Subaru aim to be the bigger player


Steve Rogers

WE’VE all been there... waiting behind a car at a roundabout. It edges forward, you do the same looking to the right to check for traffic, then... bang!

The car in front has unexpectedly stopped and you have hit it.

These minor shunts are common enough, but should not happen in a Subaru with Eyesight.

Yes, this is an extra pair of eyes, or rather cameras, built into the rear view mirror. These cameras spot the obstacle in front and immobilise the car by cutting power to the throttle.

This is one of four safety functions and for me the most valuable especially when disreputable characters deliberately cause a shunt to make a fraudulent whiplash claim.

Another vital function brings the car to a dead halt if the driver is in a world of his own and doesn’t spot an obstacle ahead. It will avoid an impact up to 31mph so a potential life safer in a collision with a pedestrian.

Safety has been bumped up the priority list at Subaru which is making a big effort to become a bigger player in the UK.

Here sales will barely reach 4,000 this year so the challenge is three-fold: Get more cars from Japan; convince people Subaru doesn’t just build a car (Imprezza) to win world rally championships, and persuade its owners to change their car more often. Too many keep them forever.

The company does okay worldwide shifting 920,000 cars last year, nearly twice as many as Jaguar Land Rover, and builds more 4x4s than anyone else.

Here its best selling car is still Forester, the robust permanent all wheel drive SUV that really can cope with tougher off road conditions than it is ever likely to experience. What it did on an off road exercise shod with road tyres was remarkable and achieved with the help of X Mode, the sophisticated drive system that cocks a snoot at greasy drops and mud covered tracks.

This is a landmark year for Subaru celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Boxer engine, so called because of its punch-counter punch motion of the pistons.

With a low centre of gravity the engine provides better than average handling, the benefits of which has caused some consternation among rivals at the British Touring Car Championships where Messrs Plato and Turkington have been doing rather well in the Levorg.

This well equipped, roomy all wheel drive estate is Subaru’s newest car and would do a lot better in the UK were it not hamstrung by an automatic petrol engine as its only option. A suspension set up that is a tad too hard for outright comfort, Levorg has a near perfect driving position, a good feel to the steering and handling more in line with a sports car.

Levorg is, unfortunately, grovel spelled backwards, but is good enough not to have to do much of that.

What next for Subaru? The company would like to shift 10,000 cars in the UK for starters, and sees itself sitting just below Land Rover as a credible and affordable all wheel drive alternative.

It remains a niche brand and without models in the lucrative city and supermini sectors a fast acceleration in sales won’t be easy, but at least it has a foothold in the ever growing crossover market where it is well served by the XV.

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