8 months with a Renault Clio

Top Car's Wayne Batty says goodbye to his Renault Clio. It’s not a soppy farewell but the little 'automatique' did its maker proud.

Kia's trendy family pick

Wheels24's Janine Van der Post experiences the upcoming Cerato.

Tested: Subaru Legacy 2.0 CVT

2010-03-12 10:10
Vehicle Specs
Manufacturer Subaru
Model Legacy
Engine 2.0-litre horizontally-opposed, four-cylinder DOHC 16-Valve
Power 110 kW @ 6 000 r/min
Torque 196 Nm @ 3 000 r/min
Transmission six-speed Lineartronic CVT
Zero To Hundred 11.1
Top Speed 203
Fuel Consumption 9.1
Steering pinion-assist type electric power steering system
ABS with brake assist, EBD and VSC
Airbags six
Tyres 205/60 R16
Front Suspension Coil Suspension, MacPherson strut type
Rear Suspension Coil Suspension, Double Wishbone type
Price R311 200

Hailey Philander

Subaru calls its all-new, fifth-generation Legacy the safest car its ever created. We’re just astounded by the glaring similarities to bloomers…

Subaru’s Legacy has been the dark horse in the mid-sized sedan category for some time. Not for any other reason than that Subaru runs a rather lonely course surrounded by Honda Accords, Mazda 6s, Volkswagen Passats and even Toyota’s Avensis.

Looking at that list of names make you realise something, doesn’t it?

Representing this segment is very un-sexy work. A lot like bloomers.

People laugh when they see them, yes, but not too loudly because they know how extremely comfortable these undergarments are and realise they’ll likely be wearing them when they’re older…

I don’t mind bloomers, or sober larger sedans, for that matter.

Appearance, when viewed straight on, is very stately. Large headlights dominate, note the staggered grille detail


The Legacy test unit provided was the entry-level 2.0 with Lineartronic CVT.

Powered by the multi-valve 2.0-litre horizontally opposed engine familiar to local Subaru fans, the unit has been slightly tweaked for its application in the Legacy.  Revisions to the cylinder heads and inlet
camshaft timing allow for greater flexibility while output remains unchanged. However, peak power and torque kick in at a lower threshold – 110 kW at 6 000 r/min and 196 Nm at 3 000 r/min.

Of course, CVT drone is not unusual and Subaru is not alone with this dilemma. However, the drone morphs into a companionable hum within the first few hours and did little to detract from the merits of the Legacy.

Besides, the chain-driven continuously variable transmission is big news for Subaru. The manufacturer claims it is more economical and more responsive than regular automatic transmissions and we can say that shifts through the steering-wheel mounted paddle shifts are slick and very quick.

The paddles are especially useful for those nasty mid-corner upshifts where the potential to become entangled in a human-arm pretzel is great.

Feel through the electric power steering is tidily weighted with not too much assistance, so the chance of overcooking things, with all wheel drive on your side, is slim.

Subaru admits that its first instruction is that its cars are functional, first, with solid engineering principles. Luxury and style follow later although you do get the sense that they truly made an effort with this fifth-generation Legacy. These include an abundance of space for all occupants (yes, even the poor souls on the rear bench), higher equipment levels and more features than one actually needs.

Very spacious cabin with an abundance of metal-look plastics. SA-spec 2.0 Lineartronics do without aluminium pedals, though

Refined cabin

The flagship sedan range is physically larger, having grown by 80mm. Its girth adds about 50mm more, but the large car (its overall length hovers at the 4.7m mark) retains its sporting edge with wheels that have been pushed wider by about 50mm, too.

I quite like the Legacy’s styling. The overall appearance (on the 2.0 at least, that does without the “race-me-quick” front spoiler and larger air intakes) is subdued although it certainly has an edge thanks to a more streamlined profile with dramatically raked screens. The rear is a little less jarring, but the oversized headlamps and staggered grille have an offbeat appeal. The profile lacks significant drama and is
relatively slab-sided and one dimensional.

Subaru’s dedication to making this Legacy more refined is certainly to be found in the detail. Windscreen wipers positioned below the bonnet line to reduce wind noise. An engine cradle supported by liquid-filled mounts to lessen the vibrations reaching the cabin. Sound deadening within the transmission tunnel to mask the noise of the CVT. The small things. 

