2004 Subaru Liberty 2.5i Safety Pack owner review

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Review written by:
Paris P
PROS
  • Power and handling
  • Design
  • Model range
CONS
  • Lacking some safety features
  • Dash prone to damage
  • Head gasket issues

About the Subaru Liberty

Paris P purchased this Subaru Liberty used for $3,000 (including all on-road costs) in 2021. Paris P would buy this car again because: “It is a fantastic all round car with plenty of features, comfortable, modifiable and fun to drive.”

How reliable has your car been? Tell us about any issues.

Reliability has been petty sound since purchasing the Liberty in early 2021. Nothing major has come to my attention, with the Liberty requiring nothing more than regular service and maintenance.

Just look out for the known head gasket issue and check for oil levels. Other than that, these cars are petty sound and a worthwhile investment!

What do you think of the ownership experience with your car?

The design of the 4th Gen Liberty has aged gracefully. Its proportions are spot on and good to look at. The design has thought put into it, unlike the 5th Gen which became fat to suit the American market’s taste for “large cars”.

The nose of the Liberty is distinctive of Subaru of the time. The angular design adds presence and makes for an aggressive stance. The headlights have a nice design to them, with a large dip for the projector beams, which come to a pointy end before they meet the grill.

The grill itself is rather large, with chrome accent “wings” meeting from the end of the grill to the badge in the centre. The lower grill is narrower but longer in design.

Fitted in a white housing, the fog lights can be found on each end of the lower grill. The side profile of the 4th Gen is very sleek and attractive. While it doesn’t have much going for it in terms of trim pieces, the silhouette of the design looks great.

Large door mirrors house the LED side indicators, which are a nice premium, modern touch. The doors have a trim piece going from end to end with the signature and rather cool frameless door design.

Rims fitted are the larger and nicer 17-inch five spoke alloy wheels running on 215/45 tyres. The rear end of the Liberty is also very distinctive and attractive.

Large taillights sit on each end of the boot with a dual brake light/running light design, in which the top portion lights up when the headlights are on and the bottom lighting up when braking – with the middle housing the reverse and turn signals.

Dual exhaust pipes sit at the bottom of the bumper, which add a hint of performance.

Are you happy with the price and features of your car?

We were spoiled during the early to late 2000s in Australia by a range of great cars from both local manufacturers and importers. If you wanted a fun, well equipped, mid-sized family sedan, you essentially had three imported choices – the Mazda 6, Honda Accord Euro or the Subaru Liberty.

All three could be had with a manual transmission across the range, luxury touches, packed with safety and best of all, affordable. Fast forward to 2021 and these cars are still a common sight on the roads due to not only their reliability, but also due to how popular they were at the time.

Of the popular Japanese trio, the Subaru Liberty was arguably the most performance oriented and could be had in many different flavours from turbo fours to beefy six-cylinders.

Whether you were after sports, luxury or just a basic motor car, the BL/BP 4th Gen Liberty range had a model for you. The vehicle I have is the 2.5i Safety Pack, which added some luxury touches, with a hint of performance while being safety oriented – see, the perfect model!

What do you think of the performance and economy of your car?

Power comes from a 2.5L Boxer four-cylinder making 121kW of power and 226Nm of torque. Pretty decent numbers and being a five-speed manual AWD, it feels pretty willing. The drivetrain combo makes for a very fun drive. The car will easily reach 80km/h pretty quickly and get to highway cruising speeds at a very smooth paste.

It also doesn’t sound like it’s revving its guts out quite as much as my old Pulsar did (which of course that has to do with the larger engine making more power).

I’d say that the five-speed is the better choice of transmission, unless of course you purchase a higher-end model with the six-speed. You have better control over the car and can harness better acceleration with the manual box. Not to mention fuel economy is much better in the manual and the car is also lighter (1365kg manual vs 1385kg auto).

Fuel economy is good, with the Liberty consuming around 9.1L/100kms on a combined cycle. From the 64 litre tank, you can easily crack 550km to a tank around town, assuming you aren’t pushing the AWD around like a rally driver.

On the highway you can expect better numbers, with an average economy of 8.0L/100kms, getting you well over 700kms to a tank. Unlike both the Accord Euro and Mazda 6 which need 95RON premium unleaded fuel, the standard Liberty only asks for 91RON regular unleaded, making it more affordable at the bowser. It’s not till you get into the Turbo 4s or 3.0 that they start to ask for the better fuel.

What do you think of the technology in your car?

The interior is well designed and laid out as well as being high in quality. The dash uses soft touch plastics, which extends to the front and rear doors. Cloth trim inserts on the doors feel okay, but not as nice as leather.

The seats themselves are cloth and feel pretty nice and have held up well. The steering wheel is leather wrapped, as is the hand brake and gear shifter. The dash is presented very nicely, with the radio and climate control slightly turned toward the driver, which gives the idea of being inside of a cockpit, or a late 90s hot JDM car like the Toyota Supra.

Nice lightly coloured silver plastic trim surrounds the radio unit and around the automatic single zone climate control. Our car unfortunately doesn’t come with the large Nav screen between the air vents, but does come with some extra storage and a trip computer.

Further on the features, they include cruise control, power glass sunroof, sport bucket front seats, drivers seat lumbar support and height adjustment, central locking and six speakers.

Being the Safety Pack, it was packed with, well, safety of course! Six airbags (front, side impact and curtain airbags), ABS, EBD, AWD and a 5 star ANCAP safety rating make for an appealing package. Though ESP would have been a nice addition.

What do you think of the ride comfort and handling of your car?

The AWD helps keep the car feeling planted at all times. You can take a corner with confidence (obviously) knowing the car won’t fly out behind you like a rear-wheel drive vehicle or try to keep going straight like a front-wheel drive vehicle.

Even with the lack of traction control, the AWD system helps make up for it by being a both a good performance drivetrain and a safety inspiring one. Handling is also upped by the AWD system. Not once do you feel like the car is going to fail you, though you shouldn’t get too cocky.

The suspension is pretty well set up, soaking up bumps when cruising and feeling firm enough when being a little more enthusiastic. Around town it’s great with the inner-city clutter of potholes and speed bumps, but on the highways it glides over both new and old tarmac.

The Liberty happily took me from Adelaide to Canberra on the lovely Sturt Highway, then comfortably from Canberra to the Central Coast on the Hume Motorway/Pacific Motorway.

The seats are comfortable, both front and rear. The driver’s seat feels firm and supportive when you’re going for a proper drive. But when you’re just getting around town, the seat feels comfortable and doesn’t give you back pains.

Unfortunately leg and head room in the rear is rather tight, even for a small person like myself. Those who are taller or of bigger build will be okay for a little while, but may start to feel cramped in the rear.

For smaller people, it’s not so bad. Despite not having window frames, road noise isn’t that bad. On harsher road surfaces, the road noise can be more noticeable. Even though there are only six speakers, the sound system is decent with music playing. Standard bass/treble adjustments allow you to easily make your music sound that tad bit better. Just don’t blow the speakers up though.

Do you have any additional comments about your car?

So the verdict? Well if you’re in the market for a nice Japanese car that can do everything, the Liberty should be at the top of you shopping list.

As mentioned, its AWD system, premium features, even in more basic models, extensive model range and safety orientation makes it a very appealing car compared to its rivals. Not to mention there are plenty of aftermarket upgrades that can be done, so you can make your car more unique.

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Ratings
Overall8.4
Show Breakdown
Technology 7.5
Reliability 8.5
Ride & Handling 9.5
Price & Features 7.5
Performance & Economy 8.5
Ownership Experience 9