2010 Subaru Legacy PZEV

Review Peter Bleakney
Photos by Peter Bleakney
and Paul Williams, CanadianDriver.com

Subaru’s steady march away from quirks-ville and into the automotive mainstream takes a quantum leap with the all-new 2010 Legacy mid-sized sedan. The last vestiges of Subie weirdness are gone with this fifth-generation remake. No more frameless side windows. The styling is conservatively pleasant, in an inoffensive kind of way. Even the classic (and yes, odd) flat-four growl has been effectively tuned out of the exhaust note.

2010 Subaru Legacy PZEV

2010 Subaru Legacy PZEV

There were three issues keeping the previous Legacy out of mainstream contention – it was too small, too expensive, and with its trademark symmetrical all-wheel-drive, not as fuel efficient as the competition. With the 2010 model, all these peccadilloes have big check marks beside them.

The 2010 Legacy has stretched in all directions and now features a spacious cabin with lots of headroom. The most noticeable improvement is in the back where legroom goes from lousy to limo (up by 10 cm). The 416-litre trunk is one of the largest in the segment, and has a sizable pass-through.

The well-equipped base Legacy 2.5i with six-speed manual transmission has a starting price of $23,995. That’s a $3,000 drop from the 2009 model, putting it right in the mix with the usual suspects: Toyota Camry, Ford Fusion, Chevy Malibu, Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata and Mazda6.

Equipped with the new-for-2010 $1,200 Lineartronic chain-drive CVT (continuously variable transmission), Subaru claims the Legacy 2.5i uses 9.2 L/100 km city (31 mpg) and 6.5 L/100 km highway (43 mpg) – numbers that better front-drivers like the Mazda6 and Honda Accord, but not the Toyota Camry manual (9.0 and 6.1).

I tested the Legacy PZEV (partial zero emissions vehicle) at $26,395. For this you get the base 170-hp SOHC 2.5-litre “boxer” four-cylinder mated to the CVT with paddle-shifted manual mode, 16-inch alloys (steel wheels with hubcaps are standard) and 10-way power driver’s chair.

All this is on top of the standard air conditioning, electronic stability/traction control, brake assist, tilt/telescoping steering wheel with cruise and audio controls, electronic parking brake with hill holder, auto headlights, heated front cushions, CD/MP3 stereo with auxiliary input jack, an information display and exterior temperature gauge. While Bluetooth was not fitted to this car, it will be standard issue with the 2011 Legacy PZEV which carries a list of $27,095. Indeed, Subaru is beating us over the head with the value stick here.

So what does PZEV mean to you? Internal engine tweaks and a special catalytic converter containing more precious metals eliminate evaporative losses from the fuel system and reduce emissions. Fuel economy is unchanged (as is CO2 output), but you’ll feel good knowing the exhaust is squeaky clean.

Initial impressions of the 2010 Legacy suggest this midsizer is tuned for comfort – there’s nary a hint of Euro-sportiness here. This is not a bad thing, but if driver involvement is high on your family sedan wish list, best to look at the Mazda6, Suzuki Kizashi Sport or VW Jetta.

With a new double-wishbone rear suspension and increased wheel travel all round, the Legacy glides over the road with North American-pleasing isolation. I found the steering a little numb for my tastes, but overall the sedan is a competent handler.

The AWD system uses an electronically-controlled multi-plate transfer clutch with a front to rear split of 40/60, shifting to 50/50 under acceleration and slippery conditions.

Subaru’s new trick CVT is tuned to avoid the disconcerting tendency for these things to send engine revs soaring and the car playing catch-up when calling for some giddy-up. There are also six “virtual” gears, quickly toggled through via steering wheel-mounted paddles, which add a modicum of control and fun to the proceedings.

Performance from the smooth 170-hp, 170 lb.-ft. 2.5-litre flat-four is adequate, comparable to other four cylinder sedans, and with the continuously variable transmission, revs are kept low on the highway.

While the exterior is reserved to the point of blandness, things on the inside are more interesting. The stylized centre console juts forward from of the dash, the gauges glow a cool blue, and overall, quality is up a notch from many competitors. The fabric seats with active head restraints find a nice balance of comfort and support.

The 2010 Legacy gets a five star crash test rating from the NHTSA.

I would suggest Subaru be a little more generous with the padding in the door armrest, however. There was a nasty ridge under there that consistently dug into my arm, marring what was otherwise a pleasant driving experience.

The 2010 Legacy PZEV is a competent, comfortable mid-sized sedan offering good value, some green cred and, as with all Subies, it has a big shiny ace up its sleeve – symmetrical all-wheel-drive. 2011 Legacys are basically the same with a few added trim items.

Frankly, shoppers would be nuts not to give this car a long, hard look. Yes, the conservative body panels mean you won’t stand out from the crowd, but when the snow flies, you’ll likely drive away from it.

Pricing: 2010 Subaru Legacy PZEV

Base price: $26,395


A/C tax: $100

Freight: $1,495

Price as tested: $27,990

Crash test results

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)

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