Subarus are popular in my neck of the Rocky Mountain woods. Who wouldn't want a reliable all-wheel-drive sedan that will plow through any weather condition without batting an eye?
While the 2013 Subaru Legacy gets you a smart-looking all-wheel-drive sedan for a competitive price, the interior fit and finish makes this sedan feel more like a well-maintained 5-year-old car.
The Legacy has undergone some minor styling freshening for the 2013 model year, including new headlights, fog lights, grille and front bumper designs. Unfortunately, not much has been updated on the interior. (See the features and specs compared side by side with last year's model here.) The 2013 Legacy comes with a choice of two engines in three trim levels for five total options: the 2.5i, 2.5i Premium, 2.5i Limited, 3.6R and 3.6R Limited. The numbers represent the engine sizes — 2.5 and 3.6 liters. See the upper four trims compared side by side here.
If you decide against the Legacy, both the Suzuki Kizashi and Ford Fusion are available with all-wheel drive and are worthy opponents. See them compared with the Legacy here.
The Legacy can function fine for a small family, but it really isn't optimal for family hauling due to a lack of backseat usability.
There are three seat belts for rear passengers, but the center seat is usable only for small children (my petite 12-year-old daughter managed fine) because the large center floor hump makes it difficult for anyone to sit comfortably in the center seat. Either they put their feet up on the hump with their knees in their chest, or they have to straddle the hump, encroaching upon the foot space of outboard passengers.
It also makes exit difficult for three kids in the carpool lane at school — hauling their oversized backpacks up from the footwell, tripping and stumbling over the hump, and ultimately spilling out at the feet of the carpool lane assistant on the curb.
Rear passengers have access to in-door storage bins in both rear doors, plus netted pockets on the back of both front seats. If the center seat isn't occupied, the seatback can fold down into an armrest with two cupholders.
Where the Legacy really shows its dated attire is up front. The slew of textured, hard-plastic surfaces trying to look like something they're not (note the faux wood trim on the dash and doors and the faux brushed aluminum on the center stack) is a disappointment in a car priced at more than $33,000. These finishes are nearly identical to a Subaru I used to own: a 1999 Outback. Families, however, might appreciate how easy they are to wipe clean.
Add to that Subaru's new EyeSight driver-assist system that's offered as part of a package on this year's Legacy: Its overhead control unit looks like an afterthought stuck on in front of the rearview mirror. I would have preferred this unit looking as if it were intentionally integrated into the vehicle. Its large, bulbous sides, which house two cameras, are visually distracting. They were constantly within my peripheral vision.
The available heated front seats in the Legacy work in an instant — a huge benefit for snow bunnies. Steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, standard across the lineup, will also be appreciated by those focusing on icy roads while still wanting to quickly switch from kids' music to public radio as soon as the kids are dropped off at school. Sun visors with extending pullouts are also a benefit on those hyper-glare mornings when the snow intensifies even the smallest amount of sunlight.
The trunk area in the Legacy was a very useable size for my family, at 14.7 cubic feet. This is slightly greater than the Suzuki Kizashi's 13.3 cubic feet. The Ford Fusion takes the cake (and carries it, too) with 16 cubic feet of trunk space.
IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT
Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Puny
Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Fair
SENSE AND STYLE
Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Fair
Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): None
BEHIND THE WHEEL
The optional 3.6-liter six-cylinder engine in the Legacy I drove had more than enough oomph to power up icy, high-altitude mountains without complaining. Its acceleration was quick and responsive.
Subaru also made some suspension tweaks for 2013. I haven't driven previous models, so I can't compare them, but the 2013 version feels like a great blend of solid connection to the road and softness and comfort suitable for the average driver.
My biggest complaint is how loud the cabin is on the road. Road, wind and engine noises aren't well filtered out, creating sensory-overload-induced fatigue after long distances. Having a car filled to the brim with hyper-chatty tween girls talking over the noise certainly doesn't help the situation, either.
The Legacy 3.6R Limited gets an EPA-estimated 18/25 mpg city/highway, 20 mpg combined. The powerful engine and all-wheel drive both certainly contribute to the poor mileage compared with competitors (the Suzuki Kizashi S AWD and Ford Fusion AWD are both rated 25 mpg combined). If fuel efficiency is important to you, opt for the Legacy 2.5i, which tops out at an estimated 24/32/27 mpg with a continuously variable automatic transmission, or 21/28/24 mpg with a six-speed manual.
The 2012 version of the Subaru Legacy received the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's highest honor of Top Safety Pick (meaning it received the best possible mark, Good, in front, side, rear and roof-strength tests). Because the Legacy hasn't been substantially changed for 2013, we expect these ratings to apply to the new model. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the 2013 Legacy a rollover-resistance rating of five out of five stars. NHTSA has not yet completed front and side crash tests on the 2013 Legacy.
As is required on all new vehicles since the 2012 model year, the Legacy has standard antilock brakes, electronic stability control and traction control.
The Legacy comes standard with six airbags: driver and passenger front airbags, driver and front passenger seat-mounted side-impact airbags, and side curtain airbags for both rows of seats.
Families installing child-safety seats in the Legacy will appreciate that the Latch system's lower anchors in the two outboard seating positions are easy to access. They're concealed in the seat bight in a covered slit that's easy to manipulate. For families with children in booster seats, kids in the outboard seats will love the Legacy's sturdy upright buckles, which make it easy for little hands with limited dexterity to buckle independently.
My test car came equipped with Subaru's EyeSight driver assist system. While the physical system is bulky and a bit of a visual annoyance, I did appreciate the lane departure warning system. According to Subaru, EyeSight watches the road ahead and "will sound an alert and flash a visual warning if there's danger of a collision and will apply the brakes automatically if you don't. It can also optimize cruise control."
See all the standard safety features listed here.
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