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Volkswagen Golf


Subaru Outback

Summary

Volkswagen Golf

The Volkswagen Golf. More than 33 million produced over 40 years and seven generations. It's not quite more popular than blue jeans, or the iPhone, but it's close. 

Actually, make that seven and a half generations, because this is Golf 7.5; as the name implies, a substantial mid-life upgrade of the current model.

VW claims more than 200,000 Golfs have been sold in Australia over the last 15 years, but the small-car premier league is currently led by the Hyundai i30, Mazda3 and Toyota's evergreen Corolla.

Despite its global heavy-hitter reputation, Golf battles with a group of tier-two contenders in the shape of the Honda Civic, Kia Cerato, and Subaru Impreza.

So, to raise the stakes and, it's hoping, sales, VW has injected new life into its hugely respected marquee player with a range of design tweaks and tech upgrades.

Safety rating
Engine Type1.4L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency5.2L/100km
Seating5 seats

Subaru Outback

It’s hard to think how Subaru could improve the popularity of the Outback. The current-generation model is easily the most successful version ever - but, as sure as dessert follows dinner, it’s time for a mid-life update for the high-riding wagon.

And this is it: the Subaru Outback 2018 model, a facelifted and tweaked version of the Japanese SUV that has just launched in Australia.

While at first glance the changes appear to be fairly minor, let's go through it in detail and take a good look at what’s changed. 

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

Verdict

Volkswagen Golf8.3/10

The Golf 7.5 is a great package from top to bottom. Volkswagen has hit all the right marks to bring its already excellent offering up to the pointy end of the intensely competitive small-car segment. And we think the entry-point 110TSI offers the best value of all. With high-end safety tech, amazing dynamics, a snappy drivetrain and sharp (introductory) drive-away pricing it will give the market leaders something to think about. And buyers as well.

Has Volkswagen done enough with this upgrade to put the Golf on your small car shopping list? Tell us what you think in the comments below.


Subaru Outback7.9/10

Subaru may not have really needed to make all these changes to its popular Outback model, but they sure have been worthwhile. 

In particular, in 2.5i Premium guise, this is a much improved model. It’ll be sure to attract plenty of SUV shoppers.

Do you like what the Subaru Outback offers in a segment full of mid-size SUV competitors? Let us know in the comments below.

Design

Volkswagen Golf8/10

Unveiled late last year at the Paris Motor Show, the new Golf is available in three flavours – the familiar hatch, and a compact wagon, with the latter forming the basis of an all-wheel-drive, Alltrack variant.

From a design point of view you'll be hard-pressed to pick the Golf 7.5, with exterior changes focused on new headlights, revised front guards, and a restyled bumper. Think of it as an almost unnoticeable haircut.

At the back, the bumper has also been refreshed, and LED tail-lights are now standard across the range.

The wagon is a handsome alternative to the ubiquitous compact SUV, with the lines of the roof and glasshouse (identical to the hatch from nose to C-pillar) flowing seamlessly into a gently tapering and neatly composed rear end.

Inside, there's a new 8.0-inch multimedia screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support standard on all models (as well as a 'Mirror Link' function for full Wi-Fi connection of tablet or mobile devices).

It's surprising how much of a difference the sleek new screen makes to the interior. Suddenly, the Golf's already premium character has been lifted to a different level.

The cool and classy cabin layout is otherwise largely unchanged, highlighted with dark accents on the volume models, and 'piano black' inserts on the Highline. The quality and attention to design detail are obvious.


Subaru Outback9/10

It was already pretty attractive, and the minor changes made to the 2018 Subaru Outback - in my view - make it even more so.

There have been plenty of subtle adjustments to the exterior styling, including a new grille, new bumpers, new headlights - including adaptive LEDs and auto high-beam on high-spec models like this one - and there are redesigned wing mirrors that help cut wind noise.

There are new alloy wheel designs for all models - the base model 2.0D retains its bump-friendly 17-inch wheels, while the rest of the trim levels have 18-inch rims. All models have those signature roof rails which will allow for a roof rack set-up, and of course the accessories catalogue includes things like bike racks, too. 

