Subaru’s Amazing U.S. Growth Story Is Driven by Its Legacy

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Some automotive growth stories get more attention than others. Subaru's overall U.S. sales are up 20% for the first 10 months of 2014.

The company recently launched its 2015 Legacy model, a four-door family sedan noticeably larger than it was before. This prompted a whopping 106% sales increase in this nameplate in the month of October, which followed a 117% sales increase in September. Thanks to the Legacy, Subaru is now on track to hit 500,000 cars sold in the U.S. this year. 

With this as a background, I spent a few days driving the 2015 Subaru Legacy 2.5.

The first thing that struck me was the superior visibility out of the car. You feel as if you're driving a bus. It's a huge piece of glass in front of you, with one of the thinnest A-pillars on the market -- the largest contrast imaginable compared with General Motors (GM) cars such as the Buick LaCrosse and Chevrolet Volt. The belt line is also very low.

The second thing that struck me was that it feels just like the Honda (HMC) Accord. Getting in and out of the car, the seats and that it feels so light when driving make it almost an Accord copy. It even looks like the Accord. (The 2015 Hyundai Sonata also looks substantially the same. Inoffensive, but bland.)

The third thing that struck me was the interior. Having just completed a road trip testing the Audi A3, the Legacy felt ugly. It's basically just cheap-looking plastics. No elegance or style at all.

That said, almost everything is superbly ergonomical. With the partial exception of the infotainment system, it's as easy to use as anything on the market. Nothing weird. All buttons are big and clearly labeled. In other words, excellent.

But about that infotainment system: Subaru used to have one of the most ancient, which in this context equates to "worst." No longer. Now it's basically average.

Still, the problems I had with the infotainment system had mostly to do with basic ergonomics. You need orangutan-long arms to reach the screen, and the round knobs (volume, etc.) are simply way too small.

The Subaru handles very well. Like most other Subarus sold in the U.S., it's got four-wheel drive (4x4) as standard equipment. The ride is soft and plush. I like it.

I had one problem with the engine/transmission: moving away from idle, it was not smooth. It hesitated, almost stalled or sputtered. Not always, but often. This was the biggest disappointment I had with the car. Perhaps it was an anomaly on my car.

Fuel economy was superb. It is rated at 26 miles per gallon city, 36 mpg highway, which is very good for this size of car, let alone with 4x4. I actually achieved 27 mpg city, 38 mpg highway in my testing.

You can buy a Subaru Legacy for approximately the same price as an equally equipped Honda Accord, Toyota (TM) Camry or Nissan  (NSANY) Altima -- typically near $25,000 for a mid-range model. What the Subaru offers is 4x4 without seemingly any price premium.

As a result, it's hard not to recommend the all-new 2015 Subaru Legacy. With one exception, it's simply an excellent car that offers very good value, especially if you value 4x4.

All you need to do is to ensure that you don't end up with a specimen that's afflicted by a glitchy transmission, if at all possible. The Subaru 2015 is a bland car, as most conservative family sedans tend to be, but I recommend it.

At the time of publication, the author held no positions in any of the stocks mentioned.

Follow @antonwahlman

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

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