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Subaru Outback


Haval H6

Summary

Subaru Outback

It never used to be like this. Families used to choose a station wagon or estate car because that body style was the smartest choice. Maybe not the most desirable choice, but wagons were, and always have been, pragmatic.  

And then SUVs came on the scene. People thought they needed these stylised hatchbacks to sit higher in traffic and live out their “weekend warrior” image. Oh, those “active lifestyle” types. And in recent times, SUVs have become the go-to – accounting for half of all new vehicle sales in 2020.

But the Subaru Outback 2021 is here to stand up to those wannabe SUVs, with its own take on the up-high recipe. Admittedly it’s not like the Subaru Outback approach to the SUV formula is new – this is the sixth generation version of the venerable high-riding wagon, but this new model is apparently more SUV than ever. Subaru Australia even calls it a “true blue, mud in its blood all-wheel drive SUV”. 

So does it have what it takes to stand out in the crowd? Let’s dive a little deeper and find out.

Safety rating
Engine Type2.5L
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency7.3L/100km
Seating5 seats

Haval H6

There are good surprises and bad surprises. Like the time I was driving my ute and the steering wheel came off. Bad surprise. Or the time the chicken shop accidentally gave me a large chips when I paid for a medium. Good surprise. The Haval H6 also surprised me. And it was up there with a large chips type of surprise.

See, my expectations of Haval have been of a brand which is really big in China where its owned by Great Wall Motors, but can’t keep up with the likes of Toyota and Mazda when it comes to driving and styling. Instead, their strength seemed to be just value-for-money.

Surprise! The new generation H6 isn’t just good value-for-money any more. It’s still really well priced but it has stunning looks, too. But that wasn’t the biggest surprise.

If you are considering a mid-sized SUV such as a Toyota RAV4 or Mazda CX-5, I strongly suggest you widen the net and consider the H6, too. Let me explain.

Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency9.8L/100km
Seating5 seats

Verdict

Subaru Outback7.9/10

The sixth-generation, 2021 Subaru Outback has incrementally improved the large wagon-slash-SUV, with a number of important steps forward including better safety tech, a more powerful engine and smarter cabin. A turbo or hybrid powertrain would sweeten the deal even further.

I don’t know that you’d really need anything other than the base model Outback AWD, which seems like a truly great value offering. It’d be our pick of the range.


Haval H67.9/10

The H6 could be the turning point for Haval in Australia. The brand’s first big success that changes the way Aussies view this Chinese carmaker. The H6’s great value and stunning looks will win over many but add an excellent warranty, advanced safety tech, plus the surprisingly good, and you have a package that appears right up there with the likes of the Toyota RAV4 and Mazda CX-5.

The sweet spot of the range would have to be the Lux - the car I tested with its leatherette seats, privacy glass and dual-zone climate control.

Design

Subaru Outback7/10

It’s an all-new car. It doesn’t necessarily look like it, and in fact – to my eye – it’s not as attractive as the fifth-generation model, which was an expert in being inoffensive, where this model has a few more design-lead changes that might divide opinions.

You won’t mistake it for anything other than an Outback, as it has that typical rugged high-riding wagon look that we’ve come to expect from it. But it’s almost like this is a facelift rather than an all-new car.

Like, literally – the features have all been cinched back at the front, and the wheel-arches have been tweaked so they stand more at attention… it literally looks like an age-denying citizen’s approach at looking younger. A bit too much Botox? Tell us what you think the comments below.

But there are still smart design highlights, like the roof rails with integrated roof racks that are stowable/deployable in the base and top models, while the mid-spec model has a fixed roof rack system. 

The fact all models have LED lighting all-around is nice, while the 18-inch wheels… well, none of them are to my taste. To me, they just aren’t as youthful as some of the other elements of the car are trying to elucidate.

And the rear-end treatment? Well, that’s the only spot where you’re most likely to confuse it with another car… and that doppelganger would be a Forester.

On the inside there are some really nice design changes, though. Check out the interior pictures below.