The high-spec models in Australia keep the wheel-arch cladding, while the lower-spec models miss out. An interesting tidbit - all US models miss out on the cladding.

Because the Outback isn’t a sporty model, there is no conventional body kit or chrome exhaust tips, but I guess you could consider the underbody protection, lower sill side skirts and hatch-mounted rear spoiler to be a bit sporty…?

Plus there are new colours (or colors, depending on where you’re reading this) available - 'Crimson Red Pearl' and 'Wilderness Green Metallic' - which join the existing 'Crystal Black', 'Tungsten' (which almost looks gold in some lights), 'Ice Silver', 'Dark Blue', 'Dark Grey', 'Crystal White', 'Lapis Blue', 'Platinum Grey', and 'Oak Brown'. There’s no bright orange like the XV, though. A nice bonus for buyers is that none of the paint finishes cost extra. 

Helping differentiate the higher-spec models are redesigned LED headlights in the Outback 2.5i Premium, 3.6R and 2.0D Premium, and they are integrated with 'Steering Responsive Headlights' (SRH) and the 'Adaptive Driving Beam' (ADB) functions. So, the beam will move with the steering wheel, and they’ll dip for oncoming traffic, too.

Nothing has changed in terms of interior dimensions or size, and you can see from our interior photos there have been some changes - the top-spec models still get leather, but the range now sees a few material changes here and there. Read on for more detail.

Practicality

Volkswagen Golf8/10

At just under 4.3 metres long the Golf hatch is small, but by no means cramped. There's tonnes of room and storage space up front with two cupholders, door pockets with bottle holders, and plenty of oddments space including a decent glovebox and a lidded bin between the seats.

All but the entry model pick-up another pair of cupholders in the rear, with adjustable air conditioning vents and flow control in the back of the front centre console, too.

Speaking of the back, there's heaps of room in there. I'm 183cm tall, and sitting behind my own driving position, I enjoyed surprisingly generous head and legroom.

Volkswagen claims 380 litres of cargo volume with the 60/40 split folding rear seats up, and a generous 1270 litres with them tipped forward.

Pushing towards 4.6 metres in length, the Golf wagon only nudges up 15mm in the wheelbase, so passenger accommodation is virtually identical to the hatch. And not surprisingly, it's in the luggage department where things start to diverge.

Even with the 60/40 split folding rear seats up the wagon boasts a hefty 605 litres of load space, growing to a cavernous 1620 litres with the second-row seats folded.


Subaru Outback9/10

Across the Outback line-up there are some changes to materials used, including some piano black finishes here and there, and extra stitching as well. I’m a big fan of the new climate control knobs, which have little digital displays in them, a bit like an Audi. 

There’s a new, brighter, and more impressive looking media system, which measures 8.0 inches in the top variants, while the entry-grade models have a 6.5-inch screen. 

The high-spec versions with the 8.0-inch screen get built-in sat nav, but all models now come with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto - and the media unit is a really impressive system to use, even though the old one wasn’t all that bad.

There is Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, plus two USB ports for connecting/charging devices. 

The back seat has been improved, too, with a pair of USB ports added there as well. And the essentials are all covered - you will find a cup holder or two in the front (between the front seats) and the back (in a fold-down armrest), and bottle holders in all four doors.

  

As for space, there’s enough toe, leg and headroom for 183cm (six-foot) adults like me, and if you have small children the dual ISOFIX points and three top tether points will be handy. If you’re a shorter driver, if your seat is a long way forward, you may wish for a seat belt extender - but there isn’t one.

A lot of buyers choose the Outback because its wagon body offers a more family-friendly storage size than some of its rival SUVs, which cost as much (or more) but have smaller boots. The Outback’s boot dimensions allow for 512 litres of boot space (VDA) with the seats up and 1801L of luggage capacity with the seats down - is a super practical option for mums and dads. 

 

Plus, if you actually plan to venture to the outback you will appreciate the full-size alloy spare wheel under the boot floor. Sales reps might like to invest in a cargo barrier (there are two types available from Subaru) or boot liner, and there’s a cargo / tonneau cover included.  

So the cabin is very family-friendly - but on the whole, the Outback is pretty friendly on the wallet, too.

Price and features

Volkswagen Golf8/10

Headline news is an aggressive introductory drive-away pricing strategy, designed to challenge the traditionally cheaper segment leaders, with the standard features list growing appreciably at the same time.

The previous entry-level 92TSI hatch has departed the building, with pricing now set across an $18.5k band from $23,990 drive-away (MSRP $23,990) for the 110TSI, to the all-wheel-drive Alltrack 135TDI Premium at $42,490 drive-away (MSRP $40,990).

The hatch offers a choice of four grades - base, Trendline, Comfortline, and Highline - with the current 1.4-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine powering all of them. A 2.0-litre turbo-diesel 110TDI version is available in the top-shelf Highline spec.

For that shrinking pool of people familiar with three pedals across the driver's footwell, a six-speed manual gearbox is available in the base and Trendline models, with Volkswagen's excellent 'DSG' dual-clutch auto offered across the line-up.

The wagon range comprises the top three grades, with diesel again an option on the primo Highline. The DSG dual-clutch is the only transmission available.

The Alltrack is a two-grade affair – base and Premium - with the choice of a 1.8-litre turbo-petrol, or higher output 2.0-litre turbo-diesel, with any gearbox you like, as long as it's a DSG (six-speed for the petrol, and seven for the diesel).

The entry-level 110TSI hatch is anything but a 'bait and switch' price-leader. It's loaded with everything from cruise control (with speed limit function) to seven airbags and driver-fatigue detection.

In fact, on top of the new multimedia screen and its connected functionality, all Golfs are now also fitted with auto emergency braking (AEB), alloy wheels (of various sizes), air-con, a leather-trimmed steering wheel, LED daytime running lights, and a rear-view camera as standard.

Step into to the Trendline from $25,490 drive-away (MSRP $24,990), and things like rain-sensing wipers, auto headlights, parking sensors, different 16-inch alloys, and a rear centre armrest (with cupholders) come your way.

Then the Comfortline from $29,990 drive-away (MSRP $28,990) adds 17-inch rims, dual-zone climate control air, 'Comfort' front seats, chrome interior and exterior highlights (including the wagon's roof rails), and a storage drawer under the front passenger seat.

Stump up for the Highline from $35,990 (MSRP $34,490) and the fruit starts to tumble in, with the highlights including 'leather-appointed' trim, 'Comfort Sport' front seats with electric adjustment and memory function for the driver, keyless entry and start, interior ambient lighting, LED headlights and a panoramic electric glass sunroof.

Three option packs are offered – 'Infotainment' ($2300), available on Comfortline and Highline, brings the excellent 'Active Info' configurable instrument display. It also adds 'Discover Pro' multimedia, delivered through a larger 9.2-inch screen, managing sat nav and other functions via gesture, touch, and voice control, as well as a top-shelf Dynaudio sound system.

'Park Assist', taking over the wheel for perpendicular or parallel parking manoeuvrers, is the star of the 'Driver Assistance' package ($1500), and the R-Line pack ($2500) brings the look, and some of the feel, of the GTI and Golf R, with a bodykit, bigger rims, and tuned suspension.

The entry-level Alltrack 132TSI at $35,990 drive-away (MSRP $34,490) is close to the hatch and wagon's Highline spec, although you'll need to opt for the flagship Premium version from $39,990 (MSRP $38,490) to pick up the partial leather trim, heated front seats and LED headlights.

Alltrack option packs are 'Driver Assistance' ($1800), 'Infotainment' ($2300), and 'Sport Luxury' ($2900), which includes 18-inch alloys, the electric seat adjustment, panoramic roof, and more.


