Used 2003 Subaru Legacy Sedan

2003 Subaru Legacy
List price range


  • 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.

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Edmunds' Expert Review

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.

Top consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the 2003 Subaru Legacy.

Amazing until 100k
_herzog, 11/8/2013
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.
Not quite on top, but FAR from the bottom
PCtechGUY2003, 1/2/2008
Good all around car, but small things are lacking, or are just annoying. Don't like overdrive gear in it... it kicks into overdrive at 35 mph... which is the average speed I go (I live in the country... the physical speed limit of the roads here is 35 mph). When you let off the gas to coast, and then give it a little gas, the car jerks a little as it jumps back into the underdrive gears. Very annoying, but nothing actually wrong. Only does this at the 35 mph mark. Gas mileage isn't what I would like: 16-18 mpg. Would also like a few more horses under the hood. Don't get me wrong... this car is MUCH better than the 96 chevy lumina it replaced.
Great ideas, but rough around the edges
PCtechGUY, 4/20/2008
Purchased this car about five months ago for the AWD. AWD is great, but does add extra weight to the car. This slows acceleration, but worst of all, you can feel the shifting in the tranny much more so than a FWD. Tranny is the worst part of this car. You hit overdrive at 35 mph, and if you coast at 35-40, it kicks in and out of overdrive constantly for hills, as well as everytime you have to bleed off speed for curves, which makes for a jerky ride. Under normal driving conditions, the car will do a lot of shifting, and the tranny is not the smoothest shifter. Interior quality is good, but could have been a little better. The knobs for the AC and heater feel a little cheap.
Poor quality can't hide
louis Eastman, 12/19/2007
Not happy with braking system, chews up rotors and discs, air conditioning system needs to be recharged yearly, heating system does not heat floor very well. Destroys tires, less than 20000 miles for tires. The entire undercarriage is rusted out after only 5 years; this is a major problem. Two pistons were replaced under warranty and now the remaining two are near failure and are not covered. I would not recommend this vehicle to another person.
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Features & Specs

19 city / 25 hwy
Seats 5
4-speed automatic
165 hp @ 5600 rpm
19 city / 25 hwy
Seats 5
4-speed shiftable automatic
165 hp @ 5600 rpm
19 city / 25 hwy
Seats 5
4-speed automatic
165 hp @ 5600 rpm
18 city / 25 hwy
Seats 5
5-speed manual
165 hp @ 5600 rpm
See all Used 2003 Subaru Legacy Sedan features & specs


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
    Driver3 / 5
    Passenger4 / 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 Sedan Overview

The Used 2003 Subaru Legacy Sedan is offered in the following styles: L AWD 4dr Sedan (2.5L 4cyl 4A), 2.5 GT AWD 4dr Sedan (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), and L Special Edition AWD 4dr Sedan (2.5L 4cyl 5M).

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