Luckily the new Liberty is nothing like the old one.
It's no wonder I came into this road test somewhat pessimistic about the new Subaru Liberty, especially considering I was in the base model with no options ticked (aside from the automatic gearbox).
Let’s be frank, we all shuddered slightly when images of the new Liberty were leaked on the ‘net prior to the vehicle’s release. Awkward headlights and a boring rear seemed to be the best Subaru could conjure.
But, when you approach the new Liberty in person, you instantly begin eating your hat. The design is actually really attractive, as are the proportions and stance. The sweeping headlights, sporty body kit and defined grille give the Liberty a sporty edge you wouldn’t expect from a car competing with the Toyota Camry, Mazda6 and Ford Mondeo.
Open the driver’s door and jump into the cabin to find an alarming amount of leg and head room – just what has the Liberty become?
Rear seat passengers now have Holden Commodore-esque leg room in comparison to the outgoing Liberty, in addition to a comfortable amount of head and shoulder room, especially for taller adults.
The dark interior is offset by light coloured beige plastics that grace the doors, dashboard and centre console area. The most engaging part of the cabin is the steering wheel, which is comfortable to grab hold of and small enough to man-handle the car when required. The steering wheel is also fitted with paddle shifters that move with the steering wheel and allow up to six instant ratio changes.
Interior build quality and feel of materials is a big step up from some of the other Subaru products. The plastic materials don’t feel as nasty as the outgoing Liberty and give the car an up market feel.
As the entry level model, the 2.5i is packed with features. The $33,990 price tag places it lineball against the Mazda6 Classic, Camry Sportivo and Mondeo Zetec. Standard features include: Fog lights, dual zone climate control, six-disc CD-player, 17-inch alloy wheels, trip computer, electric windows, electric mirrors, hydraulic emergency brake, cruise control, steering wheel audio controls, privacy glass, six-speaker sound system and auxiliary audio jack.
In addition to all-wheel-drive being standard across the entire Subaru range, the Liberty comes with: Electronic Stability Control (ESC), ABS brakes, BA, EBD, dual front passenger SRS airbags, dual front passenger side airbags, dual full length passenger curtain airbags, driver knee airbag, three child anchor points, engine immobiliser and datadot security.
The characteristic Subaru boxer engine rumble can be felt and heard immediately from startup. The 2.5-litre flat four-cylinder engine produces 123kW and 229Nm of torque. While this might not sound like much, our test vehicle was fitted with a Continually Variable Transmission (CVT) that allows the driver to extract the most out of the engine.
The infinitely variable gear ratios mean more time is spent in peak power and torque zones. The near instant bursts of power result in effortless overtaking and get-up-and-go from the traffic lights. The most appealing part of the boxer engine configuration is the engine note. It’s unlike any of its other four-cylinder competitors and leaves you with a smile after each stab of the throttle.
Subaru is renowned for its Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system, featured throughout its entire range. While the Liberty’s suspension setup caters more toward comfort than handling, the all-wheel-drive system removes the uncertainty its competitors possess with a front-wheel-drive setup.
You will seldom run into an occasion where you have overpowered the Subaru and grip is compromised, even in the wet - where something like the Camry can sometimes begin to get stressed when a touch of the throttle is added to a tight corner. The Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system works seamlessly with the driver’s commands and is at its best under throttle out of a corner.
The 476 litre cargo capacity and 1500kg braked towing capacity make the Subaru Liberty a realistic option for family buyers. After spending more than 1200km behind the wheel, both alone and with a car load of passengers, the Liberty remained confident even during maneuvers such as overtakes and cornering.
The combined ADR fuel consumption figure is 8.9L/100km. On test, I managed to get the figure down to 7.5L/100km with a skew toward highway driving. It’s great to see fuel efficiency doesn’t come at the cost of power or driving comfort.
I never thought I’d hear myself saying this but I would highly recommend the Subaru Liberty. In fact, I would recommend it over the local and European competition. It drives better than the Mondeo, Mazda6 and Camry, but still manages to feel adequately powerful and luxurious, all for under $40,000.
The Subaru Liberty has transformed from its former self and is now an attractive proposition for those who want a family car the size of a Ford Falcon or Commodore, but don’t want the fuel use to match.
CarAdvice Overall Rating:
How does it Drive:
How does it Look:
How does it Go: