Subaru Liberty used car review

RACV RoyalAuto magazine

Its unique character endears the Subaru Liberty to owners, and as a used car it holds its value better than most.  

Written by Greg Hill.
April 2018.


Subaru Liberty may not be the top-selling medium-size family sedan, but a unique character endears it to owners, and on the used-car market it holds its value better than most.

At the end of 2014, Liberty underwent a substantial makeover as it moved into the sixth generation, with smarter styling, more cabin space, extra standard equipment and better safety credentials. At the same time, the wagon was dropped, leaving the high-riding Outback to fill that space for Subaru.

The most popular version on the used market is the well-equipped, leather-trimmed 2.5i Premium four-cylinder model, followed by the top-of-the-range 3.6R six-cylinder version. Even the base 2.5i has an extensive list of creature comforts and safety features. Liberty’s large touch-screen, along with an advanced infotainment system and speech recognition, adds to the appeal but it doesn’t have all the latest connectivity features. Subaru’s practice of annual upgrades means later versions will have more kit.

Plenty of room

Liberty’s generous body provides plenty of room in the front and adult-friendly rear-seat accommodation. Boot space is good, but limiting factors may be the narrow opening and the height from the floor to the parcel shelf. It has a full-size spare wheel.

The 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine, matched with a CVT automatic, isn’t the most technically sophisticated or sporty in the class but its output is well focused on everyday use.

The 3.6R six-cylinder model has noticeably stronger, very solid performance across the rev range, without being spectacular, and naturally it uses a bit more fuel. Subaru’s CVT is one of the best on the market because it feels more like a conventional automatic, yet it still tends to produce a distinctive CVT whine when pushed to the limit.


Appealing dynamics

One of Liberty’s most appealing aspects is its on-road dynamics. The outstanding grip of Subaru’s acclaimed all-wheel-drive system is complemented by a well-balanced, comfortable ride, while light, precise steering and good all-round visibility add to the driver’s sense of control.

Liberty’s handling inspires confidence, making it an enjoyable city drive and a relaxed tourer. The ride is, however, on the firm side, meaning an occasional thump over some bumps.

Liberty’s constant all-wheel drive is not intended for off-road expeditions but provides improved traction and safety for everyday use, particularly on wet, greasy surfaces and gravel roads. Tyre and road noise can be more noticeable than in some of its peers.

Excellent reputation

Generally speaking, the Japanese-built Liberty has an excellent reputation for quality and reliability. By this sixth generation, the problems that occasionally popped up in earlier models, such as head gasket leaks, excessive oil consumption and CV joint failures, appear to have been sorted out.

Mechanically, Liberty is a neat package, if a little unconventional. The flat, boxer-style engine and symmetrical all-wheel-drive system is not going to be familiar to all mechanics, so it’s best to find a Subaru specialist for major services and repairs. Running and repair costs are a little higher than average.

Recommended service intervals are six months or 12,500 kilometres. Like many modern engines, regular oil changes and the use of the correct oil is very important, as oil sludge can cause serious engine damage. In normal operation, Subaru engines tend to use oil, so checking the oil level between services is a good idea. An up-to-date service history is a valuable asset.

Before buying, a thorough inspection is always worthwhile, despite the excellent reputation. Look for signs of serious accident damage and poor-quality repairs. Check for cooling system leaks, and occasionally you will find minor oil leaks. Beware of mismatched tyres or uneven wear.

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