Haval H68/10

This new generation H6 is ridiculously good looking. So much so that my Dad thought it was a Porsche when I arrived to pick him up. But in saying that Dad also has a glass coffee table supported by a golden naked lady and thinks I work in a car dealership, despite me explaining that motoring journalism is an actual job.

He’s not wrong, for once. Well, it doesn’t look like a Porsche, but I can see what he means given the way the LED strip across the tailgate lights up and connects with the tail-lights either side.

I don’t know what kind of deal with the devil the H6’s designer made but there isn’t an angle from which this SUV looks nothing short of beautiful. There’s the flashy but not over-the-top grille, the sleek headlights, and the smooth lines in profile which wrap around to the curvaceous back end.

Havals in the past have seemed low quality and unfinished, but this new H6 seems the opposite.

The same goes for the minimalist cabin. Those screens house almost every function except for the climate control and that clears the dashboard of buttons.

This cabin is a premium design with a floating centre console and metallic trim. Stepping up to the Lux from the Premium adds 'leatherette' upholstery, a leather steering wheel and then the Ultra takes the high-end feeling further with a 12.3-inch media display and a panoramic sunroof.

As for the dimensions, the H6 is larger than most mid-sized SUVs but smaller than a large SUV at 4653mm end to end, 1886mm wide and 1724 mm tall.

The six exterior colours are, 'Hamilton White', 'Ayres Grey', 'Burgundy Red', 'Energy Green', 'Sapphire Blue' and 'Golden Black.'

Practicality

Subaru Outback9/10

Subaru has taken some pretty big steps when it comes to changing the interior of the Outback, with the most prominent change being front and centre of the cabin – that huge new 11.6-inch touchscreen media system.

It’s a really interesting looking piece of technology, and like the existing media screen in the Outback, is crisp, colourful and offers quick response times. It’s something that takes a little bit of getting used to – the fan controls are digital, for instance, but there are buttons either side of the screen for temperature control – but once you’ve spent some time with it, you’d be surprised just how intuitive it all is.

The Apple CarPlay worked a treat, connecting up without hassle. And while it isn’t wireless CarPlay, we haven’t yet tested a car with that tech that’s worked as it should… so, yay for cables!

There are two USB ports below the screen, and two additional charging ports in the back seat centre section as well. That’s good, but there’s no wireless charging pad at all, which isn’t great.

And while the big screen has done away with the multiple screen layout and the huge number of buttons in the old car, the new one still has a number of buttons on the steering wheel, which are easy to learn too. I had some trouble acclimating to the blinker stalk, with the one-touch indicator trigger seemingly being a bit too hard to activate at times. It’s a quiet “ticker”, too, so there were a few times when I was driving with my indicator on for ages without realising it.

Storage is mostly really well considered in the Outback, with bottle holders and storage sleeves in all four doors, plus a pair of cup holders between the front seats (they are a little large if you prefer a small takeaway coffee), and in the back there’s a fold-down centre armrest with cupholders, too.

The front also has a small storage section below the media screen (not quite large enough for a large-format smartphone), plus there’s a covered centre console bin, and the dashboard design may have been inspired by the RAV4, as there’s a neat little rubberised shelf in front of the passenger where you could put a phone or wallet. 

In terms of space for occupants, taller people will be fine in the front or the rear. I’m 182cm or 6’0” tall, and I managed to find a comfortable driving position, and was able to sit behind it with ample knee room, toe room and head space, too. The width is great, too, with plenty of room across the cabin. Three of me could easily fit side by side, but if you have children you’ll be happy to know there are two ISOFIX and three top-tether points for baby seats.

The back seat occupants should be kept happy as there are directional vents in all grades, while the top two specs score rear outboard seat heating, too. Nice.

There are some other nice inclusions for rear seat occupants, including recline adjust for the backrests of the seats, and the seatbelts are set in such a way that they should never get in the way when you lower the back seats down (60:40 split fold, actuated by triggers in the boot area).