My fellow scribe, Lance, was determined that I stress Legacy’s ability to comfortably seat four male adults was simply stupefying. What does help matters is that redesigned front seats have freed up an additional 99 mm in the cabin.

Other than that, the interior ambience is accomplished and certainly very grown up. Materials are softer to the touch, seats are comfortable and noise levels are low. I’d tone down swathes of metal-look finishes, but quality certainly seems fair.

View from the rear a lot more sedate. Slope of the roofline is beautiful

Call me Easygoing

Admittedly, the CVT box doesn’t open itself up to hooligan tactics. In fact, despite Subaru’s sporty credentials, all this car seemingly wanted to do was plod along contentedly. Shops? Sure. Dinner with friends? Okay. Lunch date with mum and her sisters? Not a problem for the Legacy. Easygoing should be its second name.

But what this happy-go-lucky demeanour really veils is a car that, compared with its predecessor, has improved aerodynamics, a frame that weighs less, and is noticeably more rigid.

The presence of Subaru’s renowned symmetrical all-wheel drive system is always welcomed, since it ensures the highest degree of traction in practically any situation.

Of course, the added stability this provides and the handling benefits the system provides are priceless. At the front, a McPherson-type strut ensures sharper steering response, while a new, more compact, double wishbone arrangement can be found at the rear. We found it to provide a ride quality that is more refined and very supple, regardless of the road condition.

As an added bonus, the Legacy comes standard with stability control across the range, which can be deactivated completely for those who want to go knocking at death’s door on occasion. Should you run out of luck (or talent), the ABS bolstered braking system, EBD and brake assist should do much to reassure.  

Another new feature is the electric park brake. Its positioning alongside the steering column is odd at first, but one easily becomes accustomed. It was less easy becoming accustomed to the fact that it doesn’t automatically deactivate when pulling away. Another small thing, I suppose, especially considering the astounding level of standard equipment on offer that again confirms Subaru is fast on its way to establishing a bigger culture of luxury.

Leather upholstery, an electric sunroof, climate control with dual-zone operation, electric adjustment for the driver’s seat, a leather-trimmed multifunction steering wheel with controls for the audio and cruise control functions are standard along with seven airbags (including a driver’s knee bag) and pre-tensioning seat belts.

As an additional comfort, a three-year/63 000 km maintenance plan (extendable to five years and 200 000 km) is standard.

The detail in the front headlight cluster shows an interesting mix of shapes


Legacy styling is traditionally inoffensive and the fifth generation model is no different. Love the statement headlight cluster; rear end's design more muted (and very Lexus GS-like)


Neat and orderly with just a dash too much metal-look finishing for the dash. Every whim is catered to, though, with power seats, sliding sunroof, the .


The Legacy is a dream to potter about in, especially thanks to its high comfort levels and superb ride quality. The CVT 'box mated to the 2.0-litre boxer also makes this model very drivable.


The battle of the bloomers is quite something, especially considering it is being fought in a rapidly shrinking market segment. The line-up is hardly scintillating, either…

The Passat and Avensis are ageing competitors now, and while still valid, would probably not be out-and-out favourites. The newest addition to this segment is the stylish Mazda6 although, beyond the good looks, it is comparatively low on substance and not nearly as engaging as the Legacy or Honda Accord, even.

Which means the key battle then, is between these two cars. Both the Legacy and the Accord come extremely well equipped, but the Legacy has the edge on passenger comfort and space while the Honda feels that much more refined.

The Legacy is also a little dearer, although the safety and dynamic benefits of  Subaru’s symmetrical all-wheel drive should rarely be underestimated.

All-in-all, the Legacy deserves to be a top contender in this segment. Whether the driving public feels the same way is an altogether different matter.

Which would you be most willing to spend your money on? The new Subaru Legacy, or one of its competitors. Let us know in our forum by clicking here.


Inside Wheels24

Take a virtual tour of the McLaren 570S in SA

Want to experience what it's like to be behind the wheel of a 419kW sports car? Take a virtual tour of the McLaren 570S in our interactive Snapchat video filmed in SA.

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.