Subaru has kicked goals at every turn since it went all all-wheel-drive. The audacious move saw it go from also-ran to leader of the pack and it has never looked back.

If the awesome Impreza WRX is the hero model that gives the brand its zing, the Liberty is the real brand leader.

The 2.0R entered the fray in 2006 when it replaced the 2.5i. It was much the same as the 2.5i, but built on the success of its predecessor and brought more to the table in the form of goodies. Most not able among a raft of changes was the engine, which boasted double overhead camshafts where the older model only had a single cam per bank. With better breathing courtesy of the extra cams the flat-four produced 20 kW more than the older engine.

A five-speed manual gearbox came standard, with a four-speed auto an optional choice. The big advantage of the Liberty when compared to its rivals is its all-wheel drive system. The others, of course, are all front-wheel drivers.

In the Liberty's case the system is a permanent all-wheel drive system so all four wheels are being driven all the time and there's no delay in grip as there can be with systems that are front-wheel drive until it's determined that grip is needed at the rear wheels. With grip on tap all the time there's no loss of poise when things turn slippery on wet or muddy roads.

The Liberty simply gets on with the job, no fuss, sure-footed and stable. The upgraded engine of the 2.0R is no fireball, but it has all the punch a family needs. The 2.0R was released midway through the model cycle, so the looks are a bit plain, but that shouldn't deter anyone from buying it. Inside, the cabin is quite roomy and well laid out with comfortable and supportive seats, and with a nice feel to the trim and fittings.

IN THE SHOP

The Liberty is a well-built car and little really goes wrong with them, at least on a grand scale. They do need regular servicing; oil changes are a must for long  engine life, so look for a service record. Look also for oil leaks  around the engine. The cam belt needs changing every 100,000 km, so check that the changes have been done as required. The front suspension bushes can wear so have them checked. Owners also report having to regularly replace headlamp globes that fail on low beam.

IN A CRASH

With all-wheel drive grip, front and side airbags and ABS brakes the Liberty came standard with pretty much everything needed to keep you out of trouble, hence the 5-star ANCAP rating.

UNDER THE PUMP

Subaru claimed an average fuel consumption of 9.1 L/100 km and that  was backed up by real life results on road tests at the time of the 2.0R's launch. The minimum octane rating was 95, while Subaru said E10 fuel was ok if the minimum octane rating was maintained.

AT A GLANCE

Price new: $33,990 to $36,490

Engine: 2.0-litre 4-cylinder petrol;121 kW/187 Nm

Transmission: 4-speed auto, 5-speed manual; AWD

Economy: 9.1 L/100 km

Body: 4-door sedan, wagon

Safety: 5-star ANCAP