From £26,6556
A niche proposition as ever, but then Subaru revels in its uniqueness. This would be a significantly improved car with a conventional automatic or manual transmission

Our Verdict

The Subaru Levorg GT 1.6i DIT Lineartronic

Subaru brings its much-loved all-paw estate concept up to date

26 June 2015

What is it?

Different - but then you’d expect that from Subaru. The Levorg is something of a reprise, Subaru admitting that it didn’t look at the previous Legacy wagon as a starting point - customers found it too big and ungainly - but the popular fourth-generation model before it. A greatest hits tourer, then, with the benefit of some of Subaru’s latest technology.

That includes a new aluminium 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder boxer engine, which delivers 167bhp and 184lb ft. Of course there’s asymmetrical four-wheel drive with a drive split of 60/40 front to rear here, and Subaru’s Lineartronic CVT automatic transmission, too.

All of which makes the Levorg a niche proposition, as ever, but Subaru admits to aiming the car at buyers who might otherwise have bought a Mazda 6 Tourer or a Volvo V60. That, and its hardcore of customers who simply wouldn’t drive anything else.

Japanese domestic market customers get a 2.0-litre turbocharged model with 296bhp, but they’ll not be rolling on the freighter ships and sailing West anytime soon - officially at least. That’s despite Subaru Europe saying that, when surveyed, people still associate the firm with its smokin’ gold-wheeled blue cars. Subaru is still trying to kick that habit, so the asymmetrical four-wheel drive here is for safety, pragmatism instead coming to the fore.

What's it like?

You cannot argue with the Subaru’s focus on practicality. The packaging is impressive, Subaru managing to create a usefully shaped and accessible boot, and loads of passenger space front and rear within a relatively compact footprint.

The build quality is of a robustness common to all Subarus, although here there’s some soft-touch tactility that shows they’ve been listening to the press's criticism. Hard plastics are evident, they just require more commitment to find, and doing so will reveal that the Levorg is also the most USB-socket-equipped car we’ve ever encountered - we counted six throughout the cabin. The infotainment system comes straight from the Outback and works commendably well, while the driving position is good and the all-round visibility is impressive.

The Levorg is intended to be robust, practical and enjoyable, says Subaru, with agility and stability considered to be safety boosts as much as the car's electronic driver aid. This car doesn't get Subaru's full stereo-cameraed 'Eyesight' adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency braking and pre-collision warning just yet. Much is made about its handling, though, with Subaru claiming to have benchmarked the Levorg with cars such as the Audi S3 and its own BRZ - and the results are tangible.

With a short, testing handling track at hand in Stockholm, the Levorg demonstrated fine body control, with ambitious cornering speeds resulting in very little body roll. It’ll need a run on UK roads to really ascertain what that means for the ride, but seeking out what few lumps and bumps there were on the test track seemed to suggest that Subaru has achieved a decent ride. The power-assisted steering is an electrically powered rack and pinion set-up, which is weighty yet gives little real information. Combined with that, fast cornering does leave you guessing how much grip is available.

You’ll give up pushing before reaching the point it understeers, so the Levorg is best enjoyed at more sedate speeds. That’s largely down to the transmission, which despite its six stepped ratios, does intrude with a characteristic CVT belt noise. It automatically changes to the stepped mode when you push the accelerator past 35% of its travel in standard 'I' mode, while selecting S mode makes those ‘gears’ arrive with just 30% of accelerator input. The transmission is undoubtedly the weakest link in the Levorg’s make up, and shifting via paddles does little to help to speed things up. No question that it’d be a better drive with a standard manual transmission or a dual-clutch automatic gearbox, both of which might give that new engine more chance to shine.

The new 1.6-litre boxer engine is smooth; indeed it’s perhaps too quiet for the type of buyer who’s seeking out the Levorg for its interesting technical make-up. Peak torque arrives at 1800rpm and hangs on for another 4000rpm. It's a shame, then, that the engine’s output is stymied by the transmission, and its CO2 looks high compared to its similarly powered, front-wheel-drive rivals. With power and torque figures close to, and in the case of torque better than, Subaru’s 2.5-litre naturally aspirated unit, it’s inconceivable that the engine won’t be rolled out across more Subaru models in time.

Should I buy one?

As an all-weather, any-condition alternative family estate - maybe. Four-wheel drive makes for plenty of traction, the asymmetrical system being able to split its power 50/50 front/rear as a maximum, and the Levorg feels surefooted and safe if not particularly exciting.

But beyond that alternative appeal, the Levorg is a difficult car to recommend against conventional rivals. The Subaru’s strength remains its individuality, which does means there’s a limited audience for it. The 500 or so largely private buyers Subaru UK anticipates in its first year will love it for all of Subaru’s usual qualities, but it’s difficult to imagine many floating voters picking it over a Mazda 6 or a Volvo V60.

