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Subaru Outback 2021 review: AWD

The exterior is not much different to the previous model, keeping its tough reputation intact

Is it a wagon? Is it an SUV? No! It’s neither! It’s both! It’s a Subaru Outback and this is the new 2021 model. Half wagon, half SUV, how does it work with a real life family? 

To put it to the test, I drove the base model Outback which costs $39,990, before on road costs, and competes with cars like the Honda CR-V and Nissan X-Trail. Here’s how it did over seven days for this week’s family review. 

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What does it look like?

Even though this is a new-generation Subaru Outback, the design changes are minimal. There are extra-high black wheelarches which make the car look inherently surprised all the time, and other black features like the roof rails and on the front below the headlights. So it looks like its tough old self, just with a slightly jazzed up exterior.

It looks like its tough old self, just with a slightly jazzed up exterior. It looks like its tough old self, just with a slightly jazzed up exterior.

Being the base model Outback, it has fabric seats that are textured yet smooth to touch and feel comfortable to sit on. The steering wheel is not leather and the dash and doors are also covered in man-made material, but it holds its own as a car that does away with fancy finishes, preferring to focus on functionality and driving instead. The interior is still well designed with some high-gloss around the centre console and brushed metallic trims.

Even though this is a new-generation Subaru Outback, the design changes are minimal. Even though this is a new-generation Subaru Outback, the design changes are minimal.

What’s the tech like?

Inside is dominated by the new multimedia screen, which is 11.6 inches and vertically shaped. This orientation makes more sense than a horizontal screen because when you connect with Apple CarPlay and it syncs to your phone’s main apps, it looks like a large tablet and you’re used to that visual. It also has Android Auto but that doesn’t take advantage of the vertical screen. 

Inside is dominated by the new multimedia screen, which is 11.6 inches and vertically shaped. Inside is dominated by the new multimedia screen, which is 11.6 inches and vertically shaped.

Either way, the tech works really well and you can navigate with your maps app and listen to music/books/podcasts through a streaming app. Because the interface matches your phone, it’s instantly easy to use. 

How easy is it to use every day?

It’s a functional car, the doors open quite wide so you can load things into the back easily. 

You get two cupholders in the front, a spot for keys and a phone and a decent sized centre storage bin, plus bottle holders in the doors. 

Rear passengers get cupholders in the centre armrest and directional air vents which is always appreciated in a long hot Aussie summer. The boot opens manually and the front seats are manually adjusted.

You get two cupholders in the front, a spot for keys and a phone and a decent sized centre storage bin. You get two cupholders in the front, a spot for keys and a phone and a decent sized centre storage bin.

How spacious is it?

Space is good in the Outback, especially with its wagon roots, there is lots of leg and headroom even for tall people in the front seats. 

There is lots of leg and headroom even for tall people in the front seats.  There is lots of leg and headroom even for tall people in the front seats. 

The rear seats are also spacious. My two children, aged seven and nine, had no complaints this week and were happy to jump in there. I'm 161cm (5'3") and there is loads of room between my knees and a taller person’s driving position, so taller adults and teenagers will fit well in the back. 

The rear seats are spacious fitting taller adults and teenagers. The rear seats are spacious fitting taller adults and teenagers.

You can also fit a third child seat across. There’s not a huge amount of space for it, and it might take some jiggling depending on your car seats. 

The boot is a good size and shape because it’s long as well as being higher off the ground. At 522L (VDA) it’s the same size as a five-seat Honda CR-V, and 10 litres bigger than the previous model Outback. It will fit a double pram or several large suitcases with ease.

The boot is a good size and shape at 522L (VDA). The boot is a good size and shape at 522L (VDA).

 

How does it drive? 

Driving in the Subaru Outback is good. The first thing you notice is that it feels solid, the steering isn’t loose, it’s nice and stable.

It’s a smooth drive on highways and with this new generation Outback, every model has a 2.5-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine, which makes this entry-level model as good a drive as the top version. It really establishes things evenly, and you know what you are getting with the upper models, which is pure extra comfort and styling, because all models drive the same.  

Driving the Outback it feels solid and stable. Driving the Outback it feels solid and stable.

The Outback has a good amount of power to get up hills and overtake other cars and is an AWD so you get that extra traction on loose surfaces. There is no hybrid to choose from as with the Subaru Forester and Toyota RAV4

One minor thing that annoys me is the blinker, which you have to tap very lightly for it to turn off on it’s own when you’re changing lanes. A small thing, yes, but annoying nonetheless.

It has a 2.5-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine. It has a 2.5-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine.

Parking is good in the Outback as long as you account for the length. It’s not as convenient as a small car, sure, but you’re never going to have that with a mid-size SUV anyway. There’s a good reverse parking camera to help you out. 

How safe is it?

The new Outback hasn’t been assessed by ANCAP yet, but for advanced safety you’ll get auto emergency braking (with pedestrian and cyclist detection), and lane keeping technology (with emergency lane assist) that will actually move the car to prevent an accident with other cars, bikes or people.

The new Outback hasn’t been assessed by ANCAP yet. The new Outback hasn’t been assessed by ANCAP yet.

You also get rear cross-traffic alert, blind spot monitoring and adaptive cruise control and reverse auto emergency braking, but there are no basic collision warnings in the front. 

You’ll get eight airbags in the Outback and there are two ISOFIX points and three top tether points across the second row for kids car seats. 

How much does it cost to own? 

The Subaru Outback base model scrapes in at just under $40K - $39,990, before on road costs. The official combined cycle fuel consumption claim is 7.3L/100km, and I averaged 9.6L/100km for a week of city, suburban, and some (brief) highway driving.

It’s covered by Subaru’s five year/unlimited km warranty and servicing is required every 12 months or 12,500km.

Subaru's online service calculator will give you estimated pricing out to 15 years/62,500km, but the first five come in at $344.96, $594.80, $351.14, $801.42, $357.56, respectively. That's an annual average of $490 for that period.


The Wrap

The Subaru Outback is a pretty great family sized car that you can still get for just under $40,000. It’s got good interior space and boot space, it drives really well and it’s got great safety for a family, too. The base model has the same engine as the top model, which makes this car good value for money. 

I gave it a family rating of 7.9 out of 10 and my kids gave it the same. They loved the new big multimedia screen. 

 

Likes

Good driving
Full safety
AWD

Dislikes

Plain styling
Overly sensitive blinker stalk
Relatively thirsty

Scores

Nedahl:

4

The Kids:

4

$40,040

Based on new car retail price

VIEW PRICING & 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.