD. It's an impressively equipped car that offers something a bit different from rivals like the Mazda3 or Toyota's Corolla.
Currently, the Impreza serves as the entry point to Subaru Australia's range.
Next in the Subaru range is the XV compact SUV. Subaru says this AWD has true off-road capability, class-leading safety equipment and a great infotainment system. According to sales figures, this was the most popular Subaru with Aussie buyers in 2018.
The XV starts from $32,850 for the 2.0i. This model has a 5-year warranty and capped price servicing, a smart-key and ignition, 17-inch alloys and Yokohama tyres. A top-of-the-line 2.0i-S has Eyesight driving assistants, LED steering-responsive headlights, an eight-inch touchscreen and leather seat trim. This model costs $40,359.
The Subaru Liberty is a mid-size sedan. There are three variants: the 2.5i AWD (from $35,174), a 2.5i Premium AWD ($41,869 and up) and the 3.6R 6-cylinder AWD (from $48,586).
Subaru offers a 5-year warranty on this model, as well as a 5-year/125,000km capped price servicing scheme. The 2.5i has a trademark Subaru boxer petrol engine, an automatic CVT, AWD, a reversing camera plus the exhaustive EyeSight driver-assist suite. The 2.5i Premium gets Subaru's Vision Assist, which adds things like blind spot monitoring, a front-view monitor, lane change assist, side-view monitor and rear cross-traffic alerts. There are also heated front seats.
In addition to a more powerful engine, the 3.6R also has 11 Harman Kardon speakers plus a subwoofer and amplifier.
Generally, the Liberty (known in the rest of the world as the Legacy) receives very solid reviews.
This is Subaru's rear-wheel drive, 2+2 seater sports car. Developed by Subaru, in partnership with Toyota, the BRZ also sells as the Toyota 86. With a 7-star badge, you can purchase a standard BRZ (from $37,740), the BRZ Premium ($39,300 upwards) or the even sportier BRZ tS (Starts at $43,830).
The ordinary BRZ gets a five-year warranty, sat-nav, a seven-inch touchscreen and auto-levelling LED headlights. Driving purists will be happy with a six-speed manual option, while others may opt for a six-speed auto box. Unusually, the manual is more powerful than the automatic, with 152kW @ 7,000rpm. The automatic makes 147kW. Torque is rated higher on the manuals too, with 212Nm between 6,400 and 6,800rpm, versus 205Nm between a reduced 6,400 and 6,600rpm.
A Premium model brings things like Alcantara and leather upholstery, with heated front seats. The BRZ tS goes full bore with Brembo brake callipers and SACHS suspension.
Journalists describe this car as an enthusiast's car because it handles so well and it also has superb driving dynamics.
The Forester SUV has won numerous awards. Subaru pitches the model as a family car and it comes with heaps of safety tech as a result. You get the vision assist and EyeSight system by default, as well as a reversing camera, smart-key and push-start ignition. Subaru also installs its X-Mode system that takes control of the engine, gearbox, brakes and other parts when off-roading to maximise grip.
For the base spec 2.5i AWD, you'll have to spend $38,523. Outlaying $40,633 gets you the 2.5i-L model. Highlights include a driver monitoring system, reverse automatic braking, a side-view monitor and adaptive driving beams.
Subaru offers the near-range-topping 2.5i Premium Forester. That'll cost you $43,723. You'll benefit from a large 8-inch touchscreen, sat-nav, power tailgate and 18-inch alloys.
Finally, there's the 2.5i-S which brings additional speakers by Harman Kardon, X-Mode, leather seating and an electric sunroof, all for $46,866.
Reviewers liked the Forester's ride and handling, its many safety gadgets and its fuel efficiency.
Riding on the same platform as the Impreza, Liberty and WRX is the Levorg wagon. The name creatively combines letters from the words, Legacy Revolution and Touring. If you like a wagon, you'll love this sportswagon.
It comes with a turbocharged boxer four-cylinder 1.6-litre petrol that is capable of producing 125kW and 250Nm. 2.0-litre models are also available, generating 197kW and 350Nm.
Prices start at $41,201 for the 1.6 GT AWD. This model has a smart-key and push-ignition system, a 6.5-inch touchscreen, an integrated infotainment system, LED headlights and a 5-star ANCAP rating.
At the other end of the scale sits the Levorg 2.0 STI Sport AWD. It costs $57,881, but you get extra equipment like heated and sports seats in the front with maroon leather trim, an exclusive to the line front bumper and large STI exhaust tips.
Like the Forester, the Outback is touted as a perfect family SUV. This car has been with us since 1994 and the company dubbed it a Sports Utility Wagon. At the time, it ran epic ads with legendary Aussie, Paul Hogan.
Over time, it has morphed into an award-winning AWD SUV.
There are five total Outback trims on sale.
The first is the 2.5i AWD, which costs $41,354. Some of the key features include a 5-year warranty/capped price servicing (up to 125,000km), EyeSight driving assistance, a reversing camera and a 6.5-inch touchscreen. Moving through the different grades, you arrive at the $48,061 model which receives a larger, 8-inch touchscreen, Subaru's Vision Assist and leather seating. Shifting to the 3.6R model brings 11 speakers from Harman Kardon. The price is $54,886, partly due to the model's larger capacity, 6-cylinder petrol engine.
As well as petrol models, buyers can also go for diesel equipped Outbacks. These models costs $44,032 and $51,211 respectively.
Subaru WRX/WRX STI
This is the original road-going rally car. It's an iconic line that borrows from rally technology. WRX stands for World Rally eXperimental.
The WRX is all about performance. There's a six-speed manual, which is pretty much a must for rallying or an automatic CVT. Power comes from a turbocharged, flat-four boxer engine and is rated at 197kW for the WRX AWD and WRX Premium AWD. Torque is a guttural 350Nm. For the WRX STI AWD, power jumps to 221kW, while torque is hiked up to 407Nm.
Prices start around $44,386 for the WRX AWD. For the money, you get a five-year warranty and capped price servicing. The car rides on black 18-inch alloy wheels and sports an impressive array of active safety assists. Plus, there's a 6.5-inch touchscreen.
Spending extra will net you the $51,050 WRX Premium. This model gets leather sports bucket seats, additional active safety assists, an eight-speaker Harman Kardon audio set-up and a larger seven-inch touchscreen.
Finally, there's the WRX STI. This model costs $57,041, but it comes with:
- Ultrasuede bucket seats
- Large 19-inch alloys
- Performance ventilated brakes with STI logos by Brembo
- There's also a rearview camera
Visually, the WRX STI looks like the pick of the range, with a massive spoiler and contrasting alloy wheels. Journos were bowled over by this car.
There are two other STI models, the WRX STI Premium which has an eight-way power-adjusted driver's seat, front seat heating and Subaru's Vision Assist. This model will cost you from $62,026. Then, there's the WRX Sti spec.R. This car has Recaro-branded bucket seats and a rear spoiler, for the princely sum of $64,181.
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