We love a Subaru estate. The Japanese brand is planning a new one, so you don’t need to ask why we’ve been scouting the classifieds. For almost 30 years the Legacy, and later the higher-riding Outback, have been the weapons of choice for the savvy buyer who wanted genuine rugged dependability, lots of equipment and plenty of space. And now they’re bargains.
They were originally sold in the same showrooms as farm equipment, and countryside types really bought into the concept. Fuel economy is irrelevant when a car spends most of its life doing less than 20mph on farm tracks. No-frills all-weather solidity is what you need, and that’s what an all-wheel drive Subaru estate gives you that almost no rival does.
Admittedly, by 2004 and the arrival of the stylish fourth-generation car, the Legacy had plenty of frills to speak of as well. Heated, electrically-adjustable front seats, leather, sat-nav, climate control and cruise control were all features of the higher trim grades. Back then that was almost luxury car levels of spec.
There was even a Spec B model, where the B stood for Bilstein after the bespoke dampers it used. It also added a limited-slip differential at the rear and combined the 3.0-litre flat-six petrol engine, known as the H6, with a manual gearbox for the first time. Other Legacy power options were initially limited to 2.0- and 2.5-litre petrols, until a new 2.0 came along to replace both (while the Outback stuck to the old duo). A diesel joined the ranks after the 2007 upgrades. All were horizontally-opposed boxer engines, and all were pretty reliable.
They’re even good to drive, especially the Legacy, on its lower springs. The caveat with the petrols is fuel economy and, in the UK, road tax. Both will sting your wallet, with 25mpg a realistic best average for the 2.5 and 3.0. At least the pre-March 2006 petrol models are currently capped to £305 per year in VED.
There are loads to choose from in the classifieds, especially if you look at Outbacks as well. Focusing just on the Legacy there are pages and pages to sift through, from £200 ‘spares or repairs’ projects to £8000 late-model minters with low mileage, but the richest pickings are among early fourth-gen cars with over 100,000 miles. There are mountains of them around, so it’s a buyer’s market.
We found this one on eBay, and what more could you ask for for your money? It’s a 162bhp 2.5-litre SE model in beautiful dark blue, registered in December 2004 and having covered 128,000 miles since then. It’s loaded with climate control, cruise, leather upholstery, heated, electric front seats and a sunroof. This automatic cruiser even has a CD player, if, like us, you still have a rack of those lying around.
The interior is in smashing fettle, aside from the usual wear on the outside bolsters of the driving seat. The rear seats look untouched and the boot has vacuumed up nicely. A few bits and pieces just need cleaning up.
It’s less good on the outside, with plenty of larger scratches and marks visible. Still, you could smarten it up over time if you liked. There’s also a wheel centre cap missing, but that’s a cheap one to sort out.
There’s a bit of money and/or time to be spent underneath, which is probably why this car is suspiciously cheap, at just £1295. Its latest MOT shows a leaking exhaust, a damaged left-side mirror, play in various parts of both rear anti-roll bars and a corroded brake pipe. Having had one of those blow mid-thrash on my old Honda S2000, I can tell you you’ll want to get that changed pronto.
Otherwise, you’re looking at a rugged, good-looking and well-equipped estate car with lots of room for mates and road trip luggage, and all for not far beyond £1000. The engine should run and run with proper maintenance, so it’s a tempting project for someone.