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Subaru Outback


Volkswagen Tiguan

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

Volkswagen Tiguan

First there was the Beetle, then there was the Golf. Now for the first time in history, Volkswagen is most associated with its mid-size SUV, the Tiguan.

The understated but ubiquitous mid-sizer has been freshly updated for 2021, but unlike the incoming Golf 8, it’s only a facelift rather than a full model refresh.

It’s high stakes, but Volkswagen hopes rolling updates will keep it fresh for at least a few years to come, as it (globally) marches towards electrification.

There’s no electrification for Australia this time around, but has VW done enough to keep such an important model in the fight? We’ve taken a look at the whole Tiguan range to find out.

Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L turbo
Fuel TypeDiesel
Fuel Efficiency6.1L/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.


Volkswagen Tiguan7.8/10

The Tiguan moves a smidge further upmarket with this facelift, now with an entry cost higher than ever, and while that might rule it out for some buyers, no matter which one you pick you’d still be getting the full experience when it comes to safety, cabin comfort, and convenience.

It's up to you to choose how you want it to look and drive, which are ultimately subjective areas anyway. On that basis I have no doubt this Tiguan will keep its buyers happy for years to come.

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.


Volkswagen Tiguan7/10

The Tiguan was already an attractive car, with many subtle angular elements which added up to something suitably sophisticated for a European SUV.

For the update, VW has mainly made changes to the Tiguan’s face to keep it in line with the incoming Golf 8’s tweaked design language.

I think it has only served to make this car look better, with more integrated light fittings swooping out of its now more gentle grille treatment. There was a pugnacious toughness about the outgoing model’s flat face that I will miss, though.

The side profile is near identical, the new car only identifiable by subtle chrome touches and new wheel choices, while the rear is freshened up with a new lower bumper treatment, contemporary Tiguan lettering across the rear, and in the case of the Elegance and R-Line, impressive LED light clusters.

The inside, which has had a significant digital overhaul is what will get buyers salivating. Even the base car scores the amazing digital dash, but the larger multimedia screens and sleek touch panels will be sure to impress.

It’s important to note that while pretty much any car can have massive screens today, not all have the processing power to match, but I’m glad to say everything in the VW is as slick and fast as it should be.

The new wheel is a really nice touch with the embedded VW logo and cool looking surrounds. It feels a bit more substantial than the outgoing unit, too, and all the functions on it are nicely laid out and ergonomic to use.

I will say that the colour scheme, no matter which variant you pick, is pretty safe. The dash, while nicely finished, is just one big slate of grey, detracting from the flashy digital overhaul.

Even the inserts are plain and subtle, perhaps a missed opportunity for VW to make the interior of its pricey mid-sizer feel a bit more special.

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.


Volkswagen Tiguan8/10

Refined and digitised it may have been, but is this update still practical? One of my big worries when hopping in was that the abundance of touch elements would make it distracting to operate while driving.

The touch panel climate unit from the previous car was starting to look and feel a little old, but there’s still a part of me that will miss how easy to use it was.

But the new touch climate panel not only looks good, it’s pretty easy to use too. It just takes a few days of getting used to it.

What I really missed was a volume dial and tactile shortcut buttons on the R-Line’s massive 9.2-inch touch-only screen. It’s a little usability gripe that will get on some people’s nerves.

The same goes for the touch elements on the R-Line’s wheel. They look and feel super cool with odd vibrating feedback, although at times I did fumble things that should be simple like cruise functions and volume. Sometimes the old ways are the best.

It sounds like I’m complaining about the Tiguan’s digital overhaul, but most of it is for the best. The instrument cluster (once an Audi exclusive feature) is one of the best on the market in terms of its look and usability, and the large multimedia screens make it really easy to jab at what function you’re looking for while remaining concentrated on the road.

The cabin is also excellent, with a tall but suitable driving position, big storage bins in the doors, big cupholders and cutaways in the tidy centre console, as well as a small centre console box and odd little pop-open tray atop the dash.

The new Tiguan is USB-C only in terms of connectivity, so bring a converter.

The back seat offers excellent amounts of room for my 182cm (6'0") frame, behind my own driving position. It’s super practical back there, too, with even the base car scoring a third adjustable climate zone with movable vents, USB-C outlet, and a 12V outlet.

There are pockets on the back of the front seats, big bottle holders in the door and drop-down armrest, and weird little pockets atop the seats, too. It’s one of the best rear seats in the mid-size SUV class in terms of amenities for passengers.

