Pros: Worth every cent, fun to drive, dependable.
Cons: Older car.
I have had this 1990 Subaru Legacy Sedan basic since 2000. I am the second owner, the first was my aunt. I bought this car from her for $1,100 with about 260,000 miles on it. Currently the car has 305,000 miles on it and it is still the original engine. My car came very basic with only air and heat. It is two wheel drive manufactured in 1989 (you can tell because these have the solid black bumper).
DO THESE CARS REALLY LAST THIS LONG?
Well first they are geared really high. My car is a 5-speed manual and in fifth gear it cruises at 70mph at 2,200 rpm.
My family has owned many Subarus In fact my mom has the same car but it is a wagon and the L model. Her car has 250,000 miles on it and the previous owner rolled the car. My previous car was a 1984 GL wagon with 265,000 miles on it that finally died months after racing (and beating a new Jetta on the freeway) in 2001.
When this car first came out in1990 it broke the FIA World Speed/Endurance record by running 19 days at an average speed of 138.9 mph for more than 62,000 miles (Validated by the Federation Internationale De LAutomobile).
WORK DONE TO CAR SINCE I HAVE OWNED IT
When I got it we had to replace the struts and radiator at 260,000 miles. At that time I bought new tires and got the hill holder working again. (Hold the car in place on an incline by pushing in the clutch and brake then it holds the brake and you only need one foot on for the clutch, makes the take off easier). I just replaced the timing belt at 290,000 miles, speedometer mechanism wore out at 302,000 miles (speedometer cable is two pieces so found the piece I needed from a junkyard and fixed it), and I replaced the brakes at 303,000 miles. I believe the car is on its second maybe even third clutch, but I have not had to replace it, though we did change the gear oil at 302,000 and found NO shavings.
Car makes a clicking value noise and has for about the last 2,000 miles but the mechanic said it is usually just the oil pump wearing out and that part is about $120. My car also burns some oil. It doesnt leak at all and the engine compression is very healthy.
My car is my baby and as a graduate student it is my most valuable possession. The oil on this car has been and is always changed at 3,000 miles. Since I dont have any money this car is only fixed when it is broken.
What can I say; this car has lived its life outside in the elements. The only thing that has been to prevent damage is a sun visor. The top of the back seats in my car is made of plastic and that has become worn exposing the foam. This can be fixed for about $100 but I rarely have back seat passengers so I just keep it covered by a blanket. The front seats have seat covers, but the seats are not too bad. They are still comfortable enough that my passengers always fall asleep.
Inside there is some wind noise. This is due to a design flaw. The windows are not in a frame. For example when you roll the window down all you have is a half door because there is no frame going around the outside of the glass to secure it in a grove to prevent noise. I have also noticed that in high winds at high speeds the glass pulls away from the door about a cm at the top.
The carpet is not good quality. It is difficult to get clean and keep it clean, but again that might be because of where I live. I would recommend some quality floor mats.
The instrument panel is all the same to me; my only complaint is that it is difficult to get to the radio when the cup holders are in use. The car does have a computer onboard so when my speedometer stopped working the car sensed it and the check engine light came on. A family friend double checked it for me and confirmed that the speedometer was the cause for the light in this case. It has your basic temperature, speed, rpm, and fuel gauges along with your basic odometer and trip odometer. The air-conditioning in this car works great. First you chose from A/C or High A/C, and then you select the level (1-4). Living in 110F heat the A/C High is a must.
The heat and defroster work great. Once the car is warmed up (in 30F cold - 5 minutes) the windows instantly defrost.
The trunk and gas cover release are inside. I like the having the gas release inside the drivers side because it is easy to get to as you get out of your car and as with some cars you dont have to worry about a key to get in or someone just opening it and stealing gas.
The cars interior is comfortable enough to fit four adults and even five adults if the fifth is smaller. My brothers weigh over 200lbs each and are 5㤒 and I am smaller and we fit snuggly in the back seat and have survived for trips up to 30 minutes. The ceiling in the sedan is about an inch shorter than the wagons and I would not expect anyone over 6 feet tall to be comfortable in this car.
The black trim above the doors peels. I have yet to see a Subaru that didnt have this issue. The paints condition is very nice considering its age and abuse. It still looks like new with a new coat of wax.
My biggest complaint is, recently I had the car towed and they put those magnetic lights on the trunk and now I have two little rust spots where the magnets were. Other than that I have never had a problem with rust (but I have heard of rust on cars in humid salty areas).
The headlights are plastic on my car and they really dim the lights. The plastic light covers get yellowed and scratched with age. But you can check a junkyard for some nicer replacements.
This car is so much fun to drive. It looks so plain that people never expect it to take off like it does. The legacy has a 4 cylinder, 2.2-liter, 16-value engine with 130 horsepower. You really cant complain when the Toyota Corollas had less than that up until 2001.
I am not sure what the 0-60mph is on these cars but I can keep up with the new cars just fine. I am not sure what the top speed is on these cars but as you have read from above they have no problem cruising at dangerously high speeds. And yes my car has been up 135 mph since I have owned it.
This car handles corners very well I have pushed it a couple of times and allowed the back end to slide out a little on tight corners at 50mph. However the wagon does corner a little bit better and the Subaru wagon prior to this made in 1986-1989 corners even better (but the A/C causes issues and overheats the car in this model as well as those manufactured earlier than 1990).
highway 33mpg average speed 65mph
I would definably recommend Subaru Legacy model years 1990 thru 1994. 1995 they went to some cheap motor and the quality suffered. They did not discover this mistake until 2001 when they started putting these engines back in the car. I must tell you that the Legacys 2001 and newer are the exact same car as this the only difference is that the cars now are heaver with extra safety features like the airbags and an extra set of cup holders in the back. But other than that 1990 is the year they started making All Wheel Drive available as well as ABS brakes.
Overall if you are out looking for an affordable and very dependable used car this is your best bet. If you find one out there with low mileage all the better .and if you find one and dont buy it yourself let me know cause I will :).