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Subaru brings its much-loved all-paw estate concept up to date, but more dynamic and luxurious rivals from BMW, Skoda and Seat have moved the segment on even further

It’s not immediately obvious what most of us think of these days when we imagine a Subaru.

Two decades ago it would have doubtless been an Impreza Turbo warbling through a forest rally stage. A few might picture an SUV, others a bygone niche performance special, such as a tuned WRX hatchback or a Forester STI.

The Subaru Levorg’s spiritual forebear is the Mark 4 Legacy

But according to Subaru, most people – particularly those in bigger markets for the company than ours, such as Japan and the US – would think of a four-wheel-drive estate: a Legacy.

And it’s the Legacy’s old template on which the firm is hoping to capitalise with the oddly christened Levorg. Previewed as a concept at the 2013 Tokyo show, this car’s identity comes from a collision of the words ‘Legacy’, ‘revolution’ and ‘touring’ (as you probably won’t have surmised).

Mercifully, the design brief is simpler: create a successor to the last-but-one, fourth-generation Legacy in terms of size and price and bring the Subaru ‘AWD’ wagon concept up to date by way of a downsized turbocharged engine, a sophisticated cabin and a ‘grand touring’ blend of dynamic sure-footedness, handling precision and ride finesse. All that backed up by a British touring car racing programme that has already recorded race wins.

Now to find out how effectively that brief has been delivered upon.

It’s easy to talk about squeezing big-car cabin space into a downsized package, after all, but it’s much harder to achieve.

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And aiming to pick up where one of the more popular passenger cars in Subaru’s history left off may make sense to the firm’s management, but can the same success be reproduced 10 years later?

Maybe – but if so, the Levorg’s following here will need to come from deep in the left field.

The car comes to the UK with only one engine and one gearbox: a combination of an all-new 1.6-litre turbo petrol flat four and a Lineartronic continuously variable transmission, neither of which will be what a typical European buyer will expect to find in a new sporty wagon.

So what other surprises does the Levorg have in store? And can it end up offering something genuinely appealing as well as different?

Subaru Levorg First drives