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Subaru Justy 1.0 R

Click to view picture gallery“Subarus three-cylinder supermini,
  the Justy, makes excellent use of its
  boxy styling — and with loads of
  space for people, just about all the
  kit you
ll need and 55+mpg, you could
  say it’s Just-y Right-y

SUBARU IS BEST-KNOWN FOR ITS PRACTICAL FOUR-WHEEL DRIVE MOTORS, in particular its 'go-faster' Impreza range, so to find a front-wheel drive supermini wearing the Subaru badge is as surprising as the two meaty chromed tailpipes protruding from below the Justy's rear bumper.

Our test car was finished in a deliciously dramatic shade of plum — just check out the pictures and you'll see what we mean. A stylishly 'boxy' baby it might be but it's boxy in the nicest possible way, with rounded corners and stand-out wheel arches wrapped over smart alloy wheels at each corner. Minimal overhangs front and rear and a short but high-ish bonnet line, large 'stacked' headlight units and a two-tier grille all generate distinction, as does the neat upright tailgate that's flanked by large vertical rear light units and the chromed oval tailpipes jutting out, one each side, from under the bumper.

Large doors make for easy entry wherever you're sitting and the Justy's spacious cabin is light and airy. Build quality is good and the fascia attractive. At a time when cabins are becoming overburdened with controls, the Justy's is refreshingly uncluttered. The fascia is deep and logically laid out, with a centre panel dedicated to the audio and standard-fit manual air-conditioning.

All the dials are located in a single oval pod with the rev-counter to the left and the speedometer to the right and inset between them, an electronic bar graph fuel gauge and driver's information screen. All graphics are black on a light background and eminently readable at a glance — which is exactly how they should be. And at night they're equally clear and easy on the eyes.

The single instrument 'pod' is always in view because it's mounted atop the steering column and moves with the steering wheel which adjusts for height but not reach. This is not a problem as there's ample seat adjustment and the driver can easily set a first class driving position behind the three-spoke steering wheel.

The 9,495 Justy comes with all the essential kit you'll need including AirCon, electric windows all round (the driver's window has a one-shot down feature), power mirrors, rear parking sensors, Isofix child-seat mountings, remote central-locking with alarm, radio/CD player with an auxiliary input socket for your MP3 player, rev-counter, fuel economy read-out and power steering.

A major pull for many
will be the Justy’s
excellent fuel economy:
our week-long test
average worked out at
In addition there are height-adjustable front seat belts, eight airbags (driver, passenger, side and four curtain) and an attractive set of twin-spoke alloy wheels. The passenger airbag, incidentally, can be switched off if you're using a child seat. ABS with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD) is also standard. Peace of mind comes from the warranty: the Justy's is for five years / 60,000 miles backed by five years' UK and European roadside assistance. SatNav is a dealer fit option.

Space-wise — for both front and rear seat occupants — the Justy is one of the biggest superminis. Its boxy five-door body style cloaks a deceptively spacious cabin made better by easy access: wide-opening doors (rear doors, for instance, open to 80 degrees) and a 590mm seat height ensures easy entry and exit — and you don't have to be approaching pension age to appreciate that.

Upholstery is two-tone cloth that's pleasant to the touch and the seats themselves proved well-shaped and comfortable to travel in. Rear leg and headroom are especially impressive given the Justy's compact footprint — it measures just 3.6 metres long and 1,665mm wide. A nice touch is that the rear backrests can be set at either of two recline angles, both of which are relaxing. The rear headrests sit low for better driver visibility when not in use; in use they proved to be ideal as they support your head and your neck. A third 'piggy in the middle' can be accommodated in the rear although it goes without saying (even in the biggest cars) that two's company and three's a crowd!

Front doors have well-sited 'outer' armrests and narrow but useful door pockets plus there's a lower level to the facia that incorporates a good-sized storage bin below the glovebox along with a fair number of storage trays and cup-holders. With the 60:40 split rear seats in use there's 225 litres of luggage space. Fold them down and you have a very practical and flat 630-litre load bay — easily accessible through the large regular-shaped tailgate.

A major pull for many buyers will be the Justy's excellent fuel economy: officially, the combined, urban and extra-urban are 56.5, 46.3 and 64.2mpg respectively. Our week-long test average worked out at 55.1mpg. Not at all bad, especially as the Justy doesn't have a mass of high-tech economy-boosting gimmicks to maximise its economy apart from electric power steering and a low (0.31 Cd) drag coefficient. And with a 40-litre (8.8 gallons) petrol tank even at the 46mpg town figure you can drive a lot of miles between forecourt visits.

The typical supermini
driver will be
more than happy
to punt it about...”
Power comes from a three-cylinder 998cc engine with four valves per cylinder, double overhead camshafts and variable valve-timing that produces 68bhp and 69lb ft of torque at 3,600rpm. CO2 emissions are 118g/km so the annual road tax bill is only 67p per week.

Top speed is 99mph with a 0-60mph time of 13.9 seconds. On the move the 1.0 litre powerplant feels punchy and well-suited to city driving and also feels at home on motorways, where it's quiet and agreeably refined. The five-speed manual gearbox has a light action that makes accessing the 69bhp an easy task. It's a peppy little unit and happy to rev around the clock; the distinctive, three-cylinder 'thrum' when you work it hard actually sounds quite entertaining and never becomes intrusive or bothersome.

The Justy R is both capable and surprising fun to drive. The power-assisted, rack-and-pinion Speedsensitive electric steering is direct and, combined with a sharp throttle response, tight turning circle (just 9.4 metres), light controls and excellent visibility, makes the Justy easy to place and manoeuvre. The European-tuned chassis, which has long suspension-travel for a smoother ride, does it's job well: ride quality is good — firmly supple — and the Justy also benefits from running comfort-enhancing 175/65 Yokohama tyres.

It can be chucked around more than you might be expecting — anti-roll bars are fitted at the front and rear, the front suspension is via MacPherson struts and the rear is equally conventional featuring a torsion bar with separate coil springs — and the typical supermini driver will be more than happy to punt it about. Brakes are powerful and, boosted by ventilated front discs, pull you up hard and fast.

As a characterful, pleasant and practical small family car, notably one that will travel a long way on every gallon of petrol, Subaru's Justy is the real deal. Plus it looks far more stylish than a car costing 9,495 has any right to. —

Subaru Justy 1.0 R
| 9,495
Maximum speed: 99mph | 0-60mph: 13.9 seconds | Overall MPG: 55.1mpg
Power: 68bhp | Torque: 69lb ft | CO2 118g/km | Insurance group 5D