Subaru UK only sells the current, sixth-generation Legacy in the guise of the jacked-up Outback crossover estate, making the context into which the Levorg slots more murky for British buyers than it will be for others.

Not just for the record, then, the Levorg is about six inches shorter at the kerb than its bigger brother but is alleged to offer greater passenger space than the fifth-generation Legacy, as well as a 522-litre load bay, rising to almost 1500 litres with the back seats folded.

Nic Cackett

Nic Cackett

Road tester
Only trim level available to UK buyers pining for a Levorg is in GT spec

The car’s swept-back silhouette, tapering roofline, rising beltline, muscular surfacing and imposing details are all clearly intended to conjure the visual impact of a sports car from the outline of a five-door estate.

But they seem to do that only moderately successfully in our testers’ eyes, leaving the Levorg in a place where it can more accurately (and perhaps charitably) be described as distinctive rather than attractive.

Underneath the divisive styling is an all-steel body-in-white which is identical to that of the WRX hot hatchback from the B-pillars forwards and new from there aft, while being 50 percent more rigid than that of a Legacy.

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

The car’s suspension has been developed from that of the last Legacy, with MacPherson struts up front, double wishbones at the rear and stiffer springs, uprated dampers, stronger anti-roll bars, stiffer bushings and slightly altered geometry all featuring.

By Subaru’s own benchmarking at least, the resulting car has a lower roll rate and crisper handling responses than most of its rivals.

But the big mechanical debut is the 1.6-litre twin-scroll turbocharged ‘FB16’ boxer petrol engine buried under the Levorg’s bonnet.

Although it makes an ordinary-sounding 168bhp at its peak, its 3000rpm-wide spread of 184lb ft of torque is alleged to give the Levorg the same level of performance as if it had been powered by one of the firm’s old EJ-series 2.5-litre flat fours.

It’s Subaru’s first engine ever to combine automatic stop-start with direct fuel injection, it runs at an efficient-sounding 11:1 compression ratio and it’s sure to become a key powerplant for future smaller models from the manufacturer.

But however important it may turn out to be, a 168bhp engine doesn’t sound like much for a £30,000 family car with sporting ambitions – much less one with such a large bonnet scoop.

The continuously variable transmission through which the engine drives is also new. It’s an adaptation of the one offered alongside Subaru’s bigger motors and its fitment means that, instead of the proper centre differential that Subaru’s manual transmission models use in order to split power between the axles, the Levorg uses a multi-plate clutch for the job. Torque vectoring by braking is also part of the drive-juggling mix.

Save money on your car insurance

Compare quotesCompare insurance quotes

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week