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Used Subaru Liberty review: 1989-1998

MODEL WATCH

The Liberty, released in 1989, was front-wheel drive – a transition model for the company as it made its way into an all-wheel drive future. The Liberty was a medium-sized sedan or wagon suitable for most families, even though it wasn't as big as the cars coming from the local manufacturers.

It was cleanly styled with neat, simple lines forming a wedge shape with plenty of glass to give the interior an open, airy feel, and good visibility. Inside, there was generous leg, head and shoulder room, even for taller occupants. The shape of the rear seat made the Liberty essentially a four-seater, but there was room for five if really needed.

Vision was clear with plenty of glass and well-designed pillars that didn't interfere with the view from the driver's seat.

All the controls and switches were laid out sensibly and drivers were generally able to find a good driving position with plenty of seat adjustment, allowing everyone to establish a comfortable relationship between wheel, pedals and seat.

The Liberty's performance was adequate without being particularly sporting. A 2.2-litre fuel-injected four-valve, horizontally opposed, four-cylinder engine provided sufficient performance with particularly good mid-range torque, giving it the sort of flexibility that makes for a comfortable driving experience. When asked for its best, the Liberty's engine would produce 100kW at 6000revs and 189Nm at 4800revs.

A pleasant and efficient five-speed manual gearbox transferred the engine's output to the front wheels. In normal use, the Liberty returned quite commendable fuel economy with 10.5-litre/100km on average. The Liberty's ride was comfortable and compliant with plenty of control to swallow bumps without disturbing the inner peace, while the handling was predictable and precise with good road-holding when pressed through corners.

The LX provided the entry point to the Liberty range and it came with a decent amount of equipment with tilt-adjustable steering column, illuminated vanity mirrors, cup-holders, remote boot release, power mirrors, AM/FM radio cassette sound, and driver's seat height adjustment.

IN THE SHOP

The Liberty enjoyed an enviable reputation for build quality and reliability and came with a three-year 70,000km warranty, which was unusually long for the time. But remember, the Liberty is now up to 15 years old and that means it must be approached with caution and the understanding that you're buying an old car that is nearing the end of its useful life.

Use of galvanised steel in the body meant it was resistant to rust. But listen carefully for engine rattles and knocks during the test drive and have someone follow you to observe if there's smoke from the tailpipe. This may suggest an engine rebuild is needed.

Check the condition of the oil. If it's dark and dirty, it hasn't been changed in a while, which will be indicative of the level of servicing that has been done.

CRUNCH TIME

No airbags here, so it's down to good old sheetmetal and belts. In surveys of road crashes, the Liberty is rated above the average for occupant protection.

Check seatbelts for any sign of wear.

It's not a bad idea to replace the belts as a precaution, particularly if you're putting your kids in the car.

Pricing

Year Price From Price To
1998 $3,100 $8,140
1997 $3,100 $7,700
1996 $3,100 $11,330
1995 $2,900 $10,780
1994 $2,800 $8,250
1993 $2,800 $8,140
1992 $2,800 $8,140
1991 $2,600 $7,590
1990 $2,600 $7,040
1989 $2,600 $5,940

View all Subaru Liberty pricing and specifications

Pricing guides

$4,270
Based on third party pricing data
Lowest Price
$2,600
Highest Price
$5,940

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
GX 2.2L, ULP, 5 SP MAN $2,800 – 4,840 1989 Subaru Liberty 1989 GX Pricing and Specs
LX 2.2L, ULP, 5 SP MAN $2,600 – 4,400 1989 Subaru Liberty 1989 LX Pricing and Specs
GX 2.2L, ULP, 5 SP MAN $3,500 – 5,610 1989 Subaru Liberty 1989 GX Pricing and Specs
GX (awd) 2.2L, ULP, 5 SP MAN $3,100 – 5,390 1989 Subaru Liberty 1989 GX (awd) Pricing and Specs
Disclaimer: The pricing information shown in the editorial content (Review Prices) is to be used as a guide only and is based on information provided to Carsguide Autotrader Media Solutions Pty Ltd (Carsguide) both by third party sources and the car manufacturer at the time of publication. The Review Prices were correct at the time of publication.  Carsguide does not warrant or represent that the information is accurate, reliable, complete, current or suitable for any particular purpose. You should not use or rely upon this information without conducting an independent assessment and valuation of the vehicle.