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What Car? says

3 out of 5 stars

For Engines are great, it's enjoyable to drive, the cabin is spacious and the car is built to last

Against Interior is dull and the car can be dear to fix

Verdict Drives well, but let down by high running costs

Go for… 2.0 RE

Avoid… Autos

Subaru Legacy Saloon
  • 1. There are known problems with the heating and cooling systems
  • 2. The clutch and gearbox can be problematic, so check them carefully
  • 3. The cabin is tough and can withstand a lot of abuse
  • 4. The steering is frustratingly light at high speed
  • 5. There's room for three across the back seat
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Subaru Legacy Saloon full review with expert trade views

The Legacy is an enjoyable drive. The four-wheel-drive system gives the car fantastic traction, while strong body control ensures poised handling and fine composure. That does mean the ride is rather firm, but it never becomes uncomfortable. And, although the steering is accurate and responsive, it's frustratingly light at speed.

All three petrol engines perform well and have a distinctive, throaty sound. Wind noise isn’t intrusive, but road and engine noise aren’t as well contained at speed as in some rivals - the 2.0 becomes raucous when revved hard.

The Legacy’s low-slung driving position is sporty, but the seat adjustment isn’t very easy to move and the steering column adjusts for height only. There’s plenty of leg- and headroom, and three can sit abreast in the rear, although foot space is tight due to the raised transmission tunnel. The boot easily holds a family’s luggage, even though it’s not as deep or well shaped as some rivals’.

Trade view

Martin Keighley

High-spec models now at better prices. As good as its competition

Martin Keighley
Valuations expert,
What Car? Used Car Price Guide

There are three petrol engines - a 2.0-litre, a 2.5 and a 3.0. Trim levels at launch consisted of S and SE on all engines, with the 2.5 and 3.0 also getting SEn (sat-nav). All 3.0-litre models were available only as automatics until October 2004, when the 3.0 R Spec B was introduced with a six-speed manual ’box.

In October 2005, a five-speed automatic transmission was added to the options list on the Spec B model and the 2.0-litre S and SE versions were replaced by the R and RE.

From this point, every Legacy had twin front and side airbags, a CD player, cruise control, climate control, electric windows and alloys. 2.0 RE models add leather upholstery, electrically adjustable seats and an electric sunroof. 3.0s have sat-nav but are expensive as a used buy.

Overall, we reckon the entry-level 2.0 engine in RE trim is the car to go for.

Trade view

John Owen

High first- and second-year depreciation makes late used cars good value

John Owen
Buyer,
Fords of Winsford

A used Legacy saloon isn’t the wisest investment. There aren’t many on the market and those that are have often been unloved by their previous owners. The cabins can withstand years of abuse, but do check for wear and tear.

Also, make sure the car has a full service history, or unexpected repair bills could prove expensive; and that's on top of servicing bills, which will be costly anyway. The Legacy’s 12,000-mile intervals are reasonable, but Subaru parts generally aren’t the cheapest.

Even without that, the running costs could prove punitive due to unimpressive fuel economy and high insurance - even the entry-level 2.0-litre model sits in insurance group 13 and returns just 29mpg. We’ve also had many reports of all three engines returning below the official mpg figures. You have to be light on the throttle if you don’t want to spend a fortune in fuel bills.

Trade view

Martin Keighley

High-spec models now at better prices. As good as its competition

Martin Keighley
Valuations expert,
What Car? Used Car Price Guide

The Legacy’s cabin can take plenty of abuse, shrugging off scrapes and scuffs; we know of many high-milers that have stood up to the rigours of family life very well.

However, although Subaru has a great reputation for reliability, the Legacy hasn’t performed as well as many of the company’s models for overall reliability, with engine problems accounting for the majority of repairs. Other causes for concern are the heating and cooling systems, and fuel pump problems. We’ve also had reports of clutch and gearbox problems on later cars.

Whatever the problem, if the car’s out of warranty, the subsequent bills will probably be costly, as repairing the cars is complex and the spare parts are expensive. As ever, get a car with a full service history for your own peace of mind.

Trade view

John Owen

High first- and second-year depreciation makes late used cars good value

John Owen
Buyer,
Fords of Winsford
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