Subaru’s Liberty (called Legacy outside Australia) starts at $34,804 (drive away NSW) and that is a whole lot of car for the money.
Unlike other brands from the land of the rising sun, Subaru is imported by a 3rd party. The likes of Toyota, Lexus, Honda, and Mitsubishi are imported by a subsidiary of the manufacturer. Subaru is imported by Inchcape. Inchcape has interests globally, but in Australia supplies logistics (transport and customs clearing) for many brands. It also imports and distributes French brands Citroën and Peugeot, as well as owning luxury retailer outlets such as Trivett.
Except for the BRZ sports car, all Subarus have AWD (All Wheel Drive).
Liberty is a deceptively large car and will fit 5 adults in relative comfort on short to medium trips, 4 for longer jaunts.
There are 3 Liberty models: 2.5i, 2.5i Premium, and 3.6R. The latter is a 6 cylinder.
The metalwork is handsome. Subaru’s corporate face includes a large hexagonal grille with auto Halogen headlights (LED in 2.5i Premium). Chrome touches around the windows highlight a slightly coupe-look to the silhouette.
In profile, Liberty looks muscular thanks to deep character lines on the upper and lower doors, and front mud guards that bulge out over the wheel arches. My inner bogan wants to fit a fat set of rubber shoes to make the most of the wide, low look.
All Liberty models score 18” alloy wheels and LED tail lights. Only the 2.5i misses out on cool headlights that turn with the steering wheel. LED DRLs (day time running lights) give the Subaru a signature look as it comes up in your rear-view mirror. You couldn’t mistake it for any other brand. They outline the headlights and can be easily seen even in direct sunlight.
The pert rump is subtly sculptured and culminates in a lip at the top of the boot. The sloping rear window makes the back end look more akin to that of a hatch rather than a booted sedan, and perhaps that is a missed opportunity. Hatches give far greater access.
The generous boot provides oodles of space for a full-size alloy spare wheel. Full size spares are becoming as rare as hen’s teeth. No matter what other brands will tell you, there is no substitute for a proper wheel in the boot. You can make do with a space saver, which is a narrow tyre limited to 80kph, but the inflation kits on cars with no spare wheels are utterly useless.
Run-flat tyres are also popular but reinforced sidewalls make the ride harder.
Smart entry/start means the key stays in your pocket. You lock the car by pressing the button on the door handle, and open it by merely gripping the door handle. No fiddling with key fobs is needed unless the fob battery fails. Then you can use the emergency key inside the fob for access.
All Subaru interiors have a crisp efficiency to them.
Leather and leather-look materials compliment other soft-touch surfaces on doors and dash. Cloth on the 2.5i is a little gentler to your bottom on cold mornings though.
A generous 2,750mm wheelbase (the distance between the centre of the front wheels and the centre of the rear wheels) gives the cabin a spacious feel. Front seats make the most of the 1,500mm overall height of Liberty. Headroom is excellent and adjustment of both seat and steering wheel allows for a good driving position evening with taller drivers.
Smart entry/start means push-button, of course, and keeps the dash free of keys swinging in the breeze.
Driver instruments are simple and easy to read, and consists of two main dials for speed and revs, and a small LCD for information such as fuel use. You can display your speedo in numbers too if you prefer. In the days of LCD dash boards, I’d prefer a fully LCD driver display like those in VW.
The clean uncultured look continues on the centre stack dominated by a large high resolution LCD 8”touch screen (6.5” in 2.5i).
The command system gives access to audio and vehicle settings. Some settings are found in the driver instrument LCD.
Apple CarPlay/Android Auto and Bluetooth music streaming are standard, but there is no DAB radio.
Auxiliary controls on the steering wheel for cruise control, audio, and driving dynamics round off a well laid out control system aimed at making the Liberty experience as comfortable and convenient as possible.
- Symmetrical all-wheel-drive
- Apple CarPlay/Android Auto
- LED lighting
- Dual zone climate control
- Power and heated front seats
- Voice command system
- Smart entry/start
- Auto lights and wipers
- Auto high beam
Drive and engine
Subaru uses a “flat four” configuration for all engines.
