Subaru Sportswagon Review and Specs

Subaru Sportswagon Review


  • Well-made vehicle that takes a lifetime of wear and tear and still keeps running
  • Smaller size delivers the ruggedness of a 4x4 but with increased manoeuvrability
  • Quick acceleration, with the power of a large 4x4 but only just larger than a sedan
  • Roof rails come standard and allow for a larger haul


  • Some models do not come standard with basics like air conditioning
  • Overall lack of kit – just the basics here
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Overview, Look, and Feel of the Subaru Sportswagon

The Subaru Sportswagon is a four-door, 4x4 wagon-style vehicle with the ruggedness of a larger sports utility vehicle but the manoeuvrability of a mid-sized car. Indeed, the Sportswagon feels like the best of both worlds: a safe and manageable car that’s a 4x4 underneath it all. The Subaru Sportswagon doesn’t come with a lot of dressing. It avoids being ostentatious by keeping things simple. The extra trappings that drive up the price, maintenance costs, and distraction factors of a larger or luxury-style vehicle are noticeably absent in the Subaru Sportswagon.

The Subaru Sportswagon can feel a little old-fashioned, especially when stood next to its flashier cousin, the Subaru Forester, but the reason that the Sportswagon is still around is that it’s a car that just doesn’t seem to quit. Buyers looking for a practical, safe, and inexpensive vehicle that will last them for years but are willing to sacrifice a little style to get it should look for Subaru Sportswagons in model years 1994-2000. In 1997, the Subaru Sportswagon briefly came standard with a rear spoiler, but the spoiler has since become an optional feature.

What the Sportswagon does well is provide the most amount of functionality for an outstanding price without giving up on safety or performance. The spacious, minimalistic Subaru Sportswagon is the perfect surfer’s vehicle. Load in your buddies, strap the boards to the roof rails, cease worrying about sand or salt messing up a lot fancy interior or exterior, and know that the Sportswagon has enough poke to get you there.

Subaru Sportswagon Engine Specs and Performance

The Subaru Sportswagon constantly amazes in its power and performance, both in the city and out of it. The 1994 Subaru Sportswagon has a 4-cylinder 1.8L engine under the bonnet delivering 76kW of power with 147Nm of torque. This same engine design remained a constant feature in the 1995 and 1996 models, a testament to its functionality. Only in 1996 was the 4-cylinder 2.0L engine providing 85kW of power and 170Nm of torque introduced as an option, after which it became standard-issue through 1998. The 1999 4-cylinder 2.0L engine received some engineering improvements and subsequently delivered 92kW of power with 184Nm of torque.

The 1999 Subaru Forester had the same engine with the same power and torque as the 1999 Sportswagon. However, as the Forester is a true 4x4, it took 10.7 seconds to accelerate to 100Km/h, where the Sportswagon took only 9.7. Absolutely comparable in poke to a 4x4 of the same year with the same size engine, the Sportswagon manages to have both efficiency and functionality in performance. The Sportswagon’s speedy acceleration makes it great for town and city driving and a zippy ride on the open road.

Standard Equipment and Options for the Subaru Sportswagon

One of the most notable features of the Subaru Sportswagon is its general lack of style and feature options. While the car did briefly come standard with a rear spoiler in 1997, it did not always come standard with air conditioning, so buyers should make a note to check for this feature. Buyers also have the option to choose manual or automatic transmission.

While some buyers may be put off by the rather Spartan feel of a car with little kit, the simplicity of the Subaru Sportage’s design allows for quick and easy repairs. The two- to four-speaker stereo and cassette deck can be inexpensively updated, and the uncluttered dash leaves plenty of room for a smartphone or GPS mount.

Subaru Sportswagon's Competition

While some buyers might be tempted to bypass the simplistic Subaru Sportswagon for its Forester cousin, they should keep in mind that the Sportswagon offers all of the power of the Forester with none of the bulk.

For a car with the same look and feel as the Subaru Sportswagon, buyers might be interested in checking out another competitor, the Holden Commodore. Known for a similar standard in performance, the 1996 Commodore also offers standard kit like power locks and windows, an adjustable steering column, and a six-speaker stereo. For this kind of kit, buyers of the Commodore should expect a bit of a price increase. For the most affordable option, the Subaru Sportswagon is hard to beat.

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