Speaking of the boot space, there’s plenty. The new Outback offers 522 litres (VDA) or cargo capacity, with is 10L more than before. Plus, as mentioned, the seats fold flat to allow 1267L of luggage capacity. 

Equivalent mid-size SUVs priced close to the Outback can’t match it for practicality, and the cabin’s look and feel is greatly improved over the previous model. It’s a very nice place to spend time.


Haval H68/10

The H6 is cavernous for a mid-sized SUV with large and wide seats up front and excellent leg and headroom in the second row. The H6 doesn’t come with a third row which is shame because there’s room for one.

A 600-litre cargo capacity is big for the class and cabin storage is good with two cupholders in the second row, another two up front, a large space under the floating centre console, although the door pockets could be better.

Second rowers will be pleased with directional air vents back there, plus two USB ports. There are another two USB ports either side of the floating centre console, too.

The leatherette upholstery in the Lux I tested was easy to keep clean and would suit families better than the cloth material used in the Premium.

You’re going to notice the high load lip on the boot and for people as tall as me (191cm/6'3") the opened tailgate and your head may meet occasionally. Still the H6 is super practical.  

Price and features

Subaru Outback9/10

The Subaru Outback range remains a value-focused option for customers out there who want a lot of car for their money. 

It still starts under forty grand in sixth-generation guise, though prices have gone up somewhat compared to the old model, which Subaru says is justified by additional equipment and safety technology.

All models have the same powertrain, so it’s purely gear and goodies that separates the three variants: the entry-level Outback AWD ($39,990), mid-range AWD Sport ($44,490) and top-spec AWD Touring ($47,490). Those prices are MSRP/list pricing, before on-road costs.

Now, here’s a rundown of the range.

The base model AWD comes with 18-inch alloy wheels and a full size alloy spare, roof rails with stowable roof rack cross bars, LED headlights, LED foglights, push-button start, keyless entry, electric park brake, rain-sensing wipers, heated and power-folding side mirrors, fabric seat trim, leather steering wheel, paddle-shifters, electric adjustment for the front seats, rear seats with manual recline, and a 60:40 split-fold rear seat with boot release levers.

The AWD entry-level car – and both the variants above – have a new 11.6-inch touchscreen media screen in portrait layout, which incorporates Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring tech. There are six speakers standard, as well as four USB ports (2x front, 2x rear).

The next model up the range is the AWD Sport, which – like the Forester Sport model – gets a number of aesthetic changes to help split it from its stablemates.

They include model-specific dark 18-inch wheels, black exterior trim changes, fixed roof rails, a power tailgate, water repellent interior trim with green stitching, heated front and outboard rear seats, sports pedals, light-sensing headlights (auto on/off) and it gets sat nav as part of the media screen, too. This grade scores a front view and side view monitor for parking/low speed driving, too.

The top-end AWD Touring has a few luxury-focused extras over the other grades, including an electric sunroof, Nappa leather interior trim, a heated steering wheel, auto dipping passenger side door mirror, memory settings for driver’s seat, satin finish door mirrors, silver highlight roof rails (with stowable crossbars), and gloss-finish wheels. 

The interior also upgrades the stereo in this grade to a nine-speaker harman/kardon setup with subwoofer and single CD player. All grades have DAB+ digital radio too.

All grades have an array of safety technology, including a driver monitoring system that will warn you to keep your eyes on the road and monitor for signs of drowsiness, and in the top-spec model includes face recognition that can adjust the seat and side mirrors for you.

All models come with a reversing camera, Subaru’s EyeSight forward facing camera system that incorporates AEB, lane keeping, adaptive cruise control and more. There are full details on the safety systems and their operability in the section below.

Things missing from any grade of Outback? It would have been nice to have a wireless phone charger, and there are no traditional parking sensors, either.

Overall though, there’s a lot to like across multiple grades, here.

If you’re interested in colours (or colors if you prefer), then you might be intrigued to know there are nine colours available. Two can’t be had on the AWD Sport grade - Storm Grey Metallic and Crimson Red Pearl – but it can be had in any of the remaining colours, as can the other trim levels: Crystal White Pearl, Magnetite Grey Metallic, Ice Silver Metallic, Crystal Black Silica, Dark Blue Pearl, and the new Autumn Green Metallic and Brilliant Bronze Metallic.

