Editorial

Subaru Apparently Doesn't Care If Its Cars Are Ugly And That's Fine

A beautiful Subie? It'll never happen.

We’ll give Subaru’s design department credit when it comes to concepts. That’s about it. There’ve been plenty of really cool (though still quirky) Subaru concept cars in recent years. Thing is, that’s where the coolness pretty much stops. Production-spec Subarus aren’t exactly pretty. Far from it. Whereas fellow Japanese automaker Mazda, for example, prides itself not only on the fun-to-drive factor, but also its gorgeous and bold designs, Subaru is all about function over form. Ah yes, "The Beauty of All-Wheel Drive," so goes Subaru’s tagline.

Its cars have your back in sleet and snow, through gravel and rocky roads. Subarus are built to take a beating but damn, they’re fugly. The just revealed 2017 Impreza – and this is just our opinion – looks like the current one only with some wavy-looking body panels. Apparently that’s the sexiest a new Subaru can get these days. The BRZ? Hardly qualifies as sexy. The Mazda MX-5? Yeah, now that’s a looker. Would Subaru ever consider sexy? Nope, and why should it? Subaru has carved out a niche for itself in the market. Essentially, Subaru today is yesterday’s Volvo: safe, reliable, and not particularly stylish but in a trendy, upper middle class executive who loves dogs, mountain biking, rock climbing, and fair trade coffee beans sort of way.

But wait. What happened to Volvo then? It went upscale, thus out of the price range most Subaru buyers are willing or able to pay. So that leaves Subaru to do its own thing, and it does it extremely well.

So well, in fact, that it set an all-time sales record of 582,675 vehicles in 2015. That figure is up by 13.4% over 2014 and it’s showing no signs of slowing down. Last December, for example, more than 20,000 Foresters and Outbacks were sold combined. "Oh, but those are family haulers and not for enthusiasts," you might say. True, but 2015 was also the best sales year ever for the WRX and STI. Only the BRZ saw a sales decline from 2014 to 2015. But that’s OK. Subaru can easily live with that. What it can’t do – and shouldn’t – is change course. Meaning, the existing formula works phenomenally well, ugly cars and all. Subaru might even alienate its loyal buyers (and they’re ridiculously loyal) if it embraced sexy designs.

Brand image could even backfire, too. Just look at Toyota. It’s trying so desperately hard to have more emotional looking cars. The new Prius is a good example. But it’s trying too damn hard. Same goes for the Camry and Corolla. Subaru knows better than to fall into that trap. If boxy and quirky isn’t your thing and you could care less about all-wheel drive, then Subaru isn’t for you. Then again, Subaru is regularly ranked at the top for highest resale values in the industry. So go ahead, Subaru. Keep on building them ugly/quirky cars. Come to think of it, you always have. And that’s what sets you apart, in a good way, from everyone else.

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