Subaru Outback7/10

How much does a Subaru Outback cost? Well, that depends on the variant and the drivetrain. But here’s a guide, a sort of price list because the range spans quite a large bracket. The prices below are all before on-road costs (rrp), not drive away - you might find deals on the company’s site, or at your friendly Subaru dealer. 

There are five variants in the range, so let’s compare models from the bottom to the top.

Opening the line-up is the 2.5i, which is priced from $36,240, and the list of included equipment is extensive. There’s Subaru’s 'EyeSight' driver assist system with adaptive cruise control and auto emergency braking (AEB) (plus a lot more - see the safety section below), a reversing camera, the brand’s 'X-Mode' traction control system, and dual-zone climate control air conditioning with rear vents.

There are rain-sensing wipers, auto headlights (halogen - not even projector beam, HID or xenon - not great if you do a lot of night driving) with daytime running lights, front fog-lights, rear window tint and an electric park brake.

The exterior has a small spoiler on the tailgate, roof rails in black, silver underbody protection and 18-inch wheels. 

If you want a bit more kit for your money, then you might want to opt for the 2.5i Premium, which starts at $42,640, and aside from wheelarch cladding, most of the changes are inside.

You get inclusions such as electric front seat adjustment, heated front seats (but no heated steering wheel, unlike our friends in the US), a sunroof (not a panoramic sunroof, just a regular front-seat-benefit-only one), powered and heated side mirrors, keyless entry with push button start, and leather seats.

You also step up to LED headlights (including auto high-beam and steering responsive light) in this spec, and you get a powered tailgate.

As with the four-cylinder boxer petrol models, there are two derivatives of the four-cylinder diesel to pick from.

The more affordable version is the 2.0D available with a CVT auto at $38,740. You used to be able to buy an Outback diesel with a manual transmission, but that version has been dropped due to low demand. 

The Outback 2.0D is the only variant that rides on 17-inch wheels (an inch smaller than the rest), but otherwise it almost mirrors the spec of the 2.5i.

Then there’s the 2.0D Premium, which is automatic only, and has a list price of $45,640. It largely mirrors the 2.5i Premium spec.

The flagship model is 3.6R, which has a list price of $49,140.

It is definitely the most premium package of this bunch. Its sound system is upgraded with 12 harman/kardon speakers plus a subwoofer and amp, as well as model-distinct styling elements such as a chrome side-sill garnish and silver roof rails. The 3.6R also gets a three-mode 'SI-Drive' drive mode selector, where other petrol variants get a two-mode set-up.

In terms of infotainment, there is a 6.5-inch multimedia screen in the lower grades (2.0D and 2.5i), while the 8.0-inch touch screen in the Premium versions and the 3.6R includes a built in GPS / navigation system.

But buyers of the base models shouldn’t fear - every Outback comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, meaning you can use your iPhone or other smartphone as a sat nav system. 

There’s Bluetooth phone and audio streaming for MP3 playback, a CD player (not a CD changer, though), and the new media system has NFC connection, so you don't even need to go through the pairing process with a suitable phone. 

Of course there is AM/FM radio, but DAB radio (digital) isn’t fitted and there is no DVD player. And as advanced as the media unit is, there’s no Homelink app to open your garage smart door. 

There’s a detailed trip computer with digital speed read-out in all models, and every version comes with a sunglass holder in the headlining. And because there are dual USB ports in the back of every model, there’s no need for a rear seat entertainment system - the kids can BYO.

In addition to the standard features, there are plenty of options on Subaru’s Outback accessories list, including a range of luggage pods, protective film for the paint, and bike and kayak holders.

If you were hoping for a nudge bar, bull bar or snorkel, you’ll have to shop around elsewhere: just make sure those items don’t void your warranty, and are airbag compliant. 

Surprisingly, you only get floor mats from the accessories catalogue - they’re not standard in any model - and we recommend the boot-lip and bumper protector if you use the boot a lot.

