How reliable are Subarus?

How reliable are Subarus?

Your car may well end up being your baby, but do you want this to come with the whole ‘diaper-change’ routine? Given that some cars are just as finicky as new babies, how reliable are Subarus is a question any buyer needs to consider.

Car reliability or dependability has to do with the proportion of faults, their frequency and severity. Days a car stays off the road as a result of the faults usually weigh in as well. Reliability ranks high on the list of must-haves for any car shopper. After all, nobody wants a car that will be spewing problem after problem. So, we ask ourselves, how reliable are Subaru’s?

Subaru’s Reliability Ranking

Each year Consumer Reports surveys over 500,000 to determine the most hassle free car models in 17 trouble spots. These cover everything from failed sensors to mechanical breakdowns. The latest such survey lists Subaru as the 4th most reliable car. Telegraph declares Subaru the most reliable brand, while Driver Power 2019 places it at position 6.

The Reliability Index

The UK based reliability index is a universal measure that is computed by taking into account all factors of a repair, cost of parts and failure frequencies. The average or standard reliability index mark is 118. Any car with an index higher than 118, is considered less reliable. In the same light, a car with reliability index less than 118 is very reliable. Subaru has a reliability index of 103, which places it at position 18 in reliable brands.

As a brand, Subaru has a comparatively high reliability index, thus less reliable. This has been attributed to the fact that there are fewer Subarus in the market, making their repair costs higher. Another explanation is the Subarus have many in-car features which increase the risk of minor faults occurring.

Subaru Models Reliability

Despite having a high reliability index, some of the brands individual models have lower indexes than others. Let us now focus on individual model’s reliability from various surveys:

Subaru Models Reliability Comparison Table

US News Ranking
J. D Power Ranking consumer ranking
Common Complaints
#10/23 in Midsize SUVs

#21 in Crossover SUVs

#10 in 3 row-seating SUVs

Reliability – 2020 not yet released

Overall 8.0

Interior 7.9

Safety 9.8

Performance 7.3

2 model years from 2019

No ranking yet for 2020 model

Reliability 3.5/5 for 2019 model

Reliability 4.6

Overall 4.8

Exterior 4.8

Interior 4.8

Performance 4.8

Comfort 4.8

Value for money 4.8

Limited room in the 3rd row.

Jostling when making a slow turn.

#4 in Compact SUVs

#10 in Crossover SUVs

#7 in 2-Row SUV

Reliability 4.5

Overall 8.3

Interior 8.2

Safety 9.8



5 generations 2020-2019, 2014 -2018, 2009 – 2013,

2003 – 2008,

1998 – 2002

Not in the popular JD Power models

Reliability 4.9

Overall 4.9

Exterior 4.9

Interior 5.0

Performance 4.7

Comfort 5.0

Value for money 4.9

Faulty head gasket design

Loose steering wheel

Faulty start/stop feature

(Most complains are with axle and suspension; electrical; the engine; and the fuel system)

Crosstrek Hybrid
2020 model review not done.

2019 model #6 in Hybrid and Electric SUVs

# 34 in Crossover SUV

#23 in 2-Row SUVs

Reliability 4.5

Overall 7.6

Interior 6.0

Safety 10

Performance 6.9

3 model years – 2020,2019,2016

Not in the popular JD Power models

2019 model

Overall 5.0

Reliability 5.0

Overall 5.0

Exterior 4.7

Interior 5.0

Performance 4.7

Comfort 5.0

Value for money 5.0

Extreme tire wear
#10 in Compact cars

#17 in Hatchbacks

#23 in Small Cars

Reliability 2.5

Overall 7.6

Interior 7.7

Safety 10

Performance 6.8

5 Generations

2017 – 2020, 2012 – 2016, 2008 – 2011,

2001 – 2011

1993 – 2001

Not in the popular JD Power models

Overall 5.0

Reliability 5.0

Overall 5.0

Exterior 5.0

Interior 5.0

Performance 5.0

Comfort 5.0

Value for money 5.0

Over 228,000 2017-2019 models recalled over faulty PVC valves (oil flow control devices)
#6 in midsize cars

Reliability 3

Overall score 7.9

Interior 7.7

Safety 9.8

Performance 7.0

29 model years from 1992

Not on the J.D Power popular list.

Reliability 5.0

Overall 5.0

Exterior 4.9

Interior 5.0

Performance 4.7

Comfort 5.0

Value for money 5.0

Shuddering engine stop/start system

Drone-like noisy powertrain/CVT

Slow pick-up from a stop

Malfunctioning driver-assistance technology

# 2 in wagons

#13 in Crossover SUVs

# 9 in 2-Rows SUVs

Reliability 3.5

Overall 8.2

Performance 7.2

Interior 8.1

Safety 9.9

5 Generations


2015 – 2019

2010 – 2014

2005 – 2009

2000 – 2004

2016 model Dependability 8/10

2020 model #4 in Popular Midsize SUVs

Reliability 4.5

Overall 4.6

Exterior 4.5

Interior 4.6

Performance 4.5

Comfort 4.8

Value for money 4.6

Hard to smoothly drive across rough terrain when engaging the off-road low-speed X-mode

Counter intuitive and distracting safety features

Car jerks during acceleration

#5 in sports cars

Reliability 3

Overall 7.5

Interior 5.4

Safety 8.9

Performance 8.0

8 model years from 2010

Did not make it on winning list

Reliability 4.5

Overall 4.6

Exterior 4.5

Interior 4.6

Performance 4.5

Comfort 4.8

Value for money 4.6

Noisy transmission in the 2013 model

Detailed Review

The Subaru Ascent

The 2020 Subaru Ascent is probably Tribeca’s replacement. The model has a new rear-seat reminder and a lock feature for the power liftgate. Convenience meets comfort in this model.

