The Subaru Outback offers a classy drive and rugged good looks at an attractive price
THERE'S various barometers and anecdotal tests that we as citizens use to guage the economic climate.
Most importantly the easiest test is to ask someone: "Are ya busy?" The answer these days seems to be met with a cautious smile and a kind of semi-optimistic nod.
Without giving too much away, the subject whether he be the local newsagent, the taxi driver or the business executive delivers the common response: "Well, it's better than it was" or the equally not running away with itself retort: "Something is definitely happening out there."
There are of course more reliable tests, such as the price of property or the increasing number of new cars being bought and sold.
I prefer to use a more subtle approach, which I call the 'Dunmore East Economic Climate Effect' or the not very catchy DEECE theory.
This is not based on any scientific or mathematic logic, but it is based on a simple observation anytime I visit the beautiful harbour village in County Waterford.
Dunmore East is the playground of the wealthy on the coast on the far side of Waterford city, a place home to oligarchs and executives in a tranquil natural harbour which houses numerous beaches and coves and gazes across at the majestic Hook Head lighthouse.
As one of the most aspirational addresses in the country, it is also a place which like the rest of the country, completely lost the run of itself during the boom.
Property prices soared to eye-watering levels and folk borrowed on the back of nothing to own rustic cottages for half a million in a place where they'd spend about five per cent of their time.
Not too long ago the Yummy Mummy brigade packed up all their belongings into their Range Rover Sports and BMW X5s and made their way from the southside of Dublin to Dumore for the entire summer holidays with their little blonde haired blue-eyed children in tow.
They played tennis, ate in the selection of high-end bars and restaurants and kept in touch with hubby back in the city, as he toiled through the year to pay for the glorious summer retreat.
Then came the crash, and almost everybody sold up their negative equity houses, and gone were the €100k SUVs - until very recently.
On my latest trip to the South East more and more big cars are back on the tiny streets, 'Sale Agreed' signs are sprouting up like daffodils in Spring and olive skinned blondes are back, and so on my DEECE logic, we are well and truly on the way to recovery.
Added to this, Subaru SUV's are selling well again, a clear sign that things are moving forward when the ultimate posh person's car is being snapped up in a way not seen since before 2008.
The latest smart Subaru I had the pleasure of piloting recently was the Subaru Outback. It is one of those cars that has just about everything for fans of raw, aggressive, yet classy-looking cars. There is the unmistakeable Subaru bonnet scoop, and there is the raw edge profile from a car that looks great from just about any angle.
Inside there is one of the roomiest cabins for a car of this type, and the decor is comfortable and smooth.
But best of all, the Outback is four-wheel drive, it is fast, and it is a smooth and decent drive, which handles well and feels great, without being spectacular.
The old problem with the Subaru used be the cost of running it, but now that's all gone thanks to the 2.0 litre diesel burner.
The Subaru Outback starts at €41,995