How reliable are Subaru? An honest assessment

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

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

Subaru are a 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 are, and how this compares to its rivals.

How Reliable are 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.
Find out more about Subaru

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.

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.

Find out more about the History of Subaru

Are 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?.

Subaru vs. Honda vs. Mazda

How does Subaru compete with some of its rivals when it comes to reliability?

Not that well, but that’s only because Honda and Mazda are both very reliable brands. Honda comes 2nd on ReliabilityIndex, with a reliability index of just 41. The Honda Civic, a car that is popular with a similar niche as Subaru cars, scores an impressive reliability index of 30. It also has much lower average repair costs at £333.90. The Civic is also off the road for an average time of 2.20 hours, which isn’t too bad either.

The Honda CR-V also scores very well. It has a reliability index of 57 and average repair costs of £351.28. The CR-V is also off the road for less time, with just 1.92 hours on average spent repairing the model. Overall, Honda are an extremely reliable brand.

Mazda are also very dependable. They are 5th in the ReliabilityIndex table with a reliability score of 65. Their MX-5 is an incredibly reliable car, with a reliability index of 18. It’s also very affordable to fix, with an average cost of £202.75. The average time it spends off the road is also low, at only 1.21 hours.

The Mazda6 is also a reliable car, having earned a 60 on the index. Its repair costs are higher, however, costing, on average, £449.71. It also spends 2.55 hours off road.

If you are looking for a reliable brand, and are deciding between Subaru, Honda or Mazda, then it will have to be Honda. Overall, they are more reliable than the two. Although Mazda are also a very dependable brand as well. Subaru don’t fare as well as their rivals, so if it’s reliability you want then you should look elsewhere.

In conclusion, Subaru aren’t the most reliabile 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 have 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 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 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

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26 Comments

  • Tom Old| 12th April 2019 at 5:58 pm Reply

    I have had my Subaru Impreza R, which equates to, 1498 cc Automatic, since February 2011, I bought it it just has its original owner was part-exchanging it for Brand new Forester , my Subaru was a 2007 model with 9, 000 genuine — serviced miles, it is now April 2019, I have used this car EVERY SINGLE DAY, since acquiring it, And it has NEVER ONCE failed to Start or Let me down, It has NEVER been IN for any repairs, And has NEVER failed its annual M.O.T test, it has now covered 42,000 trouble free miles, It is ” The” Most Under-rated car on the road, It is Economical, It is Fast, It is very Comfortable & Most Important ——– My wife feels very safe when travelling in it, I have been 100 % satisfied with my 2007 Subaru Impreza R !!! —– HOW-EVER, there is Now, NO WAY WHAT- SO- EVER that I could EVER again purchase a Subaru Vehicle in ANY model , !!!!!!!!! the reason is Quite Simple, I only EVER choose to drive Automatic cars , And Subaru have chosen NOT to make Conventional Automatic Gear Boxes, Only, —- CVT automatic, And They are simply — Rubbish, AND, to make Matters EVEN Worse, Subaru NO longer give you a spare wheel OR Even an Emergency Space – Saver wheel, !!!!!!!! And, Subaru wonder WHY nobody are Rushing to buy their cars !!!!! No wonder my Local Main Subaru dealer in Ipswich , had to take down his Subaru Dealer-ship sign, and start selling other makes !!!! Its So sad that Subaru Ltd, Never Chose to Question THEIR paying Customers ——- What THEY wanted in Their cars, !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Rachel Richardson| 15th April 2019 at 8:39 am Reply

      Hi Tom,
      Thank you for your comment. It is always interesting to hear from people who have experience with a specific manufacturer. I am sorry that you feel unable to purchase another Subaru due to the changes they have made. I hope that you find another vehicle which fits your needs.

  • Maryann| 17th February 2019 at 6:26 pm Reply

    I just want to preface this by letting you know that I live in the states. I have been driving Subaru cars since 1985 before they became as popular as they are today. I was drawn to the Subaru because of the sturdiness of the car compared to the new tin-cans at the time that had front wheel drive. (I had a Camaro in college and although the rear wheel drive and 8-cylinder engine were great for sailing up and down the mountains, it often caused the car to fishtail in the snow). My fourth Subaru is an outback and all of them have fared well, even when they had to be repaired. The most expensive repair so far was a $2,500.00 manifold gasket replacement on my third car, but that when it was well over 100.000 miles and 10 years old. It would often cost anywhere from 3-4K for my husband to have his Volvo worked on by someone who knew how to work on Volvos on the side.

