2016 Winner
AWD SUV under $50k

Subaru Outback 2.5i Premium

The Outback may have only narrowly claimed the title this year, but there's a lot to like about this iconic Subaru.


With its big boot, car-like handling and good combination of design and function, the outback takes the gong for the second year running.

Quick specifications
  • Engine2.5
  • TransmissionCVT
  • Indicative drive away$46,369
  • Fuel economy7.3
  • Fuel typeULP
  • ANCAP5 star

For the second year in a row Subaru Outback has won this category by a mighty slim margin. The final scores for it and Kia Sportage were so close that either could have trumped the other with an extra point in any one criterion. Although Sportage is the better value for money proposition, it is Outback’s better overall design and function that gives it the win, with a combination of space and practicality that’s best in the class. So why are they so close? Australians love SUVs so much that recently total sales eclipsed those for sedans in Australia for the first time. In SUVs you need to have a great offering at a sharp price to stay in the game, and that cut-throat competition is reflected in the narrowness of the gaps between most contenders.

Subaru has a reputation for leading-edge safety, and for those who buy with the head and not the heart then the Outback safety package is a no-brainer, as it has the highest score in ANCAP safety tests of any Subaru to date. The latest generation of Subaru’s EyeSight driver assistance technology is fitted to Outback, so it will keep a look out for potential collisions, and if the driver hasn’t reacted to the danger it will kick in to brake the vehicle to avoid a crash. The judges rewarded Outback’s lengthy features list with a standard features score that was only bettered by Kia Sportage. This list includes Outback’s infotainment system with its user-friendly touch-screen, plus the addition of Pandora connectivity, sat-nav and voice recognition for a range of functions. Outback is a model of consistency when it comes to criteria grouped under design and function, with class-topping scores in each of the seven criteria. This means it has good seating, user-friendly ergonomics and the highly practical nature that’s required of a SUV. It’s also a high achiever when it comes to how well it is screwed together and the quality of the materials used.

The cabin and cargo space of the Outback is as big as the Aussie outback, making it one of the most usefully proportioned models in the class. Access to the load area is via a powered tailgate. Although Outback isn’t the quickest in the class, the way the 2.5-litre boxer engine delivers its power keeps the vehicle humming along. Its CVT is one of the best versions on offer and allows seamless delivery of the power with far less characteristic engine flare inherent to many of these transmissions. This smooth power delivery is also important off-road, especially in mud and snow, as wheel spin caused by a touchy accelerator can be the beginning of a bogging event. All vehicles in this category need to have the ability to get off the road, while on the hard top they need to drive like civilised city cars. Outback does this well, providing a comfortable and composed ride, while its all-wheel-drive handling is secure, confident and predictable whatever the road surface. It is also capable of tackling mild adventures off-road. It’s the whole package that makes Subaru Outback a deserving winner once again in Australia’s Best Cars.