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Subaru Outback: Why attention has shifted to the car

Subaru Outback 2021 edition (pictured) would cost you a minimum of Sh7.5 million. [Brian Okoth, Standard]

Subaru Outback was among the top Twitter trends in Kenya on Tuesday, October 11.

A Twitter profile, @caradvicekenya, had compared the Outback to a Toyota Harrier, triggering hundreds of reactions and retweets.

Car Advice Kenya said on the platform: “I would rather get a Subaru Outback for Sh3.3m than get a Toyota Harrier for Sh3.5m.”

In the comments section, @kevwambugu said: “Having ever owned an underpowered 1.5L Impreza 2006, I'd get the Outback without a doubt. I also couldn't believe how my original shocks for an Impreza and Outback were about the same price. Had I known the two are based on the same platform, I would have just saved up to go big.”

Twitter user @ArturoDelHarvey said: “The Outback is more versatile, a better off-roader, better performance and better practicality.”

Another user @powerpugilist said: “The Harrier has great interior and undoubted reliability. The Outback is for performance.”

Another Twitter user @as_pired said: “The only thing going for the Outback would be the symmetrical All-Wheel Drive. Otherwise, the Harrier [is the vehicle for me] any day. The Harrier has a more interesting interior and it’s also reliable.”

Regardless of how many comments we sample, the debate cannot be conclusive as both vehicles have their unique strengths and weaknesses.

Today, we take a look at the Outback, the vehicle from Tokyo-based automaker, Subaru.

The Outback has been in production for 27 years now, starting in 1995.

It’s classified under the Crossover SUV category, built on a foundation of Subaru Legacy and its Impreza counterpart.

In Kenya, a brand new 2021 edition of the Outback will cost you upwards of Sh9 million. However, the base models could cost lower, around Sh7.5 million.

The 2015 edition of the car ranges from Sh2.8 million to Sh3.8 million, depending on grade and trim.

Kenya has a seven-year age policy on vehicles, meaning that the second-hand vehicles that are currently being imported were manufactured either in 2015 or more recently.

The Subaru operates under the tagline “confidence in motion”.

Reviewers observe that its versatility, comfort and driving experience give the Outback an edge over its peers.

The Outback is an all-wheel drive vehicle that has five doors and five seats.

Most of the vehicle’s models that are in the Kenyan market have a 2,500cc four-cylinder petrol engine. However, there is a higher trim that has a 3,600cc six-cylinder (V6) petrol engine.

It has a kerb weight (weight while empty) of 1,626 kilogrammes, and accelerates from 0 to 100 kilometres per hour in about 9 seconds (the 2,500cc model).

Its ground clearance – 8.7 inches – is also one of its major selling points, allowing you to drive to the roughest terrains in the country.

At the current Sh179.30 per litre of petrol in Nairobi, it would cost you Sh12,550 to fill up the Outback’s 70-litre fuel tank.

James Ratolo, a 41-year-old Nairobi businessman, owns a 2018 model of the Outback.

“The Outback offers ample space in the boot and the first-row seats,” said Ratolo.

“Its major downside, is its maintenance costs. The Outback doesn’t come cheap. Its spare parts are also very expensive,” he added.

Joshua Ochieng, a Parklands-based mechanic who has specialised in Subaru vehicles, says locally used Outbacks tend to be more problematic than those shipped from foreign markets.

Steve Andati, another Nairobi-based mechanic, said the Outback’s commonest problem, is its oxygen sensor challenges.

“In most Outbacks brought to my garage, the oxygen sensor problem dominates. The sensors usually crack due to heat, subjecting the vehicle to higher fuel consumption. In the long run, the problem triggers the check engine light,” said Andati.

Oil leakages after long drives is a common problem in the Outbacks manufactured between 2013 and 2014, said Andati.

“The problem is mostly caused by a defective piston in the engine. Other causes include camshaft and crankshaft seal failures, which occasion the need to rebuild the entire engine,” he said.

Engine vibration during high speeds is also a common Outback problem, especially among vehicles that have clocked over 100,000 kilometres on the odometer.

Emmanuel Kangi, a mechanic at Auto-Express on Mombasa Road, says the vibration problem is caused by transmission torque converter issues.

In 2010, Subaru Corporation made headlines globally after several Outbacks were recalled in the infamous Takata airbags recall.

The airbags were prone to exploding when deployed due to faulty and worn-out propellants.

Generally, the Outback is a reliable and sturdy vehicle that offers great service if well maintained.