We’re massive fans of Subaru at Colin Appleyard, they stand for quality, versatility and fun but they also mean different things for people of different ages. Older ‘Scooby’ fans go all misty eyed for the distinctive blue and white Impreza World rally machines ripping up the gravel whilst more recent owners know them as more practical, high-quality machines, boasting some of the best crash test protection scores in the automotive world.
In this blog, we will embark on a journey through time, exploring the milestones and evolution of Subaru cars in the UK from the 1950s to the present.
So where did it all begin?
In the early 1950s, a collection of Japanese companies joined together to form Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. The automotive division of this new company came to be known as Subaru, meaning ‘unite’ in Japanese. By 1954, Subaru unveiled the P1 which was their first car as well as Japan’s first monocoque design. A second car, the 360, was introduced in 1958 and was dubbed the Ladybird due of its shape. It proved hugely popular and remained in production for 12 years
During the 1960s, Subaru launched their first truck which was based on the already popular 360 platform. The Sambar minitruck offered both compact dimensions and a spacious cargo bed (A necessity for Japan’s narrow streets). In 1966, Subaru released the 1000, a car that bares much resemblance to the drive train Subaru become renowned for… A front-wheel drive horizontally opposed engine (The boxer engine). An engine layout that is still made by Subaru today! Then, by the end of the decade, Subaru North America had been founded and exports to the US begun.
Starting the 1970s on a strong foot, Subaru released the Leone AWD (all-wheel drive), a predecessor to the Impreza. This AWD drive train had previously only been offered in off-road vehicles, and so the Leone benefitted from popularity amongst outdoor sports enthusiasts, later becoming the world’s top-selling 4WD vehicle. Then in 1977, the successful Subaru Brat (Bi-drive Recreational All-terrain Transporter) was released, based on the already successful Leone. The Brat was a small car-based pickup with a pair of jump seats in the cargo bed. This once again was popular with young, outdoors sports enthusiasts.
Continuing to offer versatile yet quirky throughout the 80s, Subaru developed the world’s first electronically controlled continuously variable transmission (ECVT). This technology debuted in the tiny economy car called the Subaru Justy. By the end of the 1980s, the Legacy had been made to replace the Leone and the 100,000km world speed record was held from 1989 – 2005.
Entering the 1990s, Subaru decided to make a name for itself in motorsports whilst growing their lineup to include models still available to this day! The infamous Subaru Impreza (now WRX) was manufactured from 1992 with the legacy-based Subaru Outback available from 1995… The same year Subaru’s three-year long WRC Championship spree started. Subaru had started to place an importance on performance, as well as practicality, with models such as the Vivio and SVX.
2000s - Expanding the Lineup
In the 2000s, Subaru diversified its offerings in the UK to appeal to a broader audience. While the Impreza continued to shine, Subaru introduced the Forester, an SUV with the brand's trademark all-wheel-drive system, and the Legacy Outback, a rugged and versatile estate car. These models expanded Subaru's appeal to families and outdoor enthusiasts alike, further solidifying the brand's reputation for practicality and durability.
2010s - Embracing Hybrid Technology
As environmental concerns grew, Subaru adapted to the changing automotive landscape by embracing hybrid technology in the 2010s. The Subaru XV Hybrid, introduced in the UK in 2014, combined the brand's all-wheel-drive expertise with hybrid efficiency, appealing to eco-conscious consumers without compromising on performance.
Present - Innovation and Beyond
In the present day, Subaru continues to evolve and innovate.
Subaru’s legacy was strengthened throughout the early 2000s, with their signature AWD drive train and boxer engine featured in many of their models.
This legacy can even be seen in their current lineup. From ‘family-wagons’, such as the XV, Forester and Outback, (Both featuring a 5* Euro NCAP rating), and now with the All-Electric Solterra - packed with next-generation features inside and out, state-of-the-art active safety.
The brand's commitment to safety, performance, and durability remains steadfast showcasing the company's dedication to staying at the forefront of automotive technology while adhering to its core principles.
All images used are courtesy of https://subarumedia.co.uk/en-gb/