    • Rachel Richardson| 19th February 2019 at 9:01 am Reply

      Maryann,
      Thank you for your comments on the Subaru. It does seem that these vehicles are reliable and many people have had a postiive experience when driving them. I have no doubt that our readers will find your views helpful when it comes to making their decisions on a new car.

      • Rachman Partadiharja| 27th March 2019 at 10:48 pm Reply

        Oh, thank goodness Maryann, That make me so much better , because I just bought Subaru Forrester 2018 few days ago. As consumer I am worry when read bad news about your own car.Thank you for good reports.

  • Hal| 4th February 2019 at 8:52 pm Reply

    I have two perspectives on this because I own two outbacks AND my son is a Subaru tech. My newest Subaru is a 2008 Outback LL Bean. This car is just approaching 200,000 miles and runs very well and makes almost no engine noise. It’s extremely quiet, even idling with the hood opened. It doesn’t get good gas mileage. about 21.5 mgp mixed driving. I got 23 mpg with a 2018 Ford Mustang that could really move! But my Outback is a wonderful place to be when commuting or on a long trip,

    The six cylinder engines I believe do not have the head gasket problems. It’s not because they are horizonatlly opposed engines because the six is too. I haven’t heard of problems with the six, and mine has had zero engine problems. I’ve had one little electrical problem, but that’s been solved by replacing the overhead console ($125). This was causing the airbag light to come on. I commute over 60 miles a day in very difficult traffic and the car gives me a great feeling of command over the road situation. The intell-drive system is intuitive and effective at getting the engine performance when I need it.

    The big question is…. how do the new ones compare to this? What this generation the pinnacle and they go down from there? I really don’t know the answer, but one shop manager asked me if I wanted to sell the car!

    • Rachel Richardson| 5th February 2019 at 11:15 am Reply

      Hi Hal,
      Thank you for your comment. It sounds like you’ve had a number of very positive experiences with your Subaru and the fact that it’s still running well after 200,000 miles is a testament to the production. I am sure that any readers who are looking for information about Subaru before deciding on their new vehicle will find your comment helpful.

  • Cedric| 26th January 2019 at 11:58 am Reply

    My 2014 Forrester XT just costed me AU$2500 to fix. It broke down a week after coming out of the scheduled service on a road trip far from home. Worked perfectly fine one second and then the engine just quit the next. It has been out of service for almost two months why they tried to figure out what’s wrong with it. Last they told me it’s the “crank position sensor” gone bad.

    Knowing the car has single points of catastrophic failure like this in the design wipes out any reliability scores in my book. I’d be very hesitant to take this car to anywhere remote in the future.

    And the interior? There is this plastic panel where the seat belt buckle rests on. Within weeks of taking delivery that panel was cracked. Cause? Mommy holding baby, slipped and sat on the buckle, cracking the panel. That was replaced under warranty but within weeks it was cracked again. Same cause. The plasticky fabric on the driver’s seat is all cracked up after only 4 years of not-so-heavy-duty use.

    My 2006 Honda on the other hand? Done a few times the kilometers, never had a break down, the interior still looks fresher and more robust.

    • Rachel Richardson| 28th January 2019 at 9:10 am Reply

      Hi Cedric,
      Sorry to hear that you had a less than positive experience with your Subaru. I am sure that readers will find your comment helpful when it comes to making a decision. It’s great to hear that your Honda is a more reliable car for your purpose.

  • David Nixon| 19th November 2018 at 9:46 pm Reply

    Have had my 2007 Impreza WRX 5 years and not one problem… other than 2 failed struts. Clearly an issue on Subaru vehicles. Has covered 73.000 miles.

    • Rachel Richardson| 21st November 2018 at 8:39 am Reply

      Hi David,
      Thank you for your comments on the Subaru. It’s interesting to hear from owners of vehicles that have had good experiences and I am sure that our readers will find this information useful.

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