How reliable is Subaru? An honest assessment

We take a look at how reliable Subaru is...

  • Is Subaru a reliable manufacturer?
  • How Reliable is the Subaru Forester?
  • Is Subaru more reliable than other manufacturers?
  • Should I purchase a Subaru?

Subaru is the car division of Subaru Corporation (formerly Fuji Heavy Industries), a Japanese transportation conglomerate.

Their cars have remained popular with a core set of buyers, with marketing targeted specifically to their niche in the automotive market. Subaru owners tend to want the cars because of their drivetrain engine, their off-road capabilities or the fact that they are affordable in the sports car market.

Despite their niche market, Subaru have been a strong presence in customer satisfaction and reliability tables for some time now. But, how reliable are Subaru?

In this article, we look at how reliable Subaru is, and how this compares to its rivals.

How reliable is Subaru?

Subaru has experienced a lot of ups and downs over the last few years, and in 2016 the drop in their reliability was enough that they dropped to 18th out of 36 in the dependability scale as awarded by ReliabilityIndex. However, things have started to look up for them since then.

The manufacturer is still at 18th position on the reliability tables (for both ReliabilityIndex and Which?) however the table now includes more car manufacturers, and the individual cars produced are scoring much better. (2018 figures)

Is the Subaru Forester reliable?

Even if you have never looked at a Subaru yourself, you probably would have heard of the Forester. This compact SUV comes in about average for reliability, scoring a reliability index of 111. However, this is completely overshadowed by their extortionate average repair costs at £955.08. The Forester is also off the road for quite some time, with an average time of 4.47 hours. The axle and suspension appears to be the main problem, accounting for 38.46% of all problems, followed by the engine.

Subaru Forester

In the 2018 Reliability survey conducted by Which?, the Subaru Forester ranked rather well, with some owners of the model stating that they’d experienced no problems with their vehicles over the three years they had owned them.

The average time that the Which? report discovered the Forester was spending off the road was no more than 24-hours.

According to Which? survey responses, the most common fault experienced by Subaru Forester owners was with the air conditioning, though it’s an issue that is easily fixed.

The online car– and van-part brokerage Breakeryard say you may encounter the following problems with your Subaru:

  • Poor engine idling
  • Broken interior parts
    • This is more common with older Foresters, but they have a lot of small interior parts that are prone to breaking. These include things such as cup holders.
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Is the Subaru Legacy reliable?

The Subaru Legacy does slightly better when it comes to dependability. The reliability index is roughly the same as the Forester at 112, but the repair costs are much less at £762.79 on average. It also spends less time off the road, with an average of 3.45 hours.

Subaru Legacy

It appears that the engine accounts for most of the problems that are experienced by owners of the Legacy, with 23.53% of issues being related to the engine. The axle and suspension come in a close second.

Breakeryard say these are some common problems with the Legacy:

 

  • Turbo failure
  • Radiator failure
    • This is particularly common with the Legacy
  • Starter motor failure
    • This is also common with the Legacy

The Legacy is a rather expensive vehicle to repair, with average costs coming in at around £851.42, though this also goes with just 3.39 hours off the road when are taken to the garage.

However, the newer models are more reliable than their predecessors, earning a slightly higher than average 112 (anything higher than 118 is considered to be poor performance) on the ReliabilityIndex.

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Is the Subaru Impreza reliable?

The Subaru Impreza seems to have not impressed Which? reviewers when the 2014-17 model on its launch. Due to the low number that are on the UK roads, when it comes to reliability the publication was only able to look at the brand as a whole. However, factors such as space of the interior and noise in the cabin were reviewed and the vehicle was found lacking.

The 2019 model has a larger interior, but in reviews the cost far outweighed any benefits offered by the vehicle.

Overall, the Impreza does not impress.

Subaru Impreza

Subaru Outback reliability

The Subaru Outback has been on the Subaru roster for over 25 years. With the almost traditional shape of an estate, the vehicle has high ground clearance and is, like all other Subarus, four-wheel drive.

Unfortunately, when it comes to reliability, the Outback is not as well placed as some of its sister vehicles.

Subaru Outback

In the 2018 Which? reliability survey, the Outback earned just 3 stars out of 5, marking it as an average car in the rankings. According to the owners who took part, the most likely issues experienced were with the battery and the glow plugs. Luckily for the owners who had these issues, the turnaround on repairs was incredibly quick, with cars off the road for no more than 12-hours.

Breakdown rates are higher than usual, with 7% of owners finding it necessary to call a recovery service.

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Is Subaru less reliable?

So what has happened that may have made Subaru less dependable than they were a at the height of their popularity in the early 2010s. There are a few possible reasons that this might be the case.

One is the fact that Subaru don’t have that many models on their roster. This means that if one or two models drop in reliability then it can bring the whole brand down. For example, if the Outback and Legacy experience a drop in dependability ratings, then this will affect the whole Subaru line-up and their standing in the reliability tables.