2019–2020 Ascent Generation, 2020 Subaru Ascent model shown

Popular competition includes Honda Passport, Buick Envision and Jeep Grand Cherokee.

The Subaru Forester

Reliability index 102

2020 Subaru Forester

This 5-seat compact SUV boasts of all-terrain driving, enhanced safety and a spacious cabin. Popular competitors include Ford Escape, Fiat 500X and Buick Encore GX.

The Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid

The StarDrive system integrating 2 electric motors ensures the model’s power and engine efficiency.

2020 Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid

The all-wheel-drive functionality at its price gives the Crosstrek Hybrid a competitive edge over rivals in the race for clients seeking all weather driving with hybrid (part electric, part gas) efficiency. Popular rivals are BMW X1, Audi Q3 and Toyota Highlander

The Subaru Impreza

2020 Subaru Impreza

The all-wheel-drive in a mainstream compact car with all-wheel –drive, together with the smart technology features gives this mode a good fighting chance. Top competitors are the Volkswagen Jetta, Toyota Corolla and Hyundai Elantra.

The Subaru Legacy

Reliable index – 112


The Subaru Legacy is available as a sedan and a wagon. The 2020 model is not fancy. It is however practical, predictable and comfortable. It offers a cushy ride, because of its ability to absorb bumps. This makes long rides comfortable. The cabin spots and giant easy-to-use touch screen. Unfortunately, changing of safety features is somehow complicated.

This newest Legacy model earned the Top Safety Pick Plus award by Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. This is in addition to good and superior ratings in the 6 IIHS crash tests and frontal crash prevention, respectively.

The Legacy’s rivals are Nissan Altima, Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. Its standard all-wheel-drive, however, gives it a good advantage. This, together with its comfortable ride, slick multimedia system and numerous standard safety features easily offsets the competitor’s better fuel economy and refined powertrains. The all-wheel drive unfortunately increases its fuel consumption.

Most complaints against the Legacy are in the axle and suspension, electrical, engine and gearbox

The Subaru Outback

2020 Subaru Outback

The Outback is Subaru’s best-selling model. The redesigned 2020 model is a wagon version of the Legacy. It is sturdy and compares to a luxury vehicle. It’s heft, accuracy, firmness and quick steering ratio makes it quite ‘nimble.’

The 2020 model also earned the Top Safety Pick Award by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and scored good and superior ratings in all 6 IIHS crash tests, and frontal crash prevention, respectively.

The Outbacks main competitors are Toyota Rav4, Kia Sorento and Hyundai Santa Fe. Though these are impressive competitors, the Outback’s value-pricing cuts the chase.

The Subaru BRZ

The 2020 model is a rear-wheel-drive sports coupe with manual or automatic transmission. It is related to Toyota 86 (is a Toyota/Subaru partnership). It is easy to handle and affordable.

The Subaru BRZ’s rivals include Nissan 370Z, Dodge Challenger and Toyota 86

How to make your Car more reliable

  • Though it is not possible to change a car’s given reliability index, as a car owner, there are things you can do to make your car reliable/dependable. These include:
  • Timely and proper maintenance
  • Gentle driving behavior – aggressive driving wreaks very many things in a car
  • Keep checking for worn consumables like oi and oil filter, hoses etc.
  • Promptly comply with the ‘check engine’ alert
  • Rotate tires every 7500 miles and replace all tires at the same time with tires from the same manufacturer.
  • Completely drain your radiator and engine oil to be sure of getting rid of all the gunk that would clog your filters.
  • Choose a reliable insurer who will be willing to pay for parts from the manufacturer
  • Keep an log of your mileage and fill-ups so you easily notice deviation in fuel consumption, which could mean the beginning of a problem.
  • Park in the shade
  • Fix any new problem immediately


The Subaru’s standard all-wheel-drive component and enhanced safety features give its models decent reliability. The problem is that having fewer models compared to top contenders like BMW, any minor problem lowers the brand’s competing chances. All the same, even though the reliability awards eludes most Subaru models, Subaru Outback, Legacy and Ascent models have scooped various reliability and safety awards. That’s how reliable Subarus are!


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Steven Reilly
Steven Reilly is a qualified mechanic and his passion for cars goes beyond just the technical aspects. He is also an amateur racer and all round car enthusiast. When he is not driving them, he can often be found in his garage under the hood of a rare model. Steven Reilly has lost track of the number of hours he has spent setting up his fine collection of rebuilt models. He believes that cars can provide a constructive and fun opportunity to teach the youth important life skills. In line with this, he is developing a community outreach program, potentially dubbed ‘Cars for change'.


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