Subaru Outback 2.0D

SE Premium

Lineartronic

Subaru Outback, aerial action
Subaru Outback, front static
Subaru Outback, front action 2
Subaru Outback, side action
Subaru Outback, with dog
Subaru Outback, rear seats
Subaru Outback, dashboard
Subaru Outback, rear action
Subaru Outback, boot

DO people who drive a car with automatic gears have fewer crashes than those who like to master a gear-lever and clutch?

If they're behind the wheel of a Subaru Outback - the thinking vets' transport of choice - the answer appears to be 'yes'.

For choosing an otherwise identical Outback will cost you more to insure if it has a manual gearbox - and less (down from group 23 to group 19) if it comes with Subaru's CVT automatic transmission.

Both versions have near identical performance figures - the automatic a tiny bit slower to accelerate but beating the manual model on top speed - so the extra clobbering on insurance looks as though one of them is driven with more verve, by drivers who interfere with the scenery more often.

Choose either Outback and it comes with a package other manufacturers simply don't offer - collecting a loyal following of Subaru fans but making it a bit of a left field choice otherwise.

Principal stand outs are the Outback's flat four engine and permanent all-wheel drive, both Subaru selling points for decades.

The former puts the weight closer to the road, which ought to help cornering and the latter makes the car a sensible choice for owners who need to go places when the weather turns nasty. Vets, for instance.

Can't say it feels more glued to the road on corners than rivals, but a glance at the speedo showed the car was moving faster than it felt - always a good sign that the engineers have got the basics right.

More than 500 miles of varied use saw a 41.7mpg on the trip computer, a decent return for a diesel automatic with all-wheel drive. A thirstier and slightly faster petrol model is available but you can't see many buyers taking this route.

The all-wheel drive sends more power to the front wheels unless they start to slip, when it diverts energy rearwards. The push of a button engages X-Mode, which lets the car cleverly do its best on slippery surfaces without the driver needing any extra skills.

On road, unless there's ice about, you many never need X-Mode but slippery climbs on farm tracks and the like will be shrugged off if you're in an Outback (or in the outback, if you're in Australia).

There's still more safety to talk about in the newest Outback, with its EyeSight system using cameras either side of the rear view mirror to watch for hazards ahead, including pedestrians and cyclists and will brake for you if there's a likely collision in the offing.

It also makes traffic queues a bit less frustrating, stopping your car in stationary traffic and moving off smoothly with the touch of a button on the steering wheel.

Out on an empty road, the Outback feels better the faster you go, with bumps ironed out more convincingly than when you're creeping round town on a pockmarked surface.

Whatever the going under the tyres, the Outback is a good place to cover distance. Rear seat passengers said, without prompting, how comfy they found the seats - and there's ample legroom for two lanky chaps to sit in tandem.

The boot swallowed a surprising amount of garden rubbish before heading to the tip (which was closed, but that's another story). The boot lid powers itself up and down; part of a very thorough specification for the Outback.

FAST FACTS

Subaru Outback 2.0D SE Premium Lineartronic

Price: £34,995

Mechanical: 148bhp, 1,998cc, 4cyl diesel engine driving four wheels via automatic gearbox

Max Speed: 124mph

0-62mph: 9.9 seconds

Combined MPG: 46.3

Insurance Group: 19

C02 emissions: 159g/km

Bik rating: 33%

Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles

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