Used Subaru Legacy Estate 1998 - 2003 review

Category: Estate car

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

Subaru Legacy Estate (98 - 03)
  • Subaru Legacy Estate (98 - 03)
  • Subaru Legacy Estate (98 - 03)
Used Subaru Legacy Estate 1998 - 2003 review
Star rating

What's the used Subaru Legacy estate like?

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 Legacy is a practical workhorse, but you'll need deep pockets to run it

  • A tough, spacious
  • family estate with charismatic engines and good road manners
  • It's expensive to run

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.

Ownership cost

What used Subaru Legacy estate will I get for my budget?

How much does it cost to run a Subaru Legacy estate?

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.

Our recommendations

Which used Subaru Legacy estate should I buy?

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.


What alternatives should I consider to a used Subaru Legacy estate?