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Andy Harris
Motoring and Property Editor
@ytimesmotoring
12:01 AM 18th May 2024
cars

A Subaru Tale

 
Rewind thirty odd years and I used to spend a lot of my weekends in deepest, darkest Kent. My friend Charles lived with his parents in a house so remote, that I always struggled to find it. A convoluted network of twisty country lanes always confused, but the destination was worth the effort.

In order to avoid being cut off in the winter, it came as no surprise that the main family car needed four-wheel drive. Having worked their way through a series of unreliable Land Rovers, they had finally settled on a Subaru Legacy Estate, a car that was quite a rare beast back then. It did the job well, keeping the family mobile in all seasons.

It also allowed them to make a shortcut to the nearest main road, saving a good ten minutes or so on every journey. The route involved cutting straight across a farmer’s ploughed field (I always assumed they had permission), the capable four-wheel drive system providing the necessary traction even in winter. If Charles was at the wheel, we always crossed at speed, mud flying everywhere, the underside of the car scraping on the uneven ground. I was impressed.

The family were definitely not car people, the poor Subaru being abused on a daily basis and rarely if ever shown any love. It took years of punishment and only headed off to the big scrapyard in the sky when it had a rather unfortunate altercation with a tractor. So, Subaru providing all-season mobility to rural folk for many a year and that continues to this day.

A few weeks back I joined the good people at Subaru for a drive day event, a chance to catch up with the new PR team and find out their plans for the future. Last year, global sales were around 852,000 vehicles and they hope to top one million this year. I think it would be fair to say that UK sales these past few years have been modest, but they grew by 73% in 2023 and early signs are that this growth is continuing this year.

New Subaru Crosstrek
New Subaru Crosstrek
Leading the charge, is the all-electric Solterra, which still offers the all-wheel drive capability that Subaru are renowned for. It’s an attractive looking car, made all the more appealing by some rather affordable finance packages. How does £249 per month on business contract hire sound, or indeed £299 per month for personal contract hire (with a £2,691 deposit).

Plans are afoot for four new fully electric SUVs by the end of 2026, with three destined for the UK market. I suspect the fourth may be deemed to be too large for our congested, narrow roads.

In the meantime, also available to drive was the new Crosstrek, which used to be called the XV. A mid-size family crossover, it has been bought bang up to date in terms of technology and styling. The strapline is, “Adventure-ready, anytime, anywhere.” And with prices from £34,290, it won’t break the bank either.

Subaru’s familiar 2.0-litre e-Boxer engine provides the propulsion, the permanent symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system ensuring it can tackle the rough stuff as well as the smooth, as I was to find out on the specially laid out off-road course.

Successor the Legacy of old is the Outback, a practical and refined estate car ideal for family life. Not everyone craves an SUV and generally estate cars handle far better than their jacked-up counterparts. Priced from £36,995 I can definitely see its appeal. There is also a limited run Outback Touring X edition on sale now.

“A fusion of adventure and style,” say the Japanese manufacturer, though that does come at a price. £43,635 to be exact and just one colour, a rather fetching Geyser Blue.

The Subaru Solterra
The Subaru Solterra
The Subaru Forester has been around for quite some time and is the workhorse of the range. Priced from £37,995, it is now Subaru’s first self-charging hybrid SUV, offering full adventuring ability with the added benefit of battery-based power. And no need to plug it in to recharge either.

The grounds of the Rudding Park Estate were the backdrop for our off-roading experience and all four models were available to drive. Whilst some manufacturers’ idea of off-roading is a gravelled track, Subaru were keen to demonstrate the considerable abilities of its permanent All-Wheel drive system. There were steep ascents and descents, made all the more challenging by the muddy conditions.

A helpful instructor ensured that the right modes were engaged, and I was exceptionally impressed by each model as I carefully piloted them around the course.

Barely a hint of any slippage, even when stopping halfway up a steep, muddy hill, and more importantly safe, controlled descents thanks to the capable hill descent systems. I could have played in the mud all day, but that will have to wait until a string of press cars come to visit. I can then tackle some of the green lanes that crisscross the Yorkshire Dales.

Looking back at my notes from the informative day, a few points are worth mentioning. All the cars enjoy a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating and the brand enjoys high customer retention. The cars are not destined for a mass audience and Subaru are proud to be a niche manufacturer. I like their style and for rural dwellers such as me, there is considerable appeal.