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Drive Life : May 14th 2010
1HERSA1 F012 12 Drive Life May 14, 2010 drive.com.au In from the cold THE COMPETITORS * Prices are recommended retail and exclude dealer and on-road costs. MAZDA CX-7 DIESEL SPORTS Price $43,640 Engine 2.2-litre 4-cyl turbo diesel, 127kW/400Nm, 6-speed manual, AWD Fuel use/CO2 emissions 7.6L/100km and 202g/km Safety Six airbags, stability control Pros Refined and flexible diesel engine; above-par handling for a soft-roader; well equipped, classy cabin; standard reversing camera. Cons No auto available. No air-con vents for rear passengers. Not as big inside as it looks outside. Our score Not rated yet. Subaru Outback 2.0D Premium Sat Nav SKODA OCTAVIA SCOUT Price $39,490 Engine 2.0-litre, 4-cyl turbo- diesel, 103kW/320Nm, six-speed manual, AWD Fuel use/CO2 emissions 6.6L/100km, 178g/km Safety Six airbags, stability control Pros Strong and thrifty engine; comfortable and flexible cabin; good safety package; well equipped for the money. Cons No automatic ; harsh ride; too much road noise; some cheap finishes. Average rear seat. Our score JII VOLKSWAGEN TIGUAN 103TDI Price $36,690 Engine 2.0-litre turbo-diesel 4-cyl, 103kW/320Nm, 6-speed manual or auto, AWD Fuel use/CO2 emissions 7.4L/100km, 195g/km (manual) Safety Six airbags, stability control Pros Refined engine; classy cabin; excellent road manners; auto option; strong safety package. Cons Small load area, despite spacesaverspare;notalotof standard equipment; not as practical as some rivals. Our score I Price $46,490 Country of origin Japan Engine 2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbo-diesel Power 110kW at 3600rpm Torque 350Nm at 1800-2400rpm Consumption and CO2 emissions 6.4L/100km and 168g/km Transmission 6-speed manual, AWD Weight 1572kg Safety Six airbags, stability control Pros Fuel efficient, quiet and refined diesel engine; comfortable and spacious cabin; secure handling and consistent steering; excellent safety package. Cons Hard to keep the engine in its sweet spot at lower speeds; no auto available; cabin doesn't feel particularly up-market; no parking sensors. Our score JII THE TEST RICHARD BLACKBURN Subaru is late to the diesel party but its Outback oil-burner has made a quick impression. The snow season is just around the corner and, for many skiers, a Subaru loaded to the gunnels is as much a part of a trip to the slopes as schnapps, splints and sunburn. But the carparks of Thredbo and Falls Creek will hum to a slightly different tune this year because Subaru has fitted its first diesel engine to the Outback soft-roader. The Japanese company is late to the oil-burning party; most of its European rivals sell as many diesels as they do petrol versions. And it seems Subaru has tapped into a reservoir of pent-up demand. Since the introduction of a diesel Outback at the end of last year, about one in three Outbacks sold is a diesel. That's despite the fact the diesel model is $2500 more expensive than the petrol model. The success has prompted Subaru to introduce a diesel version of the cheaper Forester, which will share the same 2.0-litre boxer turbo-diesel when it arrives next month. WHAT DO YOU GET? The diesel Outback is well equipped for the price. Standard equipment includes 17-inch alloy wheels, foglights, leather steering wheel with audio controls, a retractable blind for the rear load area and a six-stack CD player with MP3 jack. There's also climate control air-conditioning, though the diesel version misses out on the rear vents standard on the 2.5i Premium and 3.6R petrol models. We tested the Outback Premium Sat Nav version, which is $6000 more than the base model diesel. For the extra money you get a sunroof, satellite navigation, Bluetooth, black leather seats and eight-way electrically adjustable driver's seat with a memory function. The 8-inch satellite navigation screen can also play DVDs when the car is stationary, which means the kids can watch a movie when you're camping out. On the safety front, you get seven airbags (including a driver's knee bag) and stability control, but a rear view camera is only available on the range-topping Outback diesel. Parking sensors are not included on any model. The Outback received a five-star rating in independent crash tests. Another useful safety feature is the rear-seat belt-reminder system, which alerts you if one of the children has forgotten to belt up or has unbelted mid-journey. WHAT'S INSIDE? The Outback cabin is a relaxing place to be on a long journey. The front seats offer plenty of adjustment, allowing you to find a comfortable seating position without too much fuss. There's plenty of head and legroom in the rear seats and the back bench is wide enough to fit three children without too many complaints. There are plenty of storage nooks through the cabin, while the rear load area has a cargo blind, luggage tie-downs and a 12-volt plug. The dash layout is simple and the instrument panel easy to read but both lack the wow factor of the Outback's European rivals. Subaru's use of hard plastics on most surfaces also detracts from the cabin ambience. It looks fine at first glance but, on closer inspection, seems a little cheap. At night, the cabin has a classier feel, with a nice blue hue through the cabin. UNDER THE BONNET On paper, the diesel engine's credentials look strong, with plenty of power and torque on tap at low revs. But in the real world of hills, stop-start traffic and limited overtaking opportunities, it disappoints. There is a noticeable lag off the mark before the turbo spools up but the biggest problem seems to lie in the gearing of the six-speed manual transmission. Subaru has gone for tall gearing to wring the best fuel efficiency out of the engine but the end result is that the engine labours at low speeds in second gear, which means you feel as if you're forever hunting for the right gear in city traffic. It's also hard to find the engine's sweet spot and exploit the car's impressive torque when overtaking on the highway. The manual's shift action is also far from slick. It's not all bad news. The engine is impressively quiet and refined for a diesel and after more than 1000km behind the wheel we kept pretty close to the manufacturer's claimed fuel usage of 6.4 litres per 100km, despite having a crew of four people and luggage on-board. That's the type of fuel use you'd expect from a city runabout -- an impressive effort for a vehicle capable of swallowing the average-size family and its luggage. ON THE ROAD The Outback is an excellent compromise between utility and good driving dynamics. It gives you the space and off-road ability of a soft-roader, without the intimidating size and bulk. The Subaru's relatively low centre of gravity for an off-roader means it feels more car-like than most of its rivals. It's nimble through corners, displaying minimal body roll, and the steering feels sharp and accurate, making it an engaging companion on a twisting country road. The ride in the diesel Outback feels firmer than in the petrol version and over corrugations it can become a little fidgety. But, overall, it soaks up bumps and potholes pretty well. Road noise becomes noticeable on rougher surfaces but, generally, the cabin is comfortable and quiet. VERDICT Subaru is new to diesel engines, and it shows. While the 2.0-litre turbo- diesel is impressively quiet, it lacks the driveability of European rivals such as Volkswagen's Tiguan and Renault's Koleos. But its shortcomings are unlikely to hamper Subaru's efforts to extend its dominance of the compact soft- roader market. The Outback may not be the most impressive beast under the bonnet but its combination of space, practicality and good road manners are likely to remain a winning formula for many snow seasons to come.
May 7th 2010
May 21st 2010