This horizontally-opposed setup is also known as a “Boxer” engine. Imagine two boxers with gloves punching each other, with rhythm. Perhaps not quite the imagery you want, but there you go.
Our 2.5i 4 cylinder puts 129kw/235Nm to all wheels via a CVT automatic transmission, and runs on 91ron petrol. This is significant for the fact that 91ron is the cheaper of fuel options.
0-100 is a leisurely 9.6 seconds, but Liberty is not sports car so 9.6 seconds is just right for a long-legged highway cruiser.
Don’t let the 0-100 time fool you though, Liberty feels frisky especially in corners, and this is where the AWD makes a world of difference. Grip on the road is maintained on the very worst of road surfaces. Suspension is firm yet supple so the ride feels luxurious while sitting reasonably flat in corners.
CVT automatics usually sap the life out of the drive experience, but if you have to have one, Subaru one of the better ones.
Most modern automatic cars have lock-up torque converters. That means the engine is directly connected to the drive wheels. A torque converter is a device between the transmission and the wheels that allows “slippage”. Without it, your engine would stall every time you pulled up at a set of lights. When a gear engages, a lock up torque converter then locks the gear in and acts exactly like a manual transmission where there is no “slippage”.
CVT autos are a different kettle of fish altogether. There are no gears, period. There is nothing to lock on to so the transmission is constantly adjusting itself to keep the engine revving as low as possible under normal driving conditions. The downside of that is that if you stick you loafer on to the carpet, the engine revs so hard it sounds like it is going to blow up.
Subaru gets around that by getting the CVT to simulate gear ratios under harsh acceleration. It then sounds like a normal auto gear box. It also allows Liberty to be fitted with a “manual mode”. You can use paddle shifters or a floor mounted gear lever just as you would with a conventional auto.
Added to that, is Subaru’s rather good “Si” smart drive mode system. It changes the engine and CVT to give a sportier drive. The CVT gear ratio system is activated, and the throttle is much more responsive. It does what it says on the box.
Liberty turns from a mum’s taxi in to something much livelier.
A claimed 7.3L/100km is not out of the question although we were getting a little more than that according to the trip computer at 8.7L/100km. All of this performance is achieved while emitting just 166grams per kilometer. That’s not bad for a car weighting 1577kg.
Steering and brakes feel sharp and the whole experience is fun, whether or not “fun” is what Subaru intended.
You can choose a calm, regal, limo-like experience, or something altogether more frantic.
- Subaru EYESIGHT
- 7 airbags
- Hill hold assist
- Vision assist – Adaptive high beam, Blind Spot Monitor Front View Monitor, Lane Change Assist, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Side View Monitor
- Long list of safety inclusions even in base model
- Apple CarPlay/Android Auto
- Build quality
- Full size spare wheel
Not So Good Bits
- Conservative looks
- Some cabin plastics look cheap
- Roadside assistance only 12 months
Subaru Liberty is a pleasing and sensible package. Prices have come down over the last 5 years with the base model being particularly good value.
Although a CVT automatic is not my first choice, in the absence of a manual, it will suffice. The manual mode gives good performance and Si Drive adds a fun side to a conservative saloon. Up to 5 years’ worth of warranty (unlimited km) adds an additional layer of confidence (end of financial year sale offers 5 years instead of 3 years).
Build quality is excellent and recalls have been modest.
Cabin ambience, ride quality, handling, and economy, make Liberty value for money. The sound system and LCD screen interface are easy to use and instruments are logically laid out.
I thoroughly enjoy driving Liberty and would buy one with my own money. I have to pick some good and bad bits, but the bad bits were me nit-picking.
Facts and Figures: 2018 Subaru Liberty 2.5i
- Engine: 2.5i petrol boxer producing 129kw/235Nm
- Transmission: CVT automatic
- Safety: 5 stars
- Warranty: 3 Yrs
- Origin: Japan
- Price: from $41,396