Eager to enter the increasing market for 7-seater MPVs, Subaru first unveiled the Subaru Exiga concept at the 2007 Tokyo Motor Show and the production version was unveiled in July this year. Having a car industry that is completely based on CBU imports, Singapore gets the Subaru Exiga almost immediately thanks to the quick response of Singaporean Subaru importers and distributors Motor Image.

I don’t know how long the Exiga project has been in existence but I can’t help but feel the Exiga is the result of some Toyota DNA injected onto FHI – it seems somewhat like a quick and efficient fix to a problem. The Exiga is built on the Legacy’s platform, taking the D-segment sedan and stationwagon (Outback)’s body and increasing its size to fit 7 people. However the problem with being somewhat based on the Legacy is that it somehow automatically looks dated despite being a new model.

It seems like Subaru went a little adventurous and tried to develop a new styling language with the likes of the Version 9 Impreza and the pre-facelift Tribeca but with these new batch of models quickly rolled back to the old design language before brand perception got worse, resulting in dated looking new models.

ExigaAnyway, the result of the Exiga project is a people carrier that is rather fit to be called a Subaru. It has the two key things you’d expect from a Subaru – a horizontally opposed boxer engine and all-wheel drive. There is even a turbocharged version.

After a short drive with the normally aspirated Exiga 2.0i, I found it to handle reasonably well for such a large vehicle. It did not feel large at all and was easy to maneuver. I was immediately reminded of the current generation Honda Odyssey. Nice, an MPV that drives like a 5-seater car! I’m sure the low center gravity of the boxer engine helps alot in this department. The Exiga also has a double wishbone suspension at the rear.

The interior is a class above the likes of the Mazda5, Toyota Wish and Honda Stream in terms of space but falls short of the interior space offered by the Honda Odyssey. The windscreen in front of the driver’s point of view is wide and tall. As evident from the exterior of the car with its taller roof, the interior had plenty of headroom.

ExigaGetting into the third row via folding down and sliding forward the second row seat is an easy one-handed affair. I had no problems sitting in the third row (I cannot fit in the Stream’s third row without making the second row unusable) though.

But we’re just talking about fitting without threatening to cut off blood supply to my legs from the pressure against the back of the second row seats like AirAsia planes. The seating position was not exactly comfortable as the distance from the seat to the floor is too close so the third row is still best left to children.

My head was quite close to the ceiling (did not touch it), but apparently this is intentional. According to Subaru, the second row and third row increase in height in steps so that all three rows get a good clear vision of the view in front. But with the third row in use, there is really not much luggage room left. Perhaps enough for 2 suitcases, definitely not 7!

ExigaAnd despite only having air cond blowers at the front, Subaru surprisingly managed to design the airflow to hit the passengers all the way at the back through vents at the front which point to the top, which is quite commendable. This may turn off some people who expect more blowers because of the car’s near-Odyssey (which has blowers for all 3 rows) price tag regardless of whether the front blowers do their job or not.

However, the 2.0 litre normally aspirated engine with 148 PS at 6,000rpm and 191Nm of torque at 3,200rpm can only manage the weight of the Exiga with only 4 people in the car. Add three more plus luggage and it’s going to feel pretty sluggy. The lack of power is reflected in the spec sheets which indicate a top speed of 160km/h and 12.7 seconds from stand still to the 100km/h mark. The 4-speed SPORTSHIFT automatic has nothing sporty about it and is quite sluggy to downshift when power is needed.

ExigaThe higher spec and more powerful turbocharged Exiga 2.0GT with the turbocharged 2.0 litre boxer engine was not available for test drive, but I reckon that would be a much more suitable powertrain for the car thanks to its 225 PS at 5,600rpm and 326Nm of torque at 4,400rpm. Being turbocharged, it would be much more tuner-friendly too. Its gearbox also has one extra cog, making a 5-speed unit. It also adds a panoramic moonroof and a black interior instead of being extremely light and beige like in the normally aspirated version.

Sadly the turbocharged model is JDM-spec and is speed limited to 180km/h – this would not be a problem in Singapore but if you want to go a little more crazy with the throttle when you travel up to Malaysia on the North-South Highway you may want to research if there’s a work-around for this on your own at a JDM accessory shop.

Look after the jump for more photos of the Subaru Exiga.

PHOTO GALLERY: Subaru Exiga in Singapore