Like the sixth-place Forester, the 2006 Subaru Outback is a vehicle with broad appeal thanks to standard all-wheel drive, a versatile cabin, and a PZEV-rated 175-horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder boxer engine. When mated to a five-speed manual transmission the EPA suggests ratings of 23 mpg city, 28 mpg highway, and 25 mpg combined; a four-speed automatic drops city mileage to 22 mpg but the combined rating remains the same. Turbocharged and six-cylinder versions of the Outback muster combined ratings in the low 20s, and therefore, fail to qualify for this list.
Though some of our editors knocked the 2006 Outback for a base sticker price ranging from the high $20s to the mid $30s and a tight rear seat, others complemented the fun driving dynamics, its versatility, Subaru’s reputation for reliability, the Outback’s light-duty off-road capability, and the fact that it can all be had for less than most comparably-equipped hybrids. Plus, general consensus seemed to indicate that the Outback’s design was more appealing than the befuglied square-back Subaru Forester.