The boot is a large 615L VDA regardless of variant. This is also great for the mid-size SUV class, and it fit our entire CarsGuide luggage set with space to spare.

Every Tiguan variant also has a space saver spare under the boot floor, and little cutaways behind the rear wheel arches to maximise storage space.

The power tailgate is a boost, too, although it remains odd that the R-Line misses out on the gesture control.

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!


Volkswagen Tiguan7/10

The updated Tiguan doesn’t look wildly different from the outside. We’ll get to design in a second, but don’t underestimate it based on looks alone, there are a lot of significant changes under this mid-sizer's skin which will be key to its ongoing appeal.

For a start, VW has dumped its corporate titles of old. Names like Trendline have been dumped in favour of more friendly titles, with the Tiguan range now consisting of just three variants, the base Life, mid-grade Elegance, and top-spec R-Line.

To make it more simple, the Life is the only grade available as a front-wheel drive, while the Elegance and R-Line are all-wheel drive only.

As with the pre-facelift model, the updated Tiguan range will become more expansive in 2022 with the stretched seven-seat Allspace variant returning, and for the first time the brand will also introduce a go-fast Tiguan R performance variant.

In terms of the three variants which arrive for now, though, the Tiguan has notably taken a price hike, now technically more expensive than ever before, even if it is only by $200 over the outgoing Comfortline.

The base Life can either be chosen as a 110TSI 2WD with an MSRP of $39,690, or as a 132TSI AWD with an MSRP of $43,690.

While the price has increased, VW notes that with the tech onboard the current car, it would represent at least a $1400 discount on the Comfortline with the required option pack to meet it like-for-like.

Standard equipment on the base Life includes an 8.0-inch multimedia touchscreen with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, a 10.25-inch fully digital instrument cluster, 18-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry with push-start ignition, full auto LED headlights, cloth interior trim, a new leather bound wheel with the brand’s updated aesthetic touches, dual-zone climate control (now with a fully touch interface), and a powered tailgate with gesture control.

It’s a tech heavy package, and feels nothing like a base model. A pricey $5000 'Luxury Pack' can upgrade the Life to include leather seats, a heated steering wheel, power seat adjust for the driver, and a panoramic sunroof.

The mid-grade Elegance adds more powerful engine options, consisting of a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol 162 TSI ($50,790) or a 2.0-litre turbo-diesel 147 TDI ($52,290) exclusively in all-wheel drive.

It’s a significant price-jump from the Life, and adds adaptive chassis control, 19-inch alloy wheels, chrome exterior styling touches, interior ambient lighting, upgraded ‘Matrix’ LED headlights and LED tail-lights, standard ‘Vienna’ leather interior trim with power adjustable front seats,  a 9.2-inch touch-only multimedia interface, heated steering wheel and front seats, and privacy tint on the rear windows.

Finally, the top-spec R-Line is available with the same 162 TSI ($53,790) and 147 TDI ($55,290) all-wheel drive powertrain options, and includes massive 20-inch alloy wheels, a more aggressive body kit with blacked-out R touches, bespoke R-Line leather seat trim, sports pedals, black interior headliner, variable ratio steering, as well as a sportier steering wheel design with haptic feedback touch control panels. Interestingly the R-Line loses the gesture control tailgate, making do only with a powered one.

The only options on the Elegance and R-Line aside from premium paints ($850) is the panoramic sunroof which will set you back an additional $2000, or the ‘Sound and Vision’ package, which adds a 360-degree parking camera, head up display, and harman/kardon nine-speaker audio system.

Every variant also comes with the full array of active safety features, which is a huge boost to value for buyers, so make sure to take a look at that later in this review.

Regardless, the entry-level Life now competes with mid-grades of rivals like the Hyundai Tucson, Mazda CX-5, and Toyota RAV4, the latter of which has a key fuel-sipping hybrid variant, which many buyers are searching for.

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.


Volkswagen Tiguan8/10

The Tiguan maintains a relatively complex engine line-up for the class.

The entry level Life can be chosen with its own set of engines. The cheapest of which is the 110 TSI. It’s a 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine producing 110kW/250Nm driving the front wheels via a six-speed dual-clutch automatic. The 110 TSI is the only front-drive option left in the Tiguan range.

Next up is the 132 TSI. It’s a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol producing 132kW/320Nm driving all four wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic.

The Elegance and R-Line are available with the same two higher-powered engine choices. This includes the 162 TSI 2.0-litre turbo-petrol which produces 162kW/350Nm, or the 147 TDI 2.0-litre turbo-diesel which produces 147kW/400Nm. Either engine is mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic and drives all four wheels.

