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Subaru Legacy 2.5 4cam estate

Subaru

Review

THE appeal of four-wheel-drive on a car may not be what it was in the mid-eighties, but it hasn't stopped Subaru from keeping it as standard on every model in its range. In fact, it's a selling point that gives Subaru unique appeal in the market place. But far from being quirky cars attractive only to farmers and those wanting to tow horseboxes, today's Imprezas and Legacys have a more trendy, sporting image thanks in part to the storming success of Colin McRae and the world Rally Championship-winning Imprezas.

Moreover, the roadgoing Impreza Turbo has become renowned as a bargain supercar that has caught the affections of the British buying public. The latest Legacy has benefited from the Impreza's hype, but until late spring it was available only with automatic transmission, limiting its appeal. Now however, five-speed manual 'boxes have been added reducing the entry price for the Legacy and widening its scope.

At ú23,300 on the road, the Legacy 2.5 4Cam manual estate with Lux pack - which adds leather trim, climate control and a double electric sunroof to the standard specification - is a useful ú1,000 cheaper than the automatic and ú2,500 more than the base car. Now that it's available with manual transmission, the 2.5 replaces the old 2.2-litre engine in the Legacy.

It's not the most expensive model in the range, however, that accolade falling to the 2.5 Outback, Subaru's sports-utility estate, which costs ú24,045 in manual form. Even so, it is up against some formidable opposition, including the Audi Avant 1.8T (ú22,823), Vauxhall Vectra 2.5 V6 GSi estate (ú21,495) and Ford Mondeo V6 Ghia X estate (ú22,495). All three are cheaper than the Legacy, and both the Ford and Vauxhall are more powerful with 167bhp and 195bhp respectively playing 150bhp.

Subaru's sales volumes are hampered by Japanese import quotas, which explains the reason why the manual Legacy has only relatively recently become available. Recent sourcing of the cheaper 2.0-litre range from America has relieved the pressure from quota restrictions, allowing sales of about 2,000 cars in 1998 out of total Subaru volume of 10û11,000 units. But as the 4Cam is built in Japan, volumes this year will be small - only about 1,000 cars will find homes, 85% of which will be estates.

CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.

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