Subaru Forester

Subaru is affected differently to brands such as BMW and Mercedes-Benz, who have a much larger range of models. If one or two of the vehicles in the Mercedes or BMW ranges drop in dependability it won’t have much of an impact on the brand’s reliability as a whole.

For Subaru this has definitely been the case. There have been problems with the Legacy and the Outback, which include noises, leaks and problems with in-car electronics.

Another reason why they might be considered less dependable here in the UK is because that when they do go wrong, they cost a lot to repair.

According to the most recent reports from ReliabilityIndex (2018), the average cost of repairs across all Subaru models is £562.37.

We cannot ignore the high repair costs with Subaru, as this is something many consumers will want to take into account. One of the reasons the repair costs are so expensive in the UK is because there aren’t many Subarus around. This makes their parts less common and therefore more expensive. This is especially true if they have to be ordered from abroad. This brings the repair prices up which, in turn, brings the reliability down. That’s why they may be considered less dependable, and more expensive to repair, in the UK. It’s simply because they are less common.

In the 3 years between 2015-2018, costs for labour increased by over 40%, which contributes somewhat to the lower reliability rating for brands such as Subaru.

Subaru

One of the core reasons that Subaru reliability has dropped is due to the problems that the Outback and Legacy have had with in-car technology. This is a common reason for declining dependability in a number of makes and models since the early 2000s.

Many cars today have a great deal of new and complex technology. While, on paper,this looks great, and is also really cool when you first get the car, you can run into problems with it further down the line. There are so many moving parts and they can affect the overall reliability of your vehicle.

The technology can also prove to be expensive to repair or replace, further bringing the reliability down.

That said, Subaru aren’t the most unreliable brand out there by any means, and they are still producing good cars that many drivers have no issues with at all (see the Subaru Forester, which has a slightly better than average rating on the RelabilityIndex, and is popular with those who reviewed for Which?.

In conclusion: how reliable is Subaru?

In conclusion, Subaru isn’t the most reliable brand on the market, however, some of their models are better than others (e.g. the Forester). Overall, they are an average brand with a model or two that are better than average. But they are improving, having risen through the ranks since their drop in popularity and dependability in 2016.

The manufacturer has managed to improve the vehicles that they have available by focusing on improving existing technologies.

When it comes to their rivals, they can’t compete. But, many of their rivals are some of the most dependable brands on the market today.

That said, we know that Subaru target a niche market. And this market will buy a Subaru simply because it’s a Subaru.

So, it really depends what is more important to you, the fact your car is a Subaru, or that it’s ultra reliable. Either way, we can’t deny that Subaru make good cars that enable them to continue their loyal following.

Reliability ratings and repair costs were compiled in February 2019

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Rachel Richardson
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72 Comments

  • Raphael| 17th August 2020 at 2:20 pm Reply

    Great am a new comer to subarus have been driving toyotas all along am greafiful for the information.

  • Marcus Gibson| 25th July 2020 at 6:00 pm Reply

    I have owned four Subarus in a row since 1992 – and all have performed wonderfully, with laughably low servicing costs and zero big part failures. Petrol consumption is higher than rivals, of course. Reliability is 100%. The luxurious comfort and ride of my current Legacy 3.0 auto is far superior than Mercs and Jaguars costing four times as much. We go to Scotland annually – and leave the Jaguar behind. Comfort, great visibility, great acceleration, great storage space. Couldn’t be bettered.

  • scott| 7th June 2020 at 11:28 pm Reply

    Consumer report has rated them a lot higher for 2020 than your little company.
    I think I would trust them since they are a premium automobile tester.

    • Rachel Richardson| 8th June 2020 at 8:11 am Reply

      Hi Scott,

      Thank you for your feedback. We use UK-based data as we are a UK company providing information for our UK customers. However, if you look at the date of this report it was written in 2019 with 2019 information.

  • Warwick Ivill| 27th April 2020 at 6:44 pm Reply

    I am on my third Subaru the first a 2011 diesel Forester 76000 miles one problem driver side sun-visor broke.Second car 2015 diesel Forester 46000 mile ,the exhaust manifold pipe cracked which the dealer replaced straight away, this was a problem which was found to occurred to this particular model with tune vibration cracking the manifold This was fixed by a bracket to kill the vibration That was the only problem with the Forester. My current 2019 XV Subaru 1300 miles no problems

  • steve cady| 29th January 2020 at 4:51 pm Reply

    I owned a 2013 Forester for 5 years with zero problems. Bought a 2018 XT Forester and I love it.

    • Rachel Richardson| 30th January 2020 at 10:38 am Reply

      Hi Steve,

      Thank you for your comment. It’s always good to hear from people who have been driving the vehicles we are writing about.

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