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First drive: Subaru Exiga priced to please

Six seats: Subaru's $37,490 Liberty Exiga undercuts the price of several rivals, but has one less seat than most.

Subaru’s first proper people mover is priced to make a splash

3 Nov 2009

SUBARU Australia has pulled off a surprise with lower-than-expected pricing for its first dedicated people mover.

On sale now from $37,490 for the base Liberty Exiga, the six-seat, five-door, four-wheel-drive wagon is positioned between the cheaper Holden Captiva and costlier Ford Territory, Toyota Kluger and Holden Commodore Sportwagon.

The Honda Odyssey and Mitsubishi Grandis are also in the Exiga’s crosshairs, even though these – as with all the other rivals bar the Commodore – offer the second-row middle seat missing from the Subaru.

Subaru Australia managing director Nick Senior said the omission stems from Subaru Australia’s decision not to compromise on safety, since the Japanese-market seven-seater version of the Exiga manages with only a second-row centre occupant lap-only seatbelt.

The middle-row console and folding armrest/cupholder arrangement was specially designed for Australian-bound Exigas.

He admits that Subaru will not remedy the situation in Japan until the next-generation Exiga appears about 2013.

2 center imageMr Senior said he believed the 50-to-75 or so buyers targeted each month will use the Exiga both as a weekday second vehicle and as the weekend family runabout due to its six-seater interior.

Unveiled in Japan two years ago at the 2007 Tokyo motor show, with sales starting the following June, the Exiga is designed as a people mover, with a taller-than-normal roofline and extra-wide rear doors that open to almost a 90 degree angle for easy entry and egress from the 2+2+2 cabin arrangement. The latter benefits from raised ‘theatre style’ seating for improved vision.

Brandishing length/width/height/wheelbase measurements of 4740/1775/1660/2750mm respectively, the body is shorter bumper-to-bumper but 125mm taller than the Liberty’s, helping to liberate 40mm more headroom. Ground clearance is 150mm.

Underneath is a combination of the Forester and new Liberty/Outback’s AWD platform, with a MacPherson strut-type front and double wishbone rear suspension set-up mounted to the subframe.

Subaru’s VDC stability control system is standard, along with ABS, electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist. Brakes are ventilated discs up front and solid disc out back, while the steering is a rack and pinion design with an 11-metre-turning circle.

Both models employ the evergreen 2457cc 2.5-litre single-overhead-cam horizontally opposed four-cylinder petrol engine delivering 123kW of power at 5600rpm and 229Nm of torque at 4000rpm, as per the Liberty and Outback 2.5i.

Subaru says the combined fuel consumption average and carbon dioxide emissions ratings of 8.6 litres per 100 kilometres and 202 grams per kilometre are aided by its new Lineartronic continuously variable transmission featuring six electronic ratios for a more natural feel and chain-type drive for durability.

The company benchmarked VW/Audi’s DSG dual-clutch transmission to achieve 100 millisecond gear changes.

No other engine/gearbox combination will be offered, even though Australia is unique in receiving the 2.5i engine. Japan’s Exigas have normally aspirated and turbocharged 2.0-litre boxer units – a duo not destined to be imported here.

In October 2008, Subaru sent prototypes to Australia for testing and retuning – mainly to the suspension damper and spring rates – to tailor the Exiga to local drivers’ tastes.

High-tensile steels are employed in the body structure two impact beams are located in the doors and the whole car is ringed by Subaru’s cabin reinforcement frame structure to help deflect critical energy impact forces away from the Exiga’s occupants.

A five-star ANCAP crash test-rating (with three stars for pedestrians) mirrors the Liberty/Outback, although the Exiga lacks the driver’s knee airbag of its siblings.

Nevertheless Subaru is not skimping on equipment, with even the base Exiga boasting six airbags including curtain items for all three rows, a roof-mounted DVD unit for second and third row passengers, climate control air-conditioning, reach and rack steering adjustment, cruise control, paddle shifters for CVT, six-stack CD audio with steering-spoke controls, 16-inch alloy wheels, auto on-off for headlights, rear privacy glass, remote central locking and power windows, as well as the aforementioned safety programs.

While there are no middle or rear-row vents, Subaru has designed some of the central dash outlets to direct air up through the middle and into to the rear of the vehicle.

The Exiga Premium adds leather upholstery, powered front seats, satellite navigation, reversing camera, Bluetooth connectivity with voice recognition and 17-inch alloys.

The spare wheel on both models is a space-saver.

‘Exiga’ might be Subaru-speak for ‘exciting’ and ‘active’, but the firm says that levering the Liberty name will help position the people mover within the context of the other Subaru models, and so will save time and money on advertising and promotion.

The Exiga completes Subaru’s four-tier wagon strategy for the new Liberty/Outback range, which the company claims gives it blanket coverage – Traditional buyers: Liberty 2.5i Sports: Liberty 2.5i S, GT Recreational: Outback Versatility: Exiga.

As a result, it expects at shift at least 700 combined each month, with the Outback accounting for 450 of these of the 250 Liberty sales, the Exiga is charged with finding between 50 and 75 customers.

The latter are expected to be driver-orientated people who demand the brand’s established dynamic and safety credentials but also desire weekend seating flexibility and cabin versatility for their family, Subaru states.

“For those wanting seven seats there is always the Tribeca,” a spokesman added.

Subaru Exiga range pricing:
2.5i CVT (a) $37,490
2.5i Premium CVT (a) $41,990

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