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Subaru's fifth-generation Outback sits in that in-between "is it an estate? Is it an SUV?" niche segment that defies classification.
As a result of a P11D that's almost £30,000, it pulls all sorts of estates and crossovers into view as rivals. However, a 4x4-focussed estate like the Skoda Octavia Scout is a good fit because the Outback is fit-for-purpose for going off-road, well equipped and is ready to be put to work. Subaru hopes the car will attract user choosers and small business owners with its go-anywhere practicality.
The new model brings with it Euro6 engines, and CO2 has been reduced to 159g/km, but it's not competitive when compared with the Octavia Scout's 134g/km, putting the Outback five BIK tax bands above the Skoda at 29%. As a result, it costs 64.5p to run per mile compared with 61.8p. RVs are impressive, however, at 40.3%, which is six percentage points higher than the Audi A4 Allroad.
The interior design has been improved, and there is now a factory-fit, modern seven-inch touchscreen system for the first time, while satnav, smartphone connectivity and rear-parking camera are also standard.
The build quality still isn't high enough compared with rivals, but the design itself is much more modern.
The new Lineartronic six-speed automatic gearbox tested here is better than the previous CVT transmission, and is much quicker with throttle inputs to shift smoothly between gears. It's a shame the soundproofing around the Boxer diesel wasn't beefed up a bit more as it lets out a rather LCV clatter under harsher revs. The steering on the Outback has quite a noticeable dead-zone too and it feels heavy when cornering.
A highlight on the new model is the Eyesight advanced collision avoidance system that is fitted to all auto models as standard. It features a pre-collision braking system operating on a tiered basis, so rather than the dead-stop you get on rival cars' auto-braking systems, the Outback brakes progressively in three stages in the event of a potential accident up to speeds of 31mph.
Subaru Outback 2.0D SE Auto 6 150
Model price range £27,995-£31,495
Residual value 40.3%
Service, maintenance and repair £2789
Vehicle Excise Duty £540
National Insurance £3450*
Cost per mile 64.5p*
Fuel consumption 46.3mpg
CO2 (BIK band) 159g/km (29%)
BIK 20/40% per month £172/£344
Boot space (min/max) 559/1848 litres
Engine size/power 1998cc/105hp
* 2014/15 tax year
Still a niche choice, but technology and RVs are good