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Subaru Outback

The 4x4 estate sector is a small but fiercely competitive sector in the UK. Whilst before, only the Audi A4 Allroad, Volvo XC70 and Subaru Outback did battle on the green lanes and muddy fields of Middle England, they have now been joined by upstarts from the likes of Volkswagen, Skoda and Vauxhall. As a result, the Subaru Outback had to evolve. Having a legion of loyal fans is one thing, but Subaru needs to win new customers. A tough task in a niche segment where rivals are jostling for a big slice of a small pie.
Step forward the all-new Outback - the latest incarnation of what Subaru calls "the world's first crossover". That's up for debate, but there's little doubt the new Outback manages to combine the looks of an estate car with a modern crossover. A new front grille, hawk-eye LED headlights, a prominent shoulder line, big bumpers, body cladding and large LED rear lights give it a pumped-up, purposeful look. Put the 2015 Outback side-by-side with the outgoing model and you'll see what a good job Subaru has done with the new car. It's powered by a heavily-revised version of Subaru's 2.0-litre 'Boxer' diesel engine. With 148bhp on tap, the Outback is hardly the most rapid of cars on the road, but the 258lb ft of torque - now available across a wider band of 1,600 to 2,800rpm - comes into its own once you venture on to the rough stuff.
And once you do, you'll soon discover that thanks to the addition of Subaru's excellent X-Mode offroad system, the Outback is supremely capable on rutted tracks and steep hills - this is no soft-roader. But if the Outback scores highly off-road, it's slightly disappointing on it. The huge, truck-like, door mirrors create an excessive amount of wind noise and the increased ride height means the Outback tends to lean heavily when cornering. The steering also feels vague, especially at the dead ahead position, and the diesel engine sounds clattery at idle.
On the plus side, the symmetrical four-wheel drive system provides plenty of grip. One of the old Outback's biggest issues was the cheap-feeling interior, but Subaru has worked hard to improve things with the new car. It still won't trouble the Germans or Swedish, but there's a general uplift in quality and the new infotainment screen is simple to operate, featuring smartphone-style familiarity. The boot space has been increased to 559 litres, including 47 litres beneath the boot floor, and this can be extended to 1,848 litres with the rear seats folded flat.
Subaru has achieved this by decreasing the angle of the boot floor and raising the height of the tonneau cover, which can be neatly stored away underneath the loadbay. Subaru is also keen to showcase its new EyeSight autonomous safety technology. Developed over 25 years, it includes the likes of adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and pre-collision braking. It's very good and standard on the Lineartronic models. Welcome to the new millennium, Subaru! At £29,995, the Outback 2.0D SE Lineartronic isn't cheap, but over the course of a lifetime, the Subaru could prove to be the savviest buy in the sector.
Resist the temptation to spend £3,000 upgrading to the SE Premium, because the Outback rides better on the SE's smaller 17-inch alloy wheels. And so, this rugged Outback remains a class act for those who favour ability and practicality over brand image and is the most capable Subaru yet.

Model tested 2.0D SE Lineartronic
Price £29,995
Made in oOta, Gunma, Japan
Configuration 5-door estate, 5-seats, four-wheel-drive
Drivetrain 1998cc, 4-cylinder, 16-valve, turbocharged diesel
Transmission Continuously variable transmission
Power output 148bhp @ 3,600rpm
Maximum torque 258lb ft @ 1,600-2,800rpm
Top speed/0-62mph 119mph/9.9 secs
CO2 emissions (tax band) 159g/km (G) Euro 5
Economy (urban/extra urban/combined) 37.7/53.3/46.3mpg
Fuel tank size/range 60 litres/611 miles
Insurance group/BIK rate 18/27%
Size (length/width without mirrors) 4,815/1,840mm
Boot space (minimum/maximum) 559/1,848 litres
Kerb/max towing weight 1,678/1,800kg

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