Volkswagen’s engine options here are generally punchier than many of its rivals, some of which still make do with older naturally aspirated units.

Missing from the picture for this update is the word seemingly on every buyer’s lips at the moment – hybrid.

There are hybrid variants available overseas, but due to ongoing issues with Australia’s relatively poor fuel quality, VW has been unable to launch them here. Things could change in the near future, however…

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.


Volkswagen Tiguan8/10

Whiz-bang dual-clutch automatics are meant to make for lower fuel numbers, and it certainly seems to be the case for the Tiguan, at least on its official figures.

The 110 TSI Life we tested for this range review has an official/combined consumption figure of 7.7L/100km, while our test car saw around 8.5L/100km.

Meanwhile the 162 TSI R-Line also sampled has an official figure of 8.5L/100km, and our car returned a dash-reported 8.9L/100km.

Keep in mind these tests took place over only a handful of days rather than our usual weekly test, so take our numbers with a grain of salt.

Either way, they are impressive for mid-size SUVs, particularly in the case of the all-wheel drive 162 TSI.

On the downside, all Tiguans require a minimum of 95RON as the engines are incompatible with our cheapest entry-level 91.

This is due to our particularly poor fuel quality standards, which look set to clean up if our fuel refineries get an upgrade in 2024.

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.


Volkswagen Tiguan8/10

Given that so much is similar across the Tiguan range in terms of its spec and fitment, which variant you choose primarily influences the experience behind the wheel.

It’s a shame, for example, that the entry-level 110 TSI hasn’t been tweaked for this facelift, as our gripes with this variant still stand.

The 1.4-litre turbo is efficient and reasonably punchy for its size, but has an annoying power lull when it comes to a stop which can work with the dual-clutch to make for some laggy, glitchy moments.

Where the base car shines, though, is its ride. Like the Golf below it, the 110 TSI Life strikes a fine balance between ride quality and comfort, proving to insulate the cabin well from bumps and road impurities, while giving it enough driver engagement in the corners to feel a little like a giant hatch.

If you want to read more about the 110 Life, we have a variant review of the new one here.

We weren’t able to test the mid-grade Elegance, nor did we sample the 147 TDI diesel for this test, but we did have a chance to drive the top-spec 162 TSI R-Line.

Straight away it’s evident there's a strong case for paying the extra for more grunt. This engine is excellent in terms of the power on offer, and the way it's delivered.

The big boost in these raw figures helps it deal with the extra weight of an all-wheel drive system, and the extra low-down torque makes it an even better match for the snappy dual-clutch automatic.

This has the effect of removing most of the annoying jerky moments from stop-start traffic, while allowing the driver to make the most of the benefits of the instantaneous dual-clutch shifts when accelerating in a straight line.

The all-wheel drive system, more aggressive tyres, and a sharper steering tune in the R-Line make it an absolute pleasure to turn into corners at speed, offering a handling prowess that betrays its shape and relative heft.

Certainly then, there’s something to be said for splashing out on the larger engine, but the R-Line isn’t without its downsides.

The huge wheels conspire to make the ride a tad harsh when bouncing off suburban road imperfections, so if you’re primarily plodding around town and not seeking thrills on the weekend it may be worth considering the Elegance with its smaller 19-inch alloys.

Stay tuned for a future variant review with driving impressions for the 147 TDI, and of course the Allspace and full-fat R when they become available next year.

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.


Volkswagen Tiguan8/10

Great news here. For this update, the entire VW safety suite (now branded 'IQ Drive') is available even on the base Life 110 TSI.

Included is freeway-speed auto emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian detection, lane keep assist with lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control with stop and go function, driver attention alert, as well as front and rear parking sensors.

The Tiguan will carry across its maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating as awarded in 2016. The Tiguan has a total of seven airbags (the standard six plus a driver’s knee) and the expected stability, traction, and brake controls.

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!


Volkswagen Tiguan8/10

Volkswagen continues with a competitive five year/unlimited kilometre warranty, the industry standard when it comes to its primarily Japanese rivals.

It will have more of a fight on its hands when Kia’s next-generation Sportage finally arrives.

Servicing is covered by a capped price program, but the best way to keep the cost down is to purchase the pre-paid service packs which cover you for three years at $1200, or five years at $2400, regardless of variant.

Doing so brings the cost down to very competitive levels, although not to the absurd lows of Toyota.