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Subaru Outback


Nissan Qashqai

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

Nissan Qashqai

It’s lucky cars aren’t as bad as the names they’re given because the Qashqai would be a shocker. Fortunately, the Qashqai is a good small SUV and this latest update has made it even better... and safer.

So, what’s so new about the 2020 Qashqai? What’s good about it and what could still be improved. Finally, there’s something else you should know, and it might make you want to wait longer before you do buy a Qashqai.

Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency6.9L/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.


Nissan Qashqai7.3/10

The Qashqai is one of Nissan’s best SUVs for the space it offers in such a small package. A good driving experience is short of being great thanks to the CVT auto, and the value could be better.

Now, here’s a spanner in the works for you. A new generation Qashqai isn’t far away, it’s probably about 12 months off and it will have a new look inside and out, have the latest technology, plus we’ll almost certainly see a hybrid version.

If you can hold on, do it, because what’s likely to be an even better Qashqai should be worth the wait. But if you are in market right now, the ST+ is definitely the pick of the bunch. The update has seen it pick up an excellent array of advanced safety equipment.

Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with travel and meals provided.

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.


Nissan Qashqai8/10

Another strength of the Qashqai is its good looks – tough, yet pretty, with a rounded snub nose and muscular rear haunches.

No changes to the styling for this 2020 update inside or out, which is a shame because the cabin is beginning to date with the small screen and dash design. Still the interior is stylish with well laid out controls.

As you’d expect, the Ti’s interior is the plushest, with quilted leather seats and the huge sunroof, but even the entry grade ST with the leather clad steering wheel has a premium feel.

How big is the Qashqai? It’s a big-small SUV in that at 4394mm end-to-end it’s 10cm longer than a Honda HR-V and about 2.0cm longer that a Kia Seltos, but about the same width and height as both at 1806mm across and 1595mm tall.

All Qashqai’s come standard with alloy wheels, so no hubcaps here like you’ll see on the entry-grade Seltos.

Telling each Qashqai grade apart is easy once you know the ST doesn’t have foglights, while the ST+ does but doesn’t get the roof rails you’ll see on the ST-L or its 18-inch alloys. The TI can be spotted in the wild by its big 19-inch rims and the sunroof. See? Easy… sort of.

There are seven colours to choose from including 'Magnetic Red' and 'Pearl Black', but only the 'Vivid Blue' (the colour of my car in the video) is the only no-cost hue. The other premium paint colours are $595.

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.


Nissan Qashqai8/10

Space and usability are two of the Qashqai’s strengths. For an SUV that is only 4.4m long, and for me at 191cm tall to be able to sit behind my driving position with room to spare is excellent. Headroom back there is good, too, even in the Ti which has a sunroof which eats into the ceiling.

Cabin storage up front is pretty darn good with a large and deep centre console bin, big door pockets and two cup holders; while the rear seats have door bottle holders and a tray in the rear of the front console. The ST-L and Ti come with a fold-down centre armrest in the back with two cupholders.

The 430L boot is one of the largest in the class (Seltos has a 433L cargo capacity). There’s also another large storage level under the boot floor in the Ti.

Getting in and out of the Qashqai is helped by a raised ride height and large doors that open wide.

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!


Nissan Qashqai7/10

The entry-point into the Qashqai range is now $27,990 (an increase of $500 over the previous car) and that will get you into the ST with a manual gearbox, while the auto (CVT) is $29,990.

That ST is the only grade which comes with a manual, the rest are all autos with the ST+ listing for $31,990, then the ST-L for $34,000 and at the top-of-the-range is the Ti for $38,490.

A limited-edition N-Sport version sits between the ST-L and Ti and lists for $35,000, but there are only 600 being made.

As for what’s new, that’s simple – Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility is now standard across the range. The ST+ also now has rain sensing wipers and auto headlights. The rest of the new features are safety items which we’ll cover in that section below.

Along with the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, standard features on the ST include a 7.0-inch screen with rear view camera, front and rear parking sensors, six-speaker stereo, cruise control, cloth seats, push-button start, LED running lights, halogen headlights and 17-inch alloy wheels.

