31 July 2006

(Just) Give Me Liberty

Test Vehicle:

Liberty 2.0R Sat-Nav special
2.0 litre DOHC (horizontally opposed four cylinder)
5-speed manual with Symmetrical All-Wheel-Drive
$32,490 as tested

Subaru has re-introduced the entry level Liberty with uprated features and equipment in the hope that it will attract buyers back to this value sedan.

After an absence from the model range for nearly twelve months, little Liberty is back with a vengeance. Previously powered by a basic SOHC 2.0 litre, the new model now uses the upgraded DOHC powerplant with variable valve-timing that’s more emission-friendly and kicks out nearly 30kW more. Styling is in keeping with its elite siblings, the 2.5, 3.0R and GT.

It’s no surprise that new car buyers are rethinking their next purchase. With the spiralling cost of fuel, dealers are reporting purchasers much more interested in frugal motoring without sacrificing comfort and performance. The new Liberty 2.0R satisfies the economy conscious with fuel consumption figures comfortably under 10 litres per 100kms for careful drivers, but those with a heavier foot may find they’re using closer to 12 if they succumb to the Liberty’s sporty urges. The requirement for premium ULP however is not necessarily on the list of selling points.

Our test vehicle employed the 5-speed manual transmission. Tight and definite, the gearbox was perfectly matched to the Liberty’s newly refined engine and power delivery. The 4-speed auto (not tested) provides pseudo-manual Sportshift but is unlikely to deliver better fuel consumption than a well-driven manual. At a cost impost of $2000, Subaru may find the manual a hotter than expected seller.

Inside the cockpit, driver and passenger comfort are well considered, even if the rear seat passenger space is a little restricted. Cloth-trimmed front seats are snug and embracing with a firm, comfortable feel that makes long hours in the saddle pleasant. My dicky back welcomed the confident side restraints and meant I wasn’t squirming in pain every few minutes. There is a lack of reach adjustment in the steering column, but is compensated somewhat by a highly adjustable driver’s seat.

The dash is clean and unintimidating with a clear, familiar and practical layout. Our test car was a limited edition model with the satellite navigation system that dominated the centrepiece. This piece of equipment is now finding it’s way into more and more regular vehicles and is no longer a high priced option at the lofty end of the range. At a premium of just $500, Subaru reckon this “door buster” might just reenergise the new Liberty. This feature is normally a $3000 add-on.

On the road, the 2.0R is every bit the sure-footed AWD sedan; the hallmark of Subaru across the entire model range. Excellent 4-wheel ventilated discs with ABS augment the performance handling and team superbly with a very high (ANCAP 5 stars) safety rating thanks to dual front, side and curtain airbags.

Standard fitments are anything but frugal. The balance of equipment includes five-spoke alloys with a full-size spare wheel; climate controlled air-conditioning; six-speaker CD sound system, leather steering wheel and gear shift; cruise control; dual exhausts; front fog lamps and DataDot technology as added theft deterrence.

In summary, the Liberty 2.0R is a highly creditable, good-looking car from an increasingly respected manufacturer that delivers safety, style and affordability.

Similar Vehicles: Honda Accord, Mazda6, Holden Vectra and Toyota Camry

We liked:

• Excellent occupant safety
• Potential for good economy
• Impeccable road manners
• Attractive styling
• Japanese build quality
• High security rating (93.5/120)

We weren’t so keen on:

• Tight rear seat for big adults
• Engine requires urging from low down
• Limited boot access from inside cabin
• Premium ULP requirement

Liberty at subaru.com.au

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