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Subaru Outback


Holden Trax

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

Holden Trax

Holden's plucky little Trax was a bit of a trailblazer (ahem). Not only was it Holden's first compact SUV, it beat most of the manufacturers to the segment by almost 12 months.

Those manufacturers includes Mazda, Nissan, Toyota and Hyundai. Volkswagen is still months away. The Trax range had a small refresh for the 2018 model year, following a pretty big facelift in 2017. It isn't exactly an earth-shattering update but it gave the Trax a more Holden look while sorting out some of the issues of the launch car.

Safety rating
Engine Type1.4L turbo
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency6.7L/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.


Holden Trax6.5/10

It's a close-run thing, but the best of the Trax range is the LS auto. There is little in the way of genuine improvement as you climb the range, with just the LTZ's rear cross traffic alert and blind spot monitoring as genuinely useful. The rest is mostly cosmetic. 

As a contender in the segment, the Trax struggles when it comes to pricing - a Mazda CX-3 of comparable price is better-equipped and better to drive, with just a tighter rear seat to contend with. Other cars in the segment are newer and (generally) better-packaged for similar or little more money.

The Trax is an individual and Australians seem to like them - we're still buying them at a reasonable rate. In a segment that is grabbing yet more sales and is filling with yet more manufacturers, the Trax is the little engine that could.

Is it the Holden badge, individual looks or price that aTrax (I'm so sorry) you? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

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.


Holden Trax7/10

The MY17 styling update is carried forward unchanged into the MY18 model year. The Trax is a global car, built in a few locations, but ours come from South Korea. That means we get the Chevy version of the styling (there is also an Opel, which is known as the Mokka). 

The newer face is much more contemporary than the old one, with finer detailing and a less chunky look. The deeper front bumper means a fairly bluff front end but with the less blocky headlights, doesn't look as heavy. The overall profile hasn't changed, but the rear has also been cleaned up. A black pack would certainly make the car look even tougher, but it's not on the options list. Some customers have found a nudge bar accessory, but that's not on the official Holden list.

Inside also receieved some attention, with the old bitsy but individual layout turfed out in favour of a more traditional look. The instrument pack used to live in a motorbike-style pad it shared with the Barina. It was kind of cool but looked really cheap, so the pod made way for standard dials-under-a-hood. It's bit more mature but certainly not as cool. Perhaps as consolation, a number of the materials have improved, the awful glove box door is now more substantial-feeling (and it will still fit the owners manual).

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.


Holden Trax7/10

The Trax's small dimensions don't promise much but there's a decent amount of room inside. Front seat passengers are well accommodated and luxuriate with no less than four cupholders, while the rear passengers score two in the rear armrest.

Those rear passengers will feel the pinch if they're approaching 180cm, with marginal knee room but plenty of headroom. The upright seating position does help taller folks and you can get your feet under the front seats.

Boot space is a reasonable if not startling 356 litres. Flip up the seat bases, fold the backs forward and you'll see a useful increase in boot dimenions, the volume almost doubling to 785 litres.

LT and LTZ owners also score an underseat storage tray.

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!


Holden Trax6/10

How much is a Holden Trax? Where is the Holden Trax built? What features and accessories are available? This review will provide you with a price list, all quoted as RRP, or MSRP as the manufacturers prefer to say.

Its main rival, the Mazda CX-3, has a bewildering number of models whereas the number of Holden Trax models is comparatively skinny, with just three on offer - the LS, LT and LTZ.

Standard on every Trax is Holden's 'MyLink' media system with Apple CarPlay an Android Auto. As a result, you won't see a GPS sat nav in the specs. MyLink powers a six speaker stereo with USB or Bluetooth for smartphone integration and a 7.0-inch touchscreen. A CD player is a thing of the past, so it's missing from Trax.

The LS manual starts the bidding at $23,990. It rolls on 16-inch alloy wheels, has air-conditioning, reversing camera, remote central locking, rear parking sensors, cruise control, automatic headlights, powered heated mirrors, electric windows, cloth trim and a tyre repair kit. Twist your dealer's arm and you might get floor mats thrown in.

The $26,490 LS auto not only picks up a six-speed automatic but also the 1.4-litre turbo engine with the same power but improved torque. You also get four-wheel disc brakes as opposed to the manual's rear drum brakes.

The middle child is the $28,890 LT. Added to the LS specification are 17-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry and start, leather steering wheel, colour instrument screen, fake leather seats, DAB+ digital radio, driver's middle armrest and a sunroof.

