Interior

While the exterior's looks caused me some disappointment, the Outback's interior has sacrificed nothing. I had one of my favorite test drives in a 2006 Outback, so I was a bit worried that the new one wouldn't match my previous experience.

I shouldn't have worried. The 2010 Outback's interior has improved upon the previous generation. There's now a lot of room for everyone. The second row is deep enough to provide plenty of legroom in the backseat and lots of space for rear-facing infant seats.

I want to clarify, though, that the Outback didn't feel monstrous, and I never felt like I had more car than I needed. How did Subaru do that? Subaru spokeswoman Jessica Tullman said that while the 2010 Outback's rear legroom increased by 4 inches, the overall vehicle length is almost an inch shorter. She didn't tell me whether magic or voodoo was employed in accomplishing this feat.

In the front seat, the driver is pampered with generous cupholders, heated seats and a few cubbies. There's woodlike trim and an abundance of silver-colored plastic that doesn't seem so bad with all of the other nice interior touches. I really liked the black-colored carpeting, which coordinated beautifully with the light beige leather seats. When it gets snowy and mucky out, the dark carpet hides lingering stains.

One thing for parents to keep in mind is the seats' leather is perforated, so keep milk and other questionable beverages out of the kids' hands if you're worried about lingering, smelly spills. The cargo area is a little bigger than the previous-generation Outback; it could easily handle a double stroller. The cargo area also has under-floor storage, which I always appreciate.

IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT

Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Galore

Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Galore

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