Kyle Fortune

Subaru Levorg 1.6 GT-S

Location Stockholm, Sweden On sale July Price £25,000 (est) Engine 4 cyls horizontally opposed, 1600cc, turbocharged, petrol Power 167bhp at 4800-6500rpm Torque 184lb ft at 1800-4800rpm Gearbox CVT automatic Kerb weight 1551kg 0-62mph 8.9sec Top speed 130mph Economy 39.7mpg (combined) CO2/tax band 164g/km, 27%

Join the debate

Comments
13

26 June 2015
The article has a major contradiction - on one hand "The Levorg is something of a reprise, Subaru admitting that it didn’t look at the previous Legacy wagon as a starting point - customers found it too big and ungainly - but the popular fourth-generation model before it." while on the other hand "You cannot argue with the Subaru’s focus on practicality. The packaging is impressive, Subaru managing to create a usefully shaped and accessible boot, and loads of passenger space front and rear within a relatively compact footprint." The 4th generation Legacy was cramped, both front and rear - the 5th generation was bigger for both but now they've gone back to the previous size so how can Levorg be practical if it's cramped? What Subaru need, for global sales but including here is a stylish replacement for the 7-seat Tribeca (the one they hit with the ugly stick) and give it a choice of 2.0 or 3.0 diesels.

26 June 2015

40mpg from the petrol automatic (and being Subaru, it'll get that) is reasonable enough but is it not going to get Subaru's diesel boxer engine? That seems an odd omission for a medium estate. Perhaps they're just waiting until the new emissions test in so they don't have the perceived disadvantage in MPG/CO2 they're working under currently.

It sounds like a competative small estate generally, although the lack of Eyesight is a shame.

29 June 2015
I'm a definite Subaru fan, but one step forward and two back here. The lack of Eyesight is surprising, the CVT box is disappointing, and that huge bonnet scoop to feed a 1.6 with 170bhp is a bit embarrassing. Still - there is a good reason why Subarus have a loyal following. Live with one for a few months, and you discover a tough, dependable and quietly characterful car. For country living they are great.

29 June 2015
I'm also a Subaru fan, and would seriously consider one if it had a munual box and the 2.0 turbo flat-four. Come on Subaru!!!!!!!

29 June 2015
... after owning one non-stop for 18 years. We probably wouldn't if this had been available with the 2 litre or the Outback had been available with the 3.6 (or the 2 litre turbo as I think it gets in China). I can get that they need to bring down CO2 emissions and that they don't want the brand known for just STis but not selling cars in Europe which are already available elsewhere is silly, especially as all they need to do is for them to be special order. At the top end, for the traditional country customer who could afford more if they wanted Subaru just hasn't kept pace. Actually I suspect that its range now is slower than it was 10 years ago, STi excluded when the rest of the competition has improved.

29 June 2015
Interesting the Gen4 is the one they recognise as the best-ever Legacy - having enjoyed the services of an R Spec B, I concur. 3 things put me off current Subarus. Their emissions are seemingly a generation behind the class best, their obsession with the enthusiasm-sapping CVT, and their stylistic direction is all over the place. A real shame, as they're characterful and very competent cars. If i could afford the road-tax I'd gladly import a Gen4 GT turbo wagon.

29 June 2015
Interesting the Gen4 is the one they recognise as the best-ever Legacy - having enjoyed the services of an R Spec B, I concur. 3 things put me off current Subarus. Their emissions are seemingly a generation behind the class best, their obsession with the enthusiasm-sapping CVT, and their stylistic direction is all over the place. A real shame, as they're characterful and very competent cars. If i could afford the road-tax I'd gladly import a Gen4 GT turbo wagon.

29 June 2015
Interesting the Gen4 is the one they recognise as the best-ever Legacy - having enjoyed the services of an R Spec B, I concur. 3 things put me off current Subarus. Their emissions are seemingly a generation behind the class best, their obsession with the enthusiasm-sapping CVT, and their stylistic direction is all over the place. A real shame, as they're characterful and very competent cars. If i could afford the road-tax I'd gladly import a Gen4 GT turbo wagon.

29 June 2015
Interesting the Gen4 is the one they recognise as the best-ever Legacy - having enjoyed the services of an R Spec B, I concur. 3 things put me off current Subarus. Their emissions are seemingly a generation behind the class best, their obsession with the enthusiasm-sapping CVT, and their stylistic direction is all over the place. A real shame, as they're characterful and very competent cars. If i could afford the road-tax I'd gladly import a Gen4 GT turbo wagon.

29 June 2015
Is this in the impreza or legacy class ? 1.6 ltr/looks suggests something based on an impreza. Agree with others that the mk4 legacy was high watermark and if the penny has finally dropped at subaru HQ then perhaps things will improve on the style front. Unfortunately, as an ex owner, a car with only one engine and gearbox will not be tempting me back. Importer problem rather than manufacturer ?

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