The best news? None of the colour choices will cost you any extra money!


Haval H68/10

You’re saving a decent amount of moolah choosing a Haval H6 over, say, a Toyota RAV4,  Mazda CX-5 or Nissan X-Trail. The H6 entry-grade is called the Premium and lists for $30,990 drive-away, while the mid-range Lux is $33,990 driveaway.

Both come in front wheel drive only. If you’re after all-wheel drive you’ll need to step up to the top-of-the-range Ultra for $36,990 drive-away, or pay $2,000 less and have it in front-wheel drive.

In comparison the RAV4 and CX-5 ranges start more than $3K higher than the entry-grade H6 and don’t get the same level of features. Let me show you what you get for your money.

Coming standard on the Premium are two 10.25-inch displays with Apple CarPlay, six-speaker audio, digital radio, air-conditioning, proximity key with push-button start, a reversing camera, paddle shifters, LED headlights and 18-inch alloy wheels.

Stepping up to the Lux adds dual-zone climate control, privacy glass, power adjustable driver’s seat, the front seats are also heated, leather steering wheel, 360-degree camera and roof rails.

The Ultra brings in a 12.3-inch media screen, power adjustable front passenger seat and both front seats are now heated and ventilated. There's also wireless charging, a head-up display, a heated steering wheel, panoramic sunroof, an electric tailgate, and auto parking.

That’s incredibly good value. Normally things that are cheap (like a Jetstar flight) offer nothing in return (like a Jetstar flight). Yep, nobody is going to accuse you of being ripped off here.

Engine & trans

Subaru Outback7/10

The engine in all Subaru Outback 2021 models is a “90 per cent new” 2.5-litre four-cylinder “boxer” horizontally opposed petrol engine.

The motor produces 138kW of power (at 5800rpm) and 245Nm of torque (from 3400-4600rpm). Those are modest increases – 7 per cent more power and 4.2 per cent more torque – compared with the old Outback. 

It is only available with a “refined” Lineartronic continuously variable transmission (CVT) automatic, but all grades come with paddle-shifters as standard, so you can take matters in to your own hands – Subaru says there’s an “eight-speed manual mode”.

Towing capacity for the Outback range is 750kg for an unbraked trailer and 2000kg for a braked trailer, with a 200kg down weight for the tow bar. You can option a towbar as a genuine accessory.

Now, the elephant – or elephants – in the Outback are that it doesn’t launch with a hybrid powertrain, which means it’s falling behind the class leaders (yes, we’re talking about the likes of the Toyota RAV4, but even the Forester has a hybrid powertrain option!).

And the old diesel engine has been axed, plus there’s no six-cylinder petrol variant as there was in the previous model.

Plus while other markets get a four-cylinder turbo engine (a 2.4L with 194kW and 375Nm), we don’t have that option here. So, it’s naturally aspirated 4-cyl petrol power, or bust.


Haval H68/10

The same four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine is in all three grades. It’s a 2.0-litre and makes 150kW/320Nm.

This engine had no problems pulling the H6 around when I tested it with my little family onboard with good acceleration and smooth shifts from the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.

When pushed hard the four-cylinder responds well, but it’s on the noisy side.

As mentioned at the start of this review only the top-of-the-range Ultra grade gives you choice of all-wheel drive or front-wheel drive. The Premium and Lux are front-wheel drives only.

The car we tested was the front-wheel drive Lux, but we’ll be able to review the all-wheel drive version when it arrives in our garage soon.

On paper the all-wheel drive Haldex system in the H6 looks promising and in this generation the SUV has a rear differential lock for better off-road capability. That said, the H6 is not an off-roader in the Toyota LandCruiser sense, and you should keep your adventures in it mild rather than wild.

There’s no diesel in the H6 line-up, nor will you find a hybrid variant or and electric version of this SUV at this stage.