Step up to the ST+ and you’ll gain all the ST’s features plus sat nav, privacy glass, fog lights, and power- folding heated wing mirrors.

The ST-L has all of this, but adds leather and cloth seats, heated front seats, roof rails, and 18-inch alloy wheels.

At the top-of-the-range is the Ti and this grade unlocks more features on top of the ST-L’s including 19-inch alloys, adaptive LED headlights, panoramic sunroof, dual-zone climate control, power adjustable driver and front passenger seat, adaptive cruise control, and leather seats.

The 2020 update also saw a special edition N Sport Qashqai released for a list price of $35,000. The N Sport has all the ST-L's features and adds 19-inch alloys, body-coloured front and rear bumpers with a matt silver trim, side skirts, body-coloured wheelarches, silver mirror caps, black headliner and an N-Sport badge to make sure everybody knows. 

Is it good value? Well you can get into an entry-grade Kia Seltos with all the advanced safety features in the Ti for $25,990 drive-away. A Honda HR-V is also more affordable with a start price of $24,990.

I’m afraid the answer to that initial question then is, no. The Qashqai is not good value in comparison to the Seltos or Honda HR-V.

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.


Nissan Qashqai6/10

All Qashqais have the same engine – it’s a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol which makes a reasonable 106kW of power and 200Nm of torque.

As I mentioned in the driving section the engine isn’t at all gutless, I’ve driven SUVs and cars with the same torque and less power with better acceleration. It’s the continuously variable transmission (CVT) in the Qashqai which causes the lackluster acceleration.

You’ll notice this lack of oomph particularly on hills and when you need to overtake. Some carmakers are now producing CVTs which do provide better acceleration, but Nissan’s isn’t one of them.

On the plus side CVTs are good for fuel economy, which is what we’re about to discuss.

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.


Nissan Qashqai7/10

Nissan says the Qashqai with its four-cylinder petrol engine and CVT auto will use 6.9L/100km over a combination of open and urban roads. That’s pretty good and better than the ST with its manual gearbox which officially does a best of 7.7L/100km.

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.


Nissan Qashqai7/10

The Qashqai is one of the most affordable Nissan SUVs, but I think it’s up there with the best to drive, second only to its bigger sibling the X-Trail.

Here’s why. The ride is comfortable and composed, the steering is accurate and has good feel to it and the handling (for a small affordable SUV) is great.

You’ll like the extra security the height gives you along with the good visibility, and you’ll like the size in terms of ease of parking, too.

What you might notice is that acceleration feels a bit disappointing and you might think the engine is ‘gutless’ for want of a better word. It’s not the engine, it’s something else. Read on to find out.

All Qashqais are front-wheel drive, but a decent 188mm ground clearance means they’ll handle gravel roads without fear of damaging the underside.

The launch of this updated version had us driving on about 50km of gravel and dirt roads, and sure, if the Qashqai had all-wheel drive it would have kept the car from sliding around on the loose rocky surface a bit, but we had no problems with clearance.

The Qashqai's braked towing capacity is 1200kg.

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.


Nissan Qashqai7/10

The Qashqai was awarded the maximum five-star ANCAP rating when it was tested in 2017.

The ST+ has come out well in this update, not only did it score Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but the amount of standard advanced safety equipment increased, including blind spot warning and rear cross-traffic alert.

While all Qashqais come with AEB as standard the top-of-the-range Ti ALSO picked up AEB with pedestrian detection in the update.

Forward collision warning and lane departure warning ARE also standard on all Qashqais.

For child seats you’ll find two ISOFIX points and three top tether anchor mounts.

A space saver spare wheel in under the boot floor.

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!


Nissan Qashqai8/10

The Qashqai is covered by Nissan’s five-year,/unlimited-kilometre warranty.

Servicing is recommended annually or every 10,000km and is capped at $226 for the first service, $309 for the second, $236 for the third, $435 for the fourth and $245 for the fifth.