more than the Skoda after three years.
The Liberty is also better equipped than the two Germans. A recent update has brought standard blind spot and lane departure warning, as well as rear cross traffic alert — handy for backing out of the drive.
Added to those is automated emergency braking, which can detect pedestrians and cyclists and brake to avoid them. It also gets a standard sunroof.
But the Liberty is smaller and not as fun to drive as these rivals. The 2.5-litre engine is down on power and torque in this company and the continuously variable transmission isn’t as slick and swift as the dual-clutch autos on the Skoda and VW.
Not that the Subaru is a slouch on the road. It grips tenaciously and recent revisions to the suspension have improved the ride without sacrificing cornering ability. It settles well over bumps and sits flat through the bends, although the steering is unevenly weighted at times.
Inside, the cabin is dark but well appointed, with perforated leather seats and fully automatic driver and front passenger seats (although only the driver gets an auto-up window). Rear leg and headroom are the tightest here, while the boot is also smaller, with a narrower port when the rear seats are folded.
Servicing is expensive but you get six services to three on the VW and Skoda. The Passat feels the most upmarket of the three, with ribbed leather cushions on the seats, a chunky, flat-bottomed steering wheel and classy fauxmetal highlights on the dash and door trims.
The entertainment and satnav setup is easy to operate and the instrument panel displays a wealth of information in front of the driver, reducing the need to look away to check satnav directions, radio choices and phone menus.
It trumps the Skoda with keyless entry and push-button start and one tester compared the cabin favourably with the recently released Audi A4.
On the road, it’s the same story. The cabin is quiet and the suspension is unruffled by bumps, potholes and midcorner corrugations. The steering is sharp.
The engine, while less powerful than the Skoda, delivers rapid progress. It’s helped by to a seven-speed twin-clutch auto that keeps it in the right rev range to make the most of its torque.
It is more engaging than the Subaru and slightly more refined in its power delivery than the Skoda. It is also the All three are quality cars and separating them isn’t easy.
The Passat has the most tasteful cabin and is the most frugal but both the Subaru and the Skoda eclipse it on value for money.
The Skoda is the best car here — it’s almost a size up on the other two with more power and performance. It’s the one we’d prefer to drive if someone else was paying the bills and taking the residual risk.
But the combination of a sharper price, more equipment and better value as a used car means the Liberty is the one we’d recommend.