How many seats in the Outback? Simple - five! There is no third row, which could rule out this model for some buyers - maybe take a look at the similarly-sized Nissan X-Trail or Mitsubishi Outlander.

Engine & trans

Volkswagen Golf8/10

The Golf hatch and wagon range is in large part powered by the EA211 1.4-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine, a stalwart of the Australian Golf range since the seventh-generation version arrived here in 2013.

Featuring 16 valves, direct-injection, and a single turbocharger, in Golf 7.5 guise it produces 110kW from 5000-6000rpm, and 250Nm across a broad plateau from just 1500-3500rpm.

Base and Trendline models are available with a six-speed manual, while VW's excellent (and ever-improving) 'DSG' dual-clutch auto spans the line-up.

If diesel's more your thing, a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged unit is available on the Highline model, producing an identical 110kW at 3500-4000rpm, with torque stepping up to 340Nm from 1750-3000rpm.

The diesel's a manual-free zone, with the seven-speed DSG the only option, but no matter what type of transmission you choose, drive goes exclusively to the front wheels.

Climbing (modest) mountains and fording (gentle) streams is the Alltrack's department, with power coming courtesy of a 1.8-litre turbo-petrol four, delivering 132kW from 4500-6200rpm and 280Nm from 1350-4500rpm.

Alternately, a higher output version of the 2.0-litre turbo-diesel four is an option on the high-spec Alltrack Premium, delivering 135kW from 3500-4000rpm, and an even gruntier 380Nm, the peak arriving at 1750rpm and hanging around until 3000rpm.

Petrol Alltracks are fitted with a six-speed dual clutch auto, while the diesel features an extra ratio, both sending drive to all four wheels via the '4Motion' permanent all-wheel drive system.

Built around an electronically-controlled multi-plate clutch pack, 4Motion uses an ECU integrated with the car's ESC set-up to continuously vary the torque split between front and rear axles.


Subaru Outback7/10

As mentioned above, there are three options to choose from in the Outback range - two petrols, and a diesel. Horsepower outputs of all three engines remain the same as they were before - but there’s still no turbo petrol motor. 

The entry-level 2.5-litre four-cylinder ‘boxer’ horizontally-opposed engine produces 129kW of power and 235Nm of torque. It can only be had with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) automatic transmission, which has a seven-speed manual mode.

The 2.5-litre drivetrain have been tweaked for better response and economy, and the CVT auto has seen some changes, too. 

At the top of the range (and with the biggest engine size) is the single 3.6R model, with - you guessed it - a 3.6-litre horizontally-opposed six-cylinder as in the Liberty, which still has 191kW of power and 350Nm of torque. It only comes with a CVT.

Models bearing the 2.0D suffix are powered by a 2.0-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder boxer engine with 110kW of power and 350Nm of torque. There used to be a six-speed manual transmission, but not anymore - so if you’re still going through the manual vs automatic argument in your head, you might have to seek out a pre-facelift manual version. 

The 2.0D models have a diesel particulate filter, and anecdotally I’ve read a few things about diesel engine problems as a result - but nothing to lose sleep over. 

You may have heard about older Subarus and some expensive major services and thought to yourself, “I wonder if the 2018 Outback has a timing belt or chain?” Then you’ll be happy to learn it has a chain, which never needs to be replaced … but items like the battery will still need the occasional replacement. If you’re quite a hands-on owner, you’ll be able to find out the oil type and capacity in the owner’s manual.  

Every Outback is all-wheel drive, where some other SUVs against which it will compete have cheaper front-wheel drive options. But, obviously, the AWD system of the Outback is an advantage - it mightn’t be as hardcore as a proper 4x4 or 4WD, but it can handle more than you’d think. 

At this point in time, there is no LPG, plug-in hybrid or EV version of the Outback, so it’ll boil down to diesel vs petrol. 

When it comes to towing capacity, the load hauling ability of each of the Outback models is relatively low.

