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

Rachel has been writing for as long as she can remember. She loves the written word and likes nothing more than to research something until she knows all she can about it.
Rachel Richardson

48 Comments

  • brian krzyzaniak| 12th November 2019 at 3:19 am Reply

    i live in canada .. my 2018 crosstrek is on its THIRD RADIO,, so far !!!!! ALSO 8 trips to the dealer for radio updates,,which have proven to be JUST A WASTE OF MY TIME !!!! SMARTEN UP subaru,, its only a radio >> figure it out ALREADY !!!

    • Rachel Richardson| 12th November 2019 at 8:14 am Reply

      Hi Brian,

      Thank you for your comment regarding the experience you have had with your Crosstrek radio system. This is something that owners in the US and Canada have been reporting. There are multiple forums about the subject and I am sure that other owners will find this interesting when they are looking to purchase their Crosstrek in the US/Canada.

  • Andy| 25th October 2019 at 4:49 pm Reply

    How come I read in the Daily Telegraph recently that Subaru are officially the worlds most reliable manufacturer?

    • Rachel Richardson| 28th October 2019 at 8:44 am Reply

      Hi Andy,

      Thank you for your comment. We also saw this article. However, when we compiled our data for Subaru we took into account a great deal of information we had available and though this one report found them to be the most reliable, the other data found the Subaru to be reliable, but not the top of the list.

      We hope you find this information helpful.

  • dorvan manus| 11th September 2019 at 3:57 pm Reply

    I just bought a Subaru 2007 Tribeca9 used from my Goodyear mechanic and have never experienced such luxury, with every detail given a great deal of thought, from its chrome handles to its leather-covered shift and steering wheel. With its way- advanced styling and low production figure, it really stands out in the look-alike crowd. I think it’s even smarter-looking than many high end imports, and it rides and handles beautifully. I expect it to reach 200,000 miles. Why did it not rec3ive the recognition it should have? D. Manus westport Ct.

    • Rachel Richardson| 11th September 2019 at 4:06 pm Reply

      Hi Dorvan,

      Many thanks for your comment on the Subaru Tribeca. This was actually a model that was sold in the US, though not available in the UK so the reliability reports we used to create this article were only looking at vehicles available for purchase to UK customers.

      I am sure that our US readers will find the information you provided regarding your experience with the Tribeca useful when they come to purchase their next vehicle, though the Tribeca has been discontinued as a model.

  • Stella| 9th September 2019 at 7:12 pm Reply

    Looking at a 2007 outback with 130 thousand miles at 5.000 ? Owner said it’s excellent cond.? I’m a great grandma past 78 raising a 6yr old grandbaby. Don’t know about cars with not much help to get one. Please help me he texted make him an offer said they haveing a 3rf baby and need more room? Please let me know asap I have to text him back. vickilostritto@gmail.com thanks

    • Rachel Richardson| 10th September 2019 at 8:40 am Reply

      Hi Stella,

      Thank you for your comment. Without having information about the number of owners and condition of the vehicle we are unable to offer you any constructive advice which will help you to make a decision. Does the owner have the log book? Has it got a full service history? We would recommend you ask these questions of the current owner, and if you are still unsure we would recommend you speak to someone with a mechanic background.

  • laura bonalli| 8th September 2019 at 11:34 am Reply

    I have a 2013 Impreza sport that I purchased new. It has 73,000 miles on it. I brought it in to have the spring valve recall replaced and since then I’ve had to have it towed three times in a short period. The dealership has finally concluded that I need a new engine harness which seems odd to me . Any thoughts on this would be helpful, thank you.

    • Rachel Richardson| 11th September 2019 at 4:17 pm Reply

      Hi Laura,

      Sorry to hear that you’ve been experiencing issues with your Impreza Sport. Unfortunately, this is not something we can comment on. We would recommend you search for other Impreza owners on car forums to discover if this is an issue that regularly occurs with older models of the Subaru you own.

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