The price range is capped with the top of the range LTZ, starting at $30,490. Sharing the turbo engine and automatic transmission with the LT and LS auto, the LTZ's additions include 18-inch alloy wheels, auto wipers, blind spot monitoring and reverse cross traffic alert.

The Trax is available in eight colours. 'Mineral Black', 'Boracay Blue', 'Son of a Gun Grey', 'Burning Hot' (a vivid orange), 'Absolute Red', 'Nitrate' (silver) and 'Abalone White' which all come at a cost of $550. Only 'Summit White' is a freebie.

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.


Holden Trax6/10

If you're looking for a Trax 4WD, AWD or 4x4 you are going to be disappointed - the Trax's specs are plain - it is front-wheel drive only. There is also no diesel option.

The Trax's engine size depends on the specification you choose. The entry-level LS is the lone contender to persist with the 1.8-litre naturally-aspirated engine that launched the Trax four years ago. Developing 103kW/175Nm at 3800rpm. The 1.8 is paired with a six-speed manual transmission.

The LS auto, LT and LTZ all run the 1.4-litre turbo four cylinder paired with a six-speed automatic. The turbo engine develops an identical-to-the-1.8 103kW but brings another 25Nm to the party for a total of 200Nm developed at a more city-friendly 1850rpm.

The Trax's weight isn't particularly low, hovering around 1400kg tare, a bit of a heavyweight in the segment.

Towing capacity is rated at 500kg unbraked and 1200kg braked and a towbar is optional.

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.


Holden Trax7/10

According to the official figures, the 1.8 manual will consume 91RON at the rate of 7.1L/100km while emitting 165g/km of CO2.

Step up to the 1.4-litre turbo also means switching to premium unleaded, which it will drink at the rate of 6.7L/100km and emit 155g/km.

Real world fuel economy is somewhat different. We've measure fuel consumption in the 1.4-litre turbo well over 10.0L/100km. The fuel tank size is 53 litres. With that kind of fuel capacity, you'll cover just 500km in normal driving in either the 1.8 or 1.4.

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.


Holden Trax6/10

The view out of the Trax is impressive for such a small car. It feels high even though it isn't - pop the bonnet and you'll notice it's a long reach down to the engine, even the battery is kept low. The driving position is high and commanding but boy, is it awkward. The pedals are very close to the seat and despite a tilt and reach adjustable steering column, the taller you are, the harder it is to get away from a weird man-spreading arrangemnt for your legs.

The limited ground clearance of 158mm - a leftover from its Barina underpinnings - means the Trax isn't much of an off-roader despite its hill descent control inclusion and very camper-like addition of a 230V power supply in the rear seat. The front bumper is a scraper as it extends much lower than you would expect in an SUV, mostly to protect its low-riding underbits.

The sole 1.8 in the range is best avoided. The engine is a buzzing, vocal unit that needs to be worked hard to keep up with traffic. While the power and torque figures are fairly standard for the market segment, the power band is not easy to reach.

Step up to the LS auto and the change to the 1.4-litre turbo is stark. While there are the same number of kilowatts and torque is up by about 15 percent, it's a far smoother, quieter unit. It will never be a quiet car, it just doesn't have the engineering for that (the Barina platform is cheap and old). The turbo does reduce the din but also exposes the Trax's taste for road and suspension noise.

Overall, the Trax is comfortable and a bit of fun to drive if you don't mind the body roll or you're on a bumpy country road where it all gets a bit lumpy messy. As a city car it's quite a good proposition but long trips will be tiring.

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.


Holden Trax6/10

The Trax has six airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, reversing camera, three top-tether anchorages and brake assist.

The LTZ picks up reverse cross traffic alert and blind-spot monitoring, but there is no option for AEB, unlike the CX-3, C-HR or Kona.

The little Holden scored a five star ANCAP safety rating in August 2013. 

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!


Holden Trax7/10

In the latter half of 2017, the Trax came with a seven-year/175,000km warranty, a big jump from the usual three-year/100,000km. The standard offer returns on January 1, 2018 unless Holden changes its mind. 

Roadside assist is offered for an initial twelve months and then extended at every service performed at a Holden dealer.

Servicing intervals for the Trax are nine months/15,000km. Lifetime capped price servicing applies, starting at $249 for the first two, jumping to $429 for the third service and then bouncing around between $249 and $399 until the seventh service.