Fit a tow bar to your Outback 2.5i model and you will be limited to pulling a 1500kg trailer with brakes, while the carrying limit for the 2.0D model is 1700kg, leaving the 3.6R as the best bet, with 1800kg of capacity.  All models have a 750kg limit for un-braked trailers. 

The gross vehicle weight / tare mass depends on the variant: the 2.5i is 1557kg, the 2.5i Premium is 1588kg, where the 3.6R tips the scales at 1662kg. The 2.0D weighs 1645kg, where the better-equipped 2.0D Premium is 1684kg.

Fuel consumption

Volkswagen Golf8/10

Gone are the days where a manual gearbox would outperform an auto transmission in the battle of the bowser.

Volkswagen claims the base (petrol, manual) Golf will consume 5.7L/100km on the combined (urban/extra urban) cycle, emitting 133g/km of CO2 in the process.

But swap out the manual for a dual-clutch, and that figure drops to 5.4L/100km for the hatch (128g/km) and 5.6 for the wagon (131g/km).

Tick the diesel option for the top-shelf Highline and your wallet will be even happier; the hatch consuming just 4.9L/100km (129g/km), and the wagon a round 5.0 (132g/km).

Step up to the Alltrack petrol and you're looking at 6.8L/100km (160g/km), with the high-output diesel sipping only 5.4 (142g/km).

The fuel tank in the hatch and wagon holds 50 litres, while the Alltrack's grows to 55 litres. And it's worth noting the petrol units are tuned for minimum 95RON premium unleaded.


Subaru Outback8/10

Fuel economy, fuel consumption figures - no matter which way you want to address it, there’s one Outback that’s better than the others for mileage - it’s the diesel. 

The Outback 2.0D is claimed to use 6.3L/100km. If you do a lot of highway distance, this is the one for you - it isn’t unusual to sit below the 6.0L/100km mark in such situations.

The 2.5i petrol model uses 7.3 litres per 100 kilometres. The changes made to the engine and transmission haven’t affected its claimed consumption, and during our time in this spec model we saw 8.0L/100km. 

The 3.6R six-cylinder version has a claimed consumption figure of 9.9L/100km, and you can expect to see around that 10.0L/100km mark in most situations.

And if you’re concerned about long-distance driving, every Outback has a fuel tank capacity of 60 litres. A decent size, but you’ll need to go for the diesel if you want the most out of it. 

Driving

Volkswagen Golf9/10

The overriding, almost overwhelming first impression in driving any recent Golf is the outstanding ride quality. You'd swear the wheelbase was half as long again, because it rides like a larger, luxury car.

Even the entry-level vehicle is quiet, comfortable, and refined. Steering feel is great, and the petrol 1.4 is smooth and eager; there's simply no way you'd pick it as a turbo.

Volkswagen claims 8.2 seconds for the sprint from 0-100km/h for the base car, whether you're shifting the gears yourself or the tricky dual-clutch is doing it for you.

That's pretty much the Goldilocks performance zone for a car that's likely to do most of its work in the urban jungle, yet needs to  retain the ability to confidently stride out onto the open road when required.

The diesel version is only fractionally slower to licence-loss velocity (8.6sec), and while it doesn't feel as revvy and urgent, it packs a satisfying punch of mid-range torque. It is definitely and noticeably noisier, though.

As usual, the Golf is a model of ergonomic efficiency, with the new multimedia screen enhancing ease of use and connectivity, the seats front and rear are comfortable yet supportive, and you're spoiled for choice between the sweet six-speed manual and rapid-fire DSG (with wheel-mounted paddles on upper variants).

The wagon employs the same strut front, four-link rear suspension arrangement as the hatch, and despite its extra length and interior volume it gives nothing away in terms of noise suppression or general refinement.

Moving up the spec pecking order from 16-, through 17-, to optional 18-inch alloy wheels does nothing to compromise overall composure;, body control is exceptional, and the brakes are agreeably progressive.

Response from the Alltrack's more powerful engines is partially offset by an increase in kerb weight (petrol +165kg / diesel +101kg), with the 1.8-litre petrol and high-output 2.0-litre diesel both recording 7.8sec 0-100km/h. But despite its more macho appearance and SUV-focused rubber, the Alltrack is an equally refined drive.


