2003 Subaru Legacy Review

Used Legacy for sale
List Price Estimate:$1,776 - $4,168
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Edmunds' Expert Review

  • All-wheel drive, a host of standard features, available as a sedan or a wagon, less expensive than many European competitors.
  • Side airbags available only on 2.5 GT models, no six-cylinder engine offered.

A capable all-weather sedan or wagon for an agreeable price.

Vehicle overview

Introduction:Do you live in a place where it is often cold and snowy? Do you have an entire drawer at home dedicated to "long johns"? Do you like the idea of owning a vehicle with all-wheel drive? Do you dislike the idea of owning a gas-guzzling SUV? If you've answered yes to any or all of these questions, Subaru has a car it'd like you to take a look at.

Since 1990, the Legacy has been the company's midsize sedan and wagon offering. Some years have certainly been better than others. The current model was last redesigned in 2000, and we have generally found it to be a capable, reliable and enjoyable vehicle. The highlight is, of course, the Legacy's standard AWD system. Only a few sedans and wagons are available with this feature, and many of them are more-expensive models from Europe. All-wheel drive gives the Legacy added stability in wet or snowy conditions, though there are downsides, including reduced fuel efficiency and added complexity and cost.

All-wheel-drive cars like the Audi A4 and Volkswagen Passat have more prestige associated with them, and their base prices are similar to the Legacy's. But load them up with equal amenities, and their stickers go skyward. For buyers with limited funds and a desire for a relatively upmarket AWD sedan, the Legacy is certainly worth consideration.

Body Styles, Trim Levels and Options: Subaru's midsize five-passenger Legacy comes in both sedan and wagon form. Last year's GT and GT Limited have been combined; there are now just two trim levels to choose from. These are the Legacy L and Legacy 2.5 GT. Subaru outfits these cars with a high level of standard equipment. L models receive items like air conditioning, a CD player, cruise control, power windows and locks, keyless entry and a tilting steering wheel. Going with a 2.5 GT earns larger 16-inch wheels, larger front brakes, a sport-tuned suspension, special body add-ons, a power moonroof, a power driver seat, a premium sound system, leather seating (the front seats are heated) and heated side mirrors. If the 2.5 GT seems too much for you, there's a special edition package available this year for the L trim. This package adds selected items from the 2.5 GT, including the moonroof, 16-inch wheels and leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob.

Powertrains and Performance: The Legacy is powered by a 2.5-liter horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine that makes 165 horsepower and 166 pound-feet of torque. This engine can be equipped with either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. 2.5 GT models feature shorter gearing for quicker acceleration. GTs with the automatic also feature a Sportshift sequential gear-selection mode. All versions of the Legacy are all-wheel drive. While the Legacy's drivetrain provides more power than most other four-cylinder midsize cars, it comes up short compared to the V6s found in competitors. If you want a bigger engine, check out the Outback; it comes with a 212-hp six-cylinder.

Safety: The Legacy sedan has earned four stars in driver and front passenger frontal impact safety from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The wagon has been given four stars for front side-impact protection and five stars for rear side-impact protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has given the car a "good" rating for front offset crash protection and made it a "best pick" overall. All Legacys have four-wheel disc brakes with ABS and front seatbelts with load limiters and pre-tensioners. Side airbags are also standard on 2.5 GT models.

Interior Design and Special Features:Inside, the Legacy offers supportive seats and a roomy cabin. With the rear seats folded down, the wagon can hold 68.6 cubic feet of cargo. Interior design is straightforward, but it lacks the upscale look and feel found in the car's European competitors.

Driving Impressions:The best reason to take a look at the Legacy is its all-wheel drive. With all four wheels receiving power, the Legacy is more stable than a two-wheel-drive car when it comes to driving on wet, snowy and icy roads. Even on dry roads, the Legacy is an entertaining car to pilot thanks to its compliant suspension and tight steering. For maximum fun, get the GT model with the five-speed manual transmission.

2003 Highlights

For 2003, Subaru has added standard equipment and slightly altered available trim levels. The previous Legacy GT and GT Limited models have been consolidated into one 2.5 GT series, with all GT Limited equipment now standard. The new 2.5 GT's optional four-speed automatic now comes with a Sportshift manual mode. To fill the void created by the GT consolidation, Subaru has created an L Special Edition Package that adds several features from the 2.5 GT. Base L models now come with a standard CD player and keyless entry. 2.5 GTs have an upgraded sound system with an in-dash six-disc CD changer. Finally, all Legacys receive slightly freshened front-end styling.

Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the Used 2003 Subaru Legacy.

