The 1991 Subaru Legacy Wagon is a fun car for something so old. It boasts great visibility, with small A pillars, large windows, and square proportions, making it easy to tell where your bumper ends. As a Subaru, it also has a reasonably stiff suspension, which makes your typical road driving a little more unpleasant than necessary, but it really shines when you take it off the pavement.
I bought mine used, for a measly $750, what I got for this money were a number of things. The best of which being three sets of tires, with rims included. (All for the car mind you) The set on the car, which has lasted me two seasons so far, a set of brand new tires, and a set of studded snow tires which had only seen one season at the time.
I also got an odd knock in the engine, an AC compressor that sparked when turned on, and a nice ol’ dent in the passenger side second door.
This fatal knocking turned out to be a dead cylinder, uncovered by a compression test. This was caused by a rather large hole in an exhaust valve. This repair at the time wasn’t too expensive. Until I told my mechanic to pull the wrong cylinder… This resulted in me essentially having my upper engine rebuilt, and due to a lifter noise that wasn’t going away after this mechanic worked on the car, the total bill for repairs and the car was just under $3000, but after all that work is said and done, the vehicle has been loyal, and served me well, chugging along into its second year with little complaint.
It conquers the snow with glee, scoffing at those trapped in their driveways and falling off the roads. It has a knack for knowing where to give me the power I so desire, and when. In addition to this snow-mobility, until I broke loose a wire, it averaged 26mpg in the city! On a 26 year old car, and it broke 30mpg on the highway. This was a great surprise, and the reported gas mileage for this vehicle hardly does it justice.
So those are some of the things this vehicle really nails, but it has its faults, as any vehicle will. Let’s start with my biggest complaint; the headlights. They’re stunningly terrible. When I first used them, I thought the bulbs must be dead from where I was sitting inside the car. I got out, but indeed, there was a dim glow coming from within the headlamps. I was astonished. So I took some rubbing compound and rubbed away on the headlamps. It made it a little better, but only marginally.
The headlights were truly, just garbage, even clean they failed to light the road. So I bought some maximum output bulbs from a Best Buy. These ‘did the trick’ you might say. I could see the road, and while it wasn’t great, they worked well enough. $60 is a little steep for halogens, but so be it. I would’ve had to redo my electric system to upgrade to Xenon, and that just wasn’t in the budget.
On top of these miserable headlights, the heating system was a tad weaker than I’d have liked, but it did get the job done, eventually. The sound system was garbage, even while it did work- the fuel gauge was at empty with over four gallons left in the tank, and if you were 6’5” your knees would have to replace the dash.
But all this is brought up by the fact that this little 4 cylinder boxy car was great fun to drive. It could break 100mph even old as it was, but it was exiting to drive at 45, due to a rather cruel suspension, and the thin materials that remind you of your own mortality when you can bend the hood into shape with your bare hands.
Personally I love the car, it has been my first, but there’s an honest truth to the car, it’s fairly average in most aspects, with a nice advantage in the off-road and winter departments.
Below is how I score the 1991 Subaru Legacy
Leg Room: 4/10
Suspension: A beefy bastard for a small car
Kelley Blue Book Price: $1200 in great condition
Average Range City/Highway: 390/450
While I personally love the car, I would only recommend it if it’s in good running condition, and you can get it for less than $1,000, fun, practical, but somewhat cramped, and a poor ride if you don’t love to blaze uneven trails