If safety, kids' entertainment and boot space are at the top of your wish list, this sleek SUV is worth considering for your first family car.
The Subaru Outback 2.5i Premium has been voted Australia’s Best all-wheel-drive SUV for under $50,000 by the Australian motoring clubs for the past two years. This is an award that is based on safety, design and function and value for money, all features that we’ll be paying very close attention to in our new and independent DAD Car Reviews series.
The large five-seat wagon is the safest Subaru vehicle on the market and comes with a host of driver assistance technology that may just make a difference if your attention is distracted from the road, even for a split second. And lets be honest, with little tackers in the back seat the potential to become distracted is as likely as another shark attack along the WA coast.
Strap ’em in
The back seat will comfortably house two baby seats. But while there was room for bits and pieces in between them, sitting in the middle was something I would only do for very short trips.
With the rear-facing seat behind the driver’s seat I could not sit it in my preferred position (I am 180cm tall) but I only needed to move it forward two or three centimetres so I could still drive safely.
Fitting the seats, whether they use the seat belt or an Isofix fitting, is a fairly simple operation. The fitting for the top tether is in the back of the rear seat and takes just a few seconds to connect and tighten.
The high-riding Outback has a ground clearance of 213mm, meaning most people will not need to lean down too much to put their baby in the seat (an important consideration, especially as the kids get bigger and heavier).
The wide door opening and space between front and rear seats also makes it pretty easy to lean in and do up the seatbelts or pick up any bits and pieces between the seats.
The 2.5i Premium comes standard with leather upholstery, which is a big plus when you have small children, and any mess on the seats can be easily and quickly cleaned up. My only concern would be the wear caused by the baby seats over the long term, though most baby seats come with a small mat to put under them to protect the upholstery.
Overall, the Outback is a well-equipped, comfortable car for the front and rear seat passengers.
There is no shortage of boot space with the standard-fit power tailgate, another feature you will not want to live without once you have it, opening to reveal 512-litres of room behind the second-row seats.
This means fitting your pram in the back, even if you have one of those fancy all-singing, all-dancing prams that seem to be the same size as a small car and far more complicated to use (that is a whole other column), will not be a problem.
All three of my children have these and you can comfortably fit them (just one) flush behind the rear seat leaving plenty of room for other gear. We also managed to put in a smaller pusher and a couple of bags and still had space remaining. Cargo space can be expanded to 1848-litres with the rear seat folded down, something that can be done by simply pulling the boot-mounted lever.
The Outback comes with a full size spare tyre, which you will find in the cargo area neatly tucked away in a clever under-floor compartment that also houses the cargo blinds.
With all the collision avoidance technology in the Outback 2.5i Premium it will be hard to come up with a legitimate excuse if you dent or scratch it. Subaru calls all this technology its EyeSight driver assist package and it includes lane assist, blind spot assist, autonomous braking and adaptive cruise control.
For those who have trouble parking there are two cameras as well as front and rear sensors to help.
In the cabin there is an 8.0-inch infotainment screen that comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and it only took me a couple of minutes to pair my phone to the system which is pretty good considering my complete lack of technology knowledge (gizmos are the wife’s area).
If your phone is compatible you can even receive and send texts via audio or use maps off your phone for navigation (sort of makes the standard sat nav system a little unnecessary). There also are USB plugs in the front and rear of the car.
ANCAP Safety Rating: 5 Stars
The Outback was crash tested in 2014 by ANCAP and scored 35.99 out of a possible 37 points.
It scored the maximum score in the side impact and pole tests and also received maximum points for its seat belt reminders. In the Frontal Offset crash it scored 14.99 out of 16 making it the safest Subaru model tested.
It also comes standard with front, side, head and knee airbags and electronic stability control. The Premium model we tested also has Subaru’s EyeSight driver assistance technology designed to identify potential collisions and apply the brakes automatically if the driver does not react.
The all-wheel-drive Outback does not qualify as a performance vehicle, unlike many of its Subaru stablemates, but it has enough power to satisfy most. It accelerates well and the CVT (continuously variable transmission) is one of the better ones on the market keeping the engine in the right rev range.
There is also the option of driving in Eco or Sport mode with the former best suited to long drives and the latter providing a bit more oomph for those who prefer a sportier drive.
The steering on the Outback is electric, like most cars today, and provides an instant response to any input on the steering wheel and keeps you feeling connected to the road.
The wife’s take
The Outback has a big car feel with none of the disadvantages. Although it felt like you were sitting up high, access to the driver’s seat was easy. You didn’t have to haul yourself in by the hand straps. It has a wide windscreen which gives it a spacious feel and provides good visibility. I hate cars with wide window struts (a-pillars) that block your view.
The ride was quiet and the radio had a good sound — nice combination! At first glance all the buttons and paddles on the steering wheel looked a bit intimidating but I think a quiet half an hour in the driveway with the manual would have that sorted. I did not, however, have any trouble working out the heater or seat warmer – two features I found to be assets on a chilly morning.
One of the first intersections I encounter on my drive to work is super busy so it is important to me that I can trust the car to take off quickly from a standing start. The Outback had no problems with that – there was no hesitation at all as I took off.
“My only complaint was that I was not allowed as much time in it as I would have liked.”
What you get with the Subaru Outback 2.5i Premium is a well-built car that is fitted with a host of safety technology designed to keep you and your family safe. At the same time it offers a spacious cabin that would not look out of place in the luxury car market and an offroad capability that would satisfy most.
There is good space in the rear seat and the cargo area is cavernous, and I am quickly rediscovering you cannot have enough boot space with a young family – even if it is only for a couple of days a week.
My only complaint was that the back doors did not unlock when I unlocked the front door using the sensor in the front door handle but that was quickly remedied by making a change to the settings.
Some will say the performance is a little on the lack lustre side but to be honest throw-you-back-in-the-seat acceleration is not something I am looking for. I want a car that is comfortable, safe and has a bit of get up and go if you need it – the Outback delivered all of that.
VW Passat Alltrack AWD
Engine/Transmission: 2.0-litre turbo diesel (140kW/400Nm) matched to six-speed DSG automatic.
The Outback has only one true competitor, the Volkswagen Passat AllTrack AWD but it will cost you an extra $10,000 which is a big wad of cash. It also is only available with a diesel power plant while the Outback offers the option of petrol and diesel engines.
The Passat Alltrack is more powerful and has a significantly better maximum tow rate (2200kg) than the Outback. It is slightly shorter (23mm) and narrower (8mm) but has a larger cargo area. It also offers a comprehensive suite of safety technology and features to match the Outback.
- $42,640 RRP
- Warranty: Three-year unlimited kilometres with three-year or 75,000km capped price servicing and 12 months roadside assist. Also comes standard with DataDot identification and engine immobiliser
- Fuel Consumption: Official (7.3L/100km) On Review (8.6L/100km) Standard Unleaded Petrol
- Engine: 2.5-litre four cylinder, DOHC Boxer Engine
- Power: 129kW/235Nm
- Transmission: Lineartronic CVT automatic with 8 manual steps
- Visit HBF for a tailored insurance quote