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What Car? says

3 out of 5 stars

For A tough, spacious, family estate with charismatic engines and good road manners

Against It's expensive to run

Verdict The Legacy is a practical workhorse, but you’ll need deep pockets to run it

Go for… 2.5-litre

Avoid… 3.0-litre

Subaru Legacy Estate
  • 1. Examine engines and gearboxes carefully, as these are the main areas to concentrate on
  • 2. Axles and suspension are known trouble spots - check them out carefully
  • 3. Ensure four-wheel drive system is in first-rate condition
  • 4. Load bay is bigger than a Volvo V70's
  • 5. Cabin is plain but hard-wearing
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Subaru Legacy Estate full review with expert trade views

The Legacy estate is one of the most underrated used load-carriers around – except by owners, who ensured that this model always figured near the top of any customer satisfaction survey at the time.

It’s a tough, hard-working wagon with more luggage space than even a Volvo V70. It also has full-time four-wheel drive, which makes it ideal for towing horseboxes out of muddy fields or boats up greasy slipways.

The four-wheel drive also helps it put the power down cleanly in bends, where the car hangs on well. There’s little body lean, yet the suspension is soft enough to soak up bumps without going floaty over crests. The engines are willing, strong workers and the four-cylinder units sound charismatic.

The cabin is, like the outside, plain, but it’s hard-wearing and roomy enough for five adults.

Trade view

Kurtis Williams

Large car for your money. All are AWD, which is good for winter

Kurtis Williams
Buyer,
Lex Vehicle Leasing

If you’ll be doing some off-roading, go for the Outback model, a beefed-up version with extra ground clearance and decent equipment. Don’t expect miracles, though, because it’s designed for light off-roading, not hardcore back-of-beyond work.

For all other uses, we’d stick with the standard Legacy. The six-cylinder 3.0 (auto gearbox only) needs revving to give its best, but its best is very good. However, it’s costly to buy and run.

So we’d go for one of the four-cylinder cars. Both have a throaty growl under acceleration, deliver strong low-down pull and stay quiet at cruising speeds. The 2.0 is fine for normal family duties, but for carrying heavier loads or towing, the 2.5 is the one to go for – especially if you want the optional auto gearbox.

Kit isn’t overly generous on GL models, but GX will sort most of your needs. Cars with the posher Lux pack are desirable.

Trade view

John Owen

Rugged workhorse with plenty of space. Beware poorly maintained examples

John Owen
Buyer,
Fords of Winsford

Depends on your overdraft facility. The Legacy isn’t outrageously expensive to buy used – especially given its work-hard-play-hard ability. The sting comes when you have to fork out to keep it in fuel and on the road.

The Legacy is generally very robust but it does need regular maintenance or it can all end it tears – very few cars are more expensive to fix than Subarus, according to Warranty Direct’s records. However, the same firm reckons that taking your Subaru to a good independent rather than a franchised dealer can cut the labour bill by almost a quarter.

You might nudge over 30mpg in normal driving with the 2.0, but that’s as good as it gets. Expect 2-3mpg less with the 2.5 and another 2-3mpg drop again with the 3.0. You’ll also be stumping up for group 14-16 insurance, depending on the model.

Trade view

Kurtis Williams

Large car for your money. All are AWD, which is good for winter

Kurtis Williams
Buyer,
Lex Vehicle Leasing

A full service history is absolutely essential, as you take a big risk buying a car with a less-than-perfect maintenance record. Once you’ve found the Legacy of your dreams, we’d also recommend a professional mechanical inspection, because this is a complex bit of kit.

Before you call the experts in, though, you should be able to weed out many of the duds yourself. The four-wheel-drive system, engine, gearboxes, axles and suspension are the areas to concentrate on. Be especially vigilant if the car has been fitted with a towbar.

If you’re suspicious about potential faults in any of these areas, keep looking. There are enough good used Legacys around for you not to have to take the gamble. Check the bodywork and look underneath for signs of over-enthusiastic off-roading.

Generally, though, a cared-for Legacy will feel solidly screwed together and be capable of notching up a high mileage without getting baggy.

Trade view

John Owen

Rugged workhorse with plenty of space. Beware poorly maintained examples

John Owen
Buyer,
Fords of Winsford
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