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Most helpful consumer reviews

5 out of 5 stars
Great Subaru Can't Go Wrong
L Special Edition AWD 4dr Wagon (2.5L 4cyl 4A)
This car has been rock solid. Over 150,000 miles and counting. The review that talks about the shifting, just drop into 3rd on the automatic in-town; the 4th gear is overdrive for the highway...read the manual! The head gaskets have been an issue, but there is a replacement gasket that permanently fixes the problem. I did mine as a preventative and it is still cheaper to own than many other car brands that I won't mention. I think this is a great car and will buy Subarus forever. Can't wait for the diesel model to hit the US.
3 out of 5 stars
L Special Edition AWD 4dr Wagon (2.5L 4cyl 4A)
I bought this car brand new seven years ago thinking that since it was a Subaru I wouldn't have to worry about a major repair bill until well after it hit 100,000 mi....I was wrong. This car only has 86,000 mi. on it and the cylinder head gasket is leaking. Cost estimate for repair is $920 to repair the one, and if I want to replace both the estimate is around $1700. Shortly after I bought the car, Subaru had a recall on it to fix something in the transmission. So much for the Subaru reputation for building a reliable car. Another irritation is the heater, it gets my right foot nice and toasty but leaves my left foot cold. On the positive side; it is a comfortable ride.
3.88 out of 5 stars
Amazing until 100k
L AWD 4dr Sedan (2.5L 4cyl 4A)
I loved this car and would purchase another, because Subaru's are safe and handle amazing. Worse luck though, I had a blown head gasket at just over 100k and that was the beginning of all sorts of engine problems, resulting in eventual engine replacement; and this, despite faithful maintenance from the dealer since I purchased it at 14k.
2.5 out of 5 stars
Not like previous Subarus
L Special Edition AWD 4dr Wagon (2.5L 4cyl 4A)
This model was a lemon from the start. First two days discovered there was almost no transmission fluid in the transmission. Dealer blamed us but rescinded when I wrote to Subaru Regional Manager. 70K miles car overheated due to blown gaskets, $3,000+ replacement of heads. Now at 125,000 it is being towed away as a donor as either the rod bearings or main bearings are starting to go. Two previous Subarus (1990's models) are still on the road after we gave them away at 225,000 miles years ago. This is the last Subaru we will buy.


NHTSA Overall Rating

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration offers independent analysis.
  • Frontal Barrier Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    Driver4 / 5
    Passenger5 / 5
  • Side Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
  • Side Barrier Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    Driver4 / 5
    Passenger5 / 5
  • Combined Side Barrier & Pole Ratings
    Front SeatNot Rated
    Back SeatNot Rated
  • Rollover
    Rollover4 / 5
    Dynamic Test ResultNo Tip
    Risk Of RolloverNot Rated
IIHS Rating
The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety uses extensive crash tests to determine car safety.
  • Side Impact Test
    Not Tested
  • Roof Strength Test
    Not Tested
  • Rear Crash Protection / Head Restraint
    Not Tested
  • IIHS Small Overlap Front Test
    Not Tested
  • Moderate Overlap Front Test

More about the 2003 Subaru Legacy

Used 2003 Subaru Legacy Overview

The Used 2003 Subaru Legacy is offered in the following submodels: Legacy Sedan, Legacy Wagon. Available styles include L AWD 4dr Wagon (2.5L 4cyl 4A), L AWD 4dr Sedan (2.5L 4cyl 4A), 2.5 GT AWD 4dr Sedan (2.5L 4cyl 4A), L AWD 4dr Wagon (2.5L 4cyl 5M), 2.5 GT AWD 4dr Wagon (2.5L 4cyl 4A), L Special Edition AWD 4dr Wagon (2.5L 4cyl 4A), L Special Edition AWD 4dr Sedan (2.5L 4cyl 4A), L AWD 4dr Sedan (2.5L 4cyl 5M), 2.5 GT AWD 4dr Sedan (2.5L 4cyl 5M), 2.5 GT AWD 4dr Wagon (2.5L 4cyl 5M), L Special Edition AWD 4dr Sedan (2.5L 4cyl 5M), and L Special Edition AWD 4dr Wagon (2.5L 4cyl 5M). Pre-owned Subaru Legacy models are available with a 2.5 L-liter gas engine, with output up to 165 hp, depending on engine type. The Used 2003 Subaru Legacy comes with all wheel drive. Available transmissions include: 4-speed automatic, 4-speed shiftable automatic. The Used 2003 Subaru Legacy comes with a 3 yr./ 36000 mi. basic warranty, a 3 yr./ 36000 mi. roadside warranty, and a 5 yr./ 60000 mi. powertrain warranty.

What's a good price on a Used 2003 Subaru Legacy?

Shop with Edmunds for perks and special offers on used cars, trucks, and SUVs near Ashburn, VA. Doing so could save you hundreds or thousands of dollars. Edmunds also provides consumer-driven dealership sales and service reviews to help you make informed decisions about what cars to buy and where to buy them.

Which used 2003 Subaru Legacies are available in my area?

Shop Edmunds' car, SUV, and truck listings of over 6 million vehicles to find a cheap new, used, or certified pre-owned (CPO) 2003 Subaru Legacy for sale near. Simply research the type of car you're interested in and then select a used car from our massive database to find cheap prew-owned vehicles for sale near you. Once you have identified a used vehicle you're interested in, check the AutoCheck vehicle history reports, read dealer reviews, and find out what other owners paid for the Used 2003 Subaru Legacy.

Can't find a used 2003 Subaru Legacys you want in your area? Consider a broader search.

Find a used Subaru Legacy for sale - 4 great deals out of 23 listings starting at $10,242.

Find a used Subaru for sale - 2 great deals out of 11 listings starting at $8,983.

Find a used certified pre-owned Subaru Legacy for sale - 7 great deals out of 11 listings starting at $17,684.

Find a used certified pre-owned Subaru for sale - 3 great deals out of 22 listings starting at $24,377.

Should I lease or buy a 2003 Subaru Legacy?

Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.

Check out Subaru lease specials
Check out Subaru Legacy lease specials