Road test: Subaru Exiga has space for the netball team
PERHAPS it can be attributed to parental fatigue.
The driver and front passenger seat armrest in seven-seaters has become a modern-day phenomenon.
Despite maintaining a "car-like" mantra, products like the Subaru Liberty Exiga maintain the vital trappings of the people-mover - and it seems the captain's chairs up front are obligatory.
Maybe it's an indication that those up front need additional rest for their extremities after getting everyone loaded in the back?
While the Liberty Exiga had the armrests when it was first launched, it wasn't until recently that an extra seatbelt was added to make it a bone fide seven-seater. Now the Subaru wagon can comfortably house the whole netball team.
The additional seat puts it back into contention for those considering a people-mover but don't want a van or an SUV.
And as an extra sweetener, Subaru recently released 200 Exigas with a range of additional features.
Roomy with excellent vision, you get a clear view of your surrounds from all vantage points.
The seats are reasonably supportive in the right spots and you also have impressive head, knee and leg room in the first two rows. It's best to relegate the kids or small adults into the third row.
We sampled the Premium model, which like the entry-level offering, has hard plastics across the dash, console and door tops.
Improvements in the range-topper come via a more up-market touch-screen sat nav and stereo system, but both variants are starting to look somewhat tired.
On the road
Under the Liberty Exiga skin is a tried and tested boxer four-cylinder which has been recently updated with more performance and less fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.
This is an honest unit which works well in tandem with the continuously variable transmission.
When you feel the need for more urgent performance you can make use of the paddle shifters on the steering wheel for manual-style control. This is especially useful when tackling hills and during full load when the four-potter feels the strain. Hard cornering is accompanied by predictable body roll but with the aid of all-wheel drive the wagon is sure-footed and adept at changes in direction.
What do you get?
Families will embrace the roof-mounted DVD player, which has a 22cm screen, remote control and two sets of wireless headphones.
That comes standard in both trim levels, along with Bluetooth phone connectivity, dual-zone climate-control airconditioning, cruise with steering-wheel controls, alloys, a reversing camera and six airbags (dual front, front-side and side curtain).
Pay an extra $4500 for the Premium model we tested and you also gain 17-inch alloys instead of 16s, leather trim and satellite-navigation with a touch-screen display with upgraded sound system. Special edition models also have carpet floor mats, cargo tray, reverse-parking sensors, one-year warranty extension (four years in total), four years Roadside Assist, as well as a $500 Columbia voucher with Liberty Exiga 2.5i and $750 for Liberty Exiga 2.5i Premium.
Some worth considering are the Toyota Prius V ($35,990), Holden Captiva 7 CX AWD V6 ($38,490), Honda Odyssey Luxury ($44,920), Dodge Journey RT ($43,500), Kia Rondo7 SLi ($31,390) or the serious people movers like the Hyundai iMax CRDi ($42,490) or Kia Grand Carnival Si ($40,990).
The second-row seats have a 60-40 split, while the two pews in the back have a 50-50 fold function.
Handy storage areas are in all doors, while there are some good spots through the middle console where the cup holders can be flicked up for use or hidden away.
Ladies, or man-bag owners, will appreciate the handbag hook on the back of the driver's seat.
Like others in this realm, the boot space is small when all seats are in use, but collapse the back pair and there is a useful cargo space.
Official fuel consumption figures are under nine litres for every 100km, although we achieved about 10.
Buyers shouldn't face any nasty shocks in terms of insurance or servicing.
Its square lines are rewarded with a spacious interior.
Seven-seat flexibility is great for families, enabling grandparents or friends to come along for the ride.
The extra seat-belt puts Subaru's Liberty Exiga into contention after sitting in people mover no-man's-land since launch.
Good internal space with excellent peripheral vision for those front and back, combined with a surefooted driving performance, make it a load lugger brimming with appeal.
What matters most
The good stuff: Rear seat DVD player to keep the kids quiet, cabin space, sure-footed drive.
What we'd like to see: More soft-touch dash materials, less road noise.
Warranty: Three years and unlimited kilometres, servicing at 12,500km or six-month intervals.