QOTD: Is Subaru Now A Mainstream Automaker? And If So, Is That A Good Thing?

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain
qotd is subaru now a mainstream automaker and if so is that a good thing

A band is only cool until everybody knows it’s cool.

Subaru, long a niche automaker with unique product offerings and limited geographic appeal, has tripled its U.S. market share over the last decade. Subaru will likely sell more than 650,000 new vehicles in the U.S. this year. The Subaru Outback and Forester are among America’s 12 most popular utility vehicles. And in a shrinking car market, U.S. sales of the Subaru Impreza — a newly launched compact for 2017 — are up 41 percent so far this year.

Subaru just dropped a new, fifth-gen Impreza 5-door in my driveway for a week-long test. It’s quite clearly the best Impreza ever: quiet, refined, solid, sufficiently powerful. The driver’s door armrest is plush. The car itself is — and we’re talking about an Impreza here — quite attractive.

The 2017 Subaru Impreza is, to be frank, normal. It doesn’t sound like a thrummy flat-four is present under the hood. The seating position doesn’t put your hips and feet on the same level. The windows have frames. There are other people driving the same car.

Has Subaru become a mainstream automaker? And if so, has some of Subaru’s appeal been lost?

Yes, and no.

This is 2017, not 2007. With nearly 4 percent market share, Subaru isn’t just any ol’ alternative punk rock band. Subaru is singing from the Top 40 song sheet. Somebody that I used to know called me maybe under my umbrella.

But that doesn’t mean Subaru isn’t still sending power to all four wheels virtually across-the-board. The engines are still Boxers, even though the Impreza’s 2.0-liter doesn’t sound like one. The traditional sedan body style accounts for a mere fraction of the brand’s sales.

Subaru is clearly still Subaru. But will the brand’s massive popularity uptick undo the Subaru spell?

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net and a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and Autofocus.ca. Follow on Twitter @timcaincars.

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  • Macnab Macnab on May 25, 2017

    A couple of years ago Consumer Reports said that they've found that Subarus use more oil as they age than other brands. Then I read someplace else (maybe here) that they use "low tension" piston rings, presumably to reduce friction. Can anybody comment on this? Oil consumption doesn't bother me much but could it also mean more gas blowby? That would bother me more.

    • NormSV650 NormSV650 on May 28, 2017

      Subaru used low friction piston ring lands to cook epa fuel economy numbers. Just like every 3rd Subaru had a cracked windshield due to its thin material for weight reduction to cook epa numbers. Should I go on about the thin wiring in our 2012 Forester that blew cigg lighter fuse and would bog the power windows whenever another switch was pulled?

  • WallMeerkat WallMeerkat on May 26, 2017

    Subaru died a little, in the UK at least, when they replaced their iconic rally-bred Impreza with a generic looking hatchback that looked like a previous generation Kia.

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