Subaru Outback8/10

As is the case with the 2018 Liberty, the 2018 Outback has seen quite a few changes made to the way the car drives, too, and the most noticeable is the transmission in the petrol four-cylinder model. 

The 2.5i variants are the biggest-selling versions, accounting for three-quarters of sales, and as such it’s no surprise that this drivetrain has seen the most attention from the company - in fact, the diesel and six-cylinder versions are unchanged in terms of their powertrains.

The 2.5i’s engine has been tweaked for better response and economy, and the CVT auto has been adjusted for quicker response. And in regular driving, the powertrain is much improved.

There is better response when you put your foot down suddenly, and it also feels more like a ‘regular’ transmission than a CVT, with the ‘steps’ as you gather speed a little more noticeable.

That said, it isn’t a powerhouse engine - you won’t struggle up hills or anything, but there is no denying the gruntier six-cylinder is more rewarding to drive, and more effortless. 

Still, if 0-100km/h times, speed and acceleration really matter to you, the 2.5i is claimed at 9.9 seconds, and so is the 2.0D. The 3.6R can do the jump to highway speed in 7.6sec, according to Subaru. Told you it was rapid!

It is slightly quieter than we remember the existing version of the Outback 2.5i to be, so when you do call on the drivetrain (namely the CVT) to rev out a bit, you’re not deafened by it. There is little to complain about in terms of road noise or cabin noise, too. 

Subaru says the brakes have also been improved with better pedal feel, and they do offer better confidence to the driver than before.

The car has a lot of great safety equipment which can assist with the drive experience, including the adaptive cruise control system that uses cameras rather than a radar. 

But it includes a few things that might frustrate you, such as the fact the system beeps whenever a car is detected in front of you - that’s unnecessary - and also the cruise control can exhibit quite a bit of variance: so, say you set the cruise at 100km/h, you might find the car doing as little as 91km/h, or as much as 110km/h. I’m not making that up - I experienced those exact speeds when set on 100km/h - it could be a real concern if you live in a state like Victoria where speeding tolerance is quite low.  

All that said, the  pedestrian and collision warnings work well (I had a dumb pedestrian run in front of me on a busy road, and the car warned me and cautiously braked, too), as does lane watching system, which will tell you if you’re zig-zagging.

In fact, the electric power steering has been tweaked for more linear response and it is generally a little better at higher speeds, though the difference around town is hardly noticeable. The turning radius is 5.5m, meaning the minimum turning circle is 11.0m.

Furthermore, the suspension in all Outbacks has been tweaked a little as well, with the aim of reducing the ‘push-up’ from the road - that should help it ride better and handle better, according to Subaru. And it does, but the Outback was already impressive in its road manners, and the changes don’t seem to have meddled with that too much because it still copes with pockmarks and potholes very well at high speeds and in urban areas.

Now, to the Outback’s off road capabilities. And while this review isn’t specifically focused on the rough stuff, I can assure you the Outback offers better ability than many competitor SUVs.

For you hardcore off-road readers, here are some numbers to digest: 213 (ground clearance mm); 18.4 (approach angle degrees); 22.7 (departure angle degrees). And it manages that without air suspension - it has MacPherson-type front suspension and double-wishbone rear suspension. 

Subaru doesn’t boast a particular wading depth ability, but I wouldn’t go fording the Murrumbidgee after a storm in it.

Being all-wheel drive - not 4x4 or 4WD, but a symmetrical AWD system with X-Mode, which encompasses hill descent control and hill holder assist, and an electronically-controlled limited slip differential lock (no manual diff lock) - the Outback ensures good traction when you’re hitting the ol’ dusty trail. 

It’ll climb further than you expect, and with a better set of tyres I get the feeling it could be surprisingly capable.

The suspension performance is good, too, dealing with dirt-road bumps commendably, and the torque-vectoring system ensures there’s power where it needs to be.