Braked towing capacity is 2000kg for all-wheel drive and front-wheel drive H6s.

Fuel consumption

Subaru Outback7/10

The official combined cycle fuel consumption figure – that’s the claimed fuel economy the brand reckons you should achieve across a mix of driving – is stated at 7.3 litres per 100 kilometres.

That’s pretty good, and it’s aided by the engine’s start-stop technology that even has a readout that tells you how many millilitres of fuel you’re saving when it’s active. I like that.

In our real world testing we saw a return – at the pump – of 8.8L/100km across highway, urban, back road and traffic jam testing. That’s not bad, but in similar driving in a Toyota RAV4 hybrid I’ve seen economy of about 5.5L/100km.

We assume Subaru Australia will add a hybrid version of the Outback at some point (like it has with the XV Hybrid and Forester Hybrid), but at this point in time, the petrol engine is your only choice.

Fuel tank capacity is 63 litres, and it can take 91RON regular unleaded.


Haval H67/10

Haval says that after a combination of open and urban roads the 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder should use 7.4L/100km in the front-wheel drive cars and 8.3L/100km in the all-wheel drives.

In my testing of the front-wheel drive I measured 9.1L/100km at the fuel pump. That was after an even split of motorway and urban running.

Thirsty work considering most of the time it was just me and an unloaded car. Add a family of four plus holiday gear and you can expect that mileage to be worse.

It’s here that the H6 is showing a weakness in its offering by not having a hybrid powertrain in its Australian range.

Driving

Subaru Outback8/10

If you’ve driven a previous-generation Subaru Outback, you’re not going to feel like this is unfamiliar territory.

That’s because this version, well, it sticks to the formula. Even if you’ve driven the new Forester, it might feel pretty familiar.

Much of that comes down to the engine and transmission. The 2.5L four-cylinder boxer is a strong engine, but not a punchy one. It offers good response and smooth power delivery for the most part, and it will push you back in your seat if you plant your foot, but not in the same way a petrol-electric hybrid or a turbocharged four-cylinder might.

And while there is still some Subaru “boxer” rumble from under the bonnet, it’s largely a pretty hushed place to be when you’re driving it in normal circumstances. If you accelerate hard you’ll hear the engine more, and that’s down to the behaviour of the CVT automatic.

Some people will hate it because it’s a CVT, but Subaru does a pretty good job with these transmissions, and in the Outback it’s as inoffensive as they come. And yes, there is a manual mode with paddle shifters if you want to take matters into your own hands, but for the most part, you shouldn’t really need to.

The steering is direct and offers good weighting and response, pivoting pretty well in corners while also allowing you to turn the car easily when you’re parking. There’s not much feel to the steering, but that’s not what this car is about, and thankfully the trademark Subaru visibility from the driver’s seat means it is easier to park than some other SUVs out there. 

The ride is mostly good, with a supple character that is more about comfort than anything else. It’s a little more softly sprung and a touch underdamped than some people might like, meaning it can be a little wobbly or jittery depending on the road, but I think it’s the right balance for the intent of the car – a family wagon / SUV that has some potential off-road chops.

It is all-wheel drive after all, and there is Subaru’s X-Mode system – with snow/dirt and deep snow/mud modes – that should be helpful if you find yourself off the beaten path. I did some light gravel track driving in the Outback, and found its 213mm ground clearance to be plentiful, while the suspension was pretty well sorted.


Haval H68/10

I’m still in shock. This is the biggest surprise. The H6 I tested was effortless to drive, with a comfortable and composed ride. I was not expecting it, not when most Havals I’ve piloted in the past have disappointed when it comes to the driving bit.  

Sure, the engine isn't overly powerful, but it's responsive, and the dual-clutch transmission shifts smoothly whether driving in slow traffic or at 110km/h on the motorway

Sharp speed bumps taken a bit too fast in the front-wheel drive Lux I tested reveal only modest suspension travel, causing a reverberating ‘bang’ as the shocks and springs react. I’ve experienced the same thing in many cars I’ve tested – even properly prestige ones.

