Meet the new Subaru Levorg. Think of the Japanese car maker and immediately you conjure up images of World Rally Championship Imprezas storming through stage after stage, WRX STi Imprezas with gold wheels thundering around the streets or practical four-wheel-drive estates.
But according to Subaru, estate cars are what most people pine for in the firm’s larger markets, such as the US.
It’s a path that has been well trodden by the Japanese firm, and it will be interesting to find out, over the next six months, whether the Levorg can live up to the reputation established by its forebears.
Subaru fans will be pleased to know that the Levorg shares its mechanicals with the WRX and the Legacy sold in other markets, and it is the result of a simple design brief to create a successor to the fourth-generation (2004-2009) Legacy while bringing Subaru’s AWD estate up to date.
In real terms, it means the Levorg comes equipped with a downsized twinscroll turbocharged 1.6-litre flat four petrol engine, which may produce only a modest 168bhp but also has 184lb ft of torque from 1800rpm to 4800rpm.
According to Subaru, it will match the level of performance expected from the old EJ-series 2.5-litre flat fours.
Admittedly, it is not the most powerful sports wagon out there, especially when you consider that the 247bhp Ford Focus ST-3 Estate comes in at £100 less than the Levorg’s on-theroad price.
But it is the exploitable range of the torque that intrigues me most, and it will be interesting to see if the Levorg can feel like a Legacy used to.
It may be a left-field choice for most people, but to my eyes the Levorg is an attractive car, with its chiselled looks, LED daytime running lights, large bonnet scoop and twin exhausts.
The fact that Subaru equips the car with a Lineartronic continuously variable transmission as standard ought to be a bonus in a car that will spend much of its time cruising up and down the country as part of my job.
As for the inside, it is plush and a nice place to be, with leather upholstery and electrically adjustable sport seats in the front and blue stitching to give that sporty appeal.
There’s only one trim level, but the Levorg isn’t short of kit. It has, for instance, keyless entry, 18in aluminium alloy wheels, LED headlights, dual-zone climate control, folding and heated door mirrors, a reversing camera, cruise control and a 7.0in infotainment system with sat-nav.
But as I wax lyrical about the new boxer engine, the interior and the attractive looks, the one pressing issue for me is the boot space.
As a photographer, I rarely travel light and often fill the load bay, rear seats and footwells with equipment. Reading that the Levorg is six inches shorter than the Outback made me slightly anxious about its ability to accommodate my equipment.
However, Subaru claims the load bay has a capacity of 552 litres with the rear seats up, eclipsing what is afforded to you by a Ford Mondeo Estate, and 1446 litres with the seats folded flat.
Folding the seats down couldn’t be easier, because there’s an electrical release switch in both the boot and the front cabin, so making room for large loads will be quick and easy.
If that wasn’t enough, Subaru has provided an extra 40 litres of space underneath the boot floor, and so far it has proved ideal for storing little bits and pieces out of sight.
Although the Levorg looks sharp and rather attractive, it does prompt many people to wonder what it is I’m actually driving. (Maybe that’s where the private plate comes in.)
The D-shaped steering wheel is nice to grip, but the steering as a whole lacks any real feel and is somewhat disappointing.
The ride is reasonably firm, as you would expect, but it isn’t uncomfortable and in fact is ironed out slightly by the supportive sports seats.
The Levorg’s powertrain has proved tricky to get to grips with over the first few hundred miles, though.
Although this is no hot hatch-cum-estate, the CVT seems to restrain the engine when you want to make progress and it makes you lurch forward when you try to move off smoothly.
That’s with the Subaru Intelligent Drive (SI Drive) selector in default I-mode (Intelligent mode), too — a setting that is supposed to help ensure smooth and efficient driving.
S-mode (Sport mode), which sharpens up the Levorg’s throttle response, only seems to exacerbate the situation, but no doubt there will be times when it proves useful.
In the meantime, a softer touch on the accelerator may be required until I fully get used to the car. What effect any of this will have on the Levorg’s fuel economy remains to be seen as well.
The car has already recorded a True MPG average of 34.1mpg, which isn’t bad, but I fear I may be visiting the service stations up and down the UK’s motorway network a little more frequently than I’d like.
Nonetheless, these small foibles don’t detract from what is a likeable car, and I am looking forward to finding out what it is like to live with on a daily basis and, more important, whether Subaru has got its AWD estate mojo back.
Subaru Levorg 1.6i DIT GT Lineartronic
Price £27,495 Price as tested £27,995 Options Steel Blue Grey metallic paint (£500) Economy 34.1mpg Faults None Expenses None