2012 Subaru Legacy review

* 2012 Subaru Legacy driven * Engine and suspension tweaks * On sale now, from 26,900...

2012 Subaru Legacy review

This is the 2012 Subaru Legacy, which has a range of improvements, including revised suspension and extra kit.

Exterior changes are limited to new door mirrors, one new paint colour and the addition of a sportier front bumper, grille and dark-tinted headlamp lenses for the top two trims. Confusingly, a face-lifted version - with new-look bumpers and grille - goes on sale in other markets this summer, but these changes won't filter through to UK models until late 2012.

For now, the most significant changes to the Legacy Tourer are to its 2.0-litre diesel engine. A range of new components have made it more efficient; average fuel economy improves from 46.3mpg to 49.6mpg, while CO2 emissions are cut from 161g/km to 149g/km.

Subaru has dropped the entry-level 2.0-litre petrol model, so prices now start at 26,900. The 2.5 petrol model which has an automatic gearbox as standard starts at 29,075.

Whats the 2012 Subaru Legacy like to drive?
We drove the 2.0D model. Although its cleaner than before, the Legacys boxer diesel engine (the pistons are placed horizontally, punching outwards) has the same 145bhp output. Performance is respectable, but the engine isnt as flexible as you might expect, with rather lacklustre responses at low revs.

The engine is a little noisy, too, and sounds clattery at low revs. Its unobtrusive once youre up to speed, but the amount of road noise on the motorway means the Legacy isnt as refined as a Ford Mondeo Estate or Volkswagen Passat Estate.

The Legacy isnt as good to drive as those two rivals, either. On the plus side, standard four-wheel drive means excellent traction and theres plenty of grip through corners. The handling is fine, too, but the Legacy always feels its size and the steering is slow to respond at speed.

Our test car was in top-spec SE Navplus trim, which includes 18-inch alloy wheels and sportier Bilstein dampers. In this guise, body control is good, but the ride is firm and sharper low-speed bumps thud through the cabin.

Whats the 2012 Subaru Legacy like inside?
The Legacy is a big car and its cabin is very practical. Theres generous head- and legroom in the front and rear, and a central rear passenger can sit in comfort.

There's a 526-litre loadspace with the rear seats up and 1677 litres when theyre folded, which means the Legacy Tourer is almost as roomy as a Ford Mondeo Estate, and that's saying something. Access is good and its easy to fold the rear seats flat.

Things are less rosy up front, because the Legacys dashboard looks like its from a different era. The controls and instruments are dated and the silver-on-silver colour scheme makes it tricky to find the button youre after quickly.

Build quality is solid, but the cabin materials are drab and the Legacys interior isnt classy enough for a car that costs close to and in some cases, more than 30,000.

Should I buy one?
At 26,900 the entry-level Legacy 2.0D S looks pricey, although there arent many rivals that provide standard four-wheel drive and as much space. Standard kit is generous, and includes climate control, automatic lights and wipers, Bluetooth and electric drivers seat adjustment. SE trim bumps the price up to 28,850, while the version we drove the SE Navplus costs 31,370.

Like all of its models, the Legacy comes with Subarus Everything Taken Care of (ETCo) package as standard, which includes free minor bodywork and alloy wheel repairs, a monthly wash, and winter wheel and tyre storage.

Ultimately, the Legacy is too expensive to recommend. A Ford Mondeo Estate 2.0 TDCi 140 Zetec costs 4455 less than the entry-level version and is classier, more practical and better to drive. If you must have four-wheel drive, SUVs such as the Audi Q3 are much more appealing.

Audi Q3
Ford Mondeo Estate

What Car? says

Leo Wilkinson