This though is one of very few complaints I have about the way the H6 drives, for the most part this SUV performs remarkably well with a (high) level of refinement I seriously wasn’t expecting.

I can’t tell you what the all-wheel drive version of the H6 is like to drive having only tested the front-wheel drive version, but we’ll no doubt have one in the CarsGuide garage soon.

Safety

Subaru Outback9/10

There is no ANCAP crash test safety rating as yet for the 2021 Outback range, but it has a lot of the technology and safety goodies that customers shopping for a family SUV or wagon would expect. 

As standard there is Subaru’s EyeSight stereo camera system that reads the road ahead, and it incorporates forward/front autonomous emergency braking (AEB) for vehicles that works between 10km/h and 160km/h. There's also pedestrian AEB (1km/h to 30km/h) and cyclist detection and AEB (60km/h or less), and it has lane keeping technology with emergency lane keep assist that can swerve the car to avoid impacts with cars, people or cyclists (approximately 80km/h or less). Lane departure prevention works from 60km/h to 145km/h.

All grades also get blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, a driver monitor camera that watches the driver and warns them if they’re not paying attention to the road or starting to get drowsy (the top-spec model’s version of this also includes seat and mirror adjustment memory based on your face!), plus there is speed sign recognition, too.

All grades have a reversing camera, while the top two specs have front view and side view cameras, but none have a 360-degree surround view camera. All models also have rear AEB, a system Subaru calls reverse auto braking (RAB) that can halt the car if it detects there’s something behind it when you’re backing up. It also doubles as reversing sensors for all grades, but none have front parking sensors.

And there are other elements to the safety matrix, including Lead Vehicle Start Alert (the cameras tell you when the car in front has driven off) and lane centring (to keep you in the middle of your lane), both of which operate between 0km/h and 145km/h, and there is adaptive high beam lights on all grades, too.

The airbag count for the Outback is eight, with dual front, front side, driver’s knee, passenger centre-front, and full-length curtain coverage.


Haval H68/10

Is the Haval H6 safe? Well the H6 hasn’t been given an ANCAP rating yet, but this new generation car looks to be equipped well with advanced safety tech across all three grades.

All H6s come with AEB which can detect pedestrians and cyclists, blind spot warning and lane change assistance, traffic sign recognition, lane departure warning, lane keeping assistance, and rear collision warning.

The Lux adds adaptive cruise control, while the Ultra brings rear cross-traffic alert with braking, and an 'Intelligent Dodge' overtaking system.

Along with all that tech there are seven airbags on board, too. And for child seats you’ll find two ISOFIX points and three top tether anchor mounts.

Ownership

Subaru Outback7/10

Subaru doesn’t go beyond expectations in the mainstream class, with a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty now par for the course.

The brand also has shorter maintenance intervals than some, with services scheduled every 12 months or 12,500km (most are 15,000km intervals).

The costs of maintenance aren’t that low, either. After an initial free checkup at one-month, the services cost: $345 (12 months/12,500km); $595 (24 months/25,000km); $351 (36 months/37,500km); $801 (48 months/50,000km); and $358 (60 months/62,500km). That averages out at about $490 per service, which is high. 

If you’re worried about budgeting for that cost every year, you can bundle a service plan into your financing – a smart move, if you ask me. There are two options available: a three-year/37,500km plan and a five-year/62,500km plan. Neither saves you money over pay-as-you-go, but these plans also include three years roadside assist and the option of a free loan car when it comes time to service your own Outback. And if you decide to sell, you can pass that service plan on to the next owner.

 Just make sure you don’t smash the windscreen – the camera system integrated into the glass means a new windshield is a $3000 part!


Haval H68/10

The H6 is covered by Haval’s seven-year/unlimited kilometre warranty. Servicing is recommended every 12 months or 15,000km, although the first service is required at the 10,000km point, then 25,000km and so on. Servicing is capped at $210 for the first service, $280 for the second, $380 for third, $480 for the fourth and $210 for the fifth.