Safety

Volkswagen Golf9/10

Golfs of all descriptions incorporate an impressive array of standard safety tech, including active features like cruise control (with programmable speed limiter), distance warning display, driver fatigue detection, AEB, ABS, EBD, BA, EDL, multi-collision brake, ASR, tyre-pressure indicator, and a rear-view camera.

And when all that isn't enough to avoid a collision, no less than seven airbags are on board (driver and front passenger head and side, driver's knee and front and rear curtain).

There are three child-restraint top tether points across the back seat, with ISOFIX anchors on the two outer positions.

As well as the previously mentioned auto-parking feature, the optional driver assistance package includes adaptive cruise control, lane assist, blind spot monitor, and rear traffic alert.

Although the 7.5 upgrade hasn't been specifically tested by ANCAP, the current Golf scored a maximum five-star rating when it was assessed at launch in early 2013.


Subaru Outback9/10

The Outback is a great choice for mums and dads - it’s packed with safety features. The facelifted model carries over the 2015 ANCAP crash test safety rating - maximum five stars for all models. 

Of course there is electronic stability program (ESP) on everything, and the entire range has Subaru’s 'EyeSight' safety kit, which uses a pair of cameras mounted on the windscreen to monitor the road ahead, and can warn the driver of pedestrians or cars, braking the car if it needs to - now up to a 50km/h speed differential, where it used to be 30km/h.

On top of that, there is, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control with brake light recognition and a system that’ll tell you when the car in front has moved away from you (great for parents who have their eyes on the kids).

Blind spot monitor / lane change assist and rear cross traffic alert is fitted to the top models (2.5i Premium, 2.0D Premium and 3.6R), while there’s also a forward-view camera and side-view camera, as well as auto high-beam lights. 

While there is a reverse camera, there are a couple of notable omissions - no model comes with parking sensors or automated park assist, and while the smaller Impreza and XV models have been updated with a reverse auto-braking system with obstacle detection, the Outback didn’t get that as part of the update.

The Outback has dual ISOFIX child seat anchor points if you need to fit a baby car seat, and three top-tether hooks as well. Plus there are seven airbags (dual front, front side, curtain and driver’s knee). 

Where are Subaru Outbacks built? For the Australian market, they’re made in Ōta, Japan. For North America, they come out of Lafayette, Indiana.

Ownership

Volkswagen Golf8/10

Volkswagen Australia's new-vehicle warranty covers three years/unlimited km, with paint covered for the same period, and the main steel body structure is under warranty for no less than 12 years (unlimited km).

Recommended service interval is 12 months/15,000km, with indicative costs for the first five years/75,000km ranging from a low of $318, to a high of $751, for a total of $2276, and an average of $455 per service.


Subaru Outback6/10

The Subaru warranty program doesn’t set any benchmarks, spanning three years/unlimited kilometres. There is the option of an extended warranty for five years/unlimited kilometres, and the terms of that plan are set out in the owner’s manual. 

Service costs and maintenance for the Outback depend on the drivetrain you choose. 

The 3.6R model requires a check-up at 5000km that will cost you just over $250, where the 2.5i and 2.0D variants don’t need that. After that, servicing is due every six months or 12,500km, which is quite frequent by modern-day standards - especially for cars that don’t have turbochargers. 

The capped price servicing costs aren’t overly tempting, either, with the brand’s capped-price coverage - three years/75,000km - costing you $2281.66 if you buy the 2.5i, $2519.84 for the 2.0D, and $2711.42 for the 3.6R. Some luxury European cars cost less. Like, a lot less.

Resale value for Outback models is typically quite good, with key advantages over competitor mid-size SUVs like more rear legroom and a full size spare tyre adding to the used-car value equation. 

We don’t issue a reliability rating, but if you’re curious about complaints, common problems, issues and faults with Subaru Outback models or specific components (automatic transmission problems, gearbox and clutch problems for the existing model, or CVT transmission issues), check out our problems page.