To drive, the Levorg is pacey and moderately good fun at times, albeit undeniably muddled. Underneath the Levorg lies a platform and a goodly chunk of suspension hardware donated from the WRX STi sports saloon – and you certainly know it by the way the car rides and handles.
But while it’s fairly quiet and measured on smooth roads, there’s a heaving firmness about the ride over uneven B-roads that’s a bit unsettling to begin with. The car’s damping, though progressive, is ultimately uncompromising, doing a good job of keeping the wheels on terra firma at all times but making the car pitch and heave unsympathetically over bigger bumps. After a while, you realise that the lack of rebound control isn’t actually going to compromise the car’s stability – it’s just a characteristic of the firm, long-travel suspension. Thereafter, the way the car bounds from crest to crest becomes quite endearing.
The car handles well – well enough, just about, to represent a selling point to keen drivers. Steering weight is consistent and inspires plenty of confidence and is very well matched to the directness of the steering gear. The car corners very flat and fast, with excellent stability and surefootedness.
But the Levorg’s engine and gearbox are far from what the chassis deserves. Though smooth and refined, the 1.6 turbo’s 168bhp feels only lukewarm on the road. The CVT does a willing but flawed impression of a good paddleshift gearbox when you’re driving keenly, with an elastic and inconsistent shift quality and noticeable transmission whine.
Leave the gearbox in ‘D’ and it’ll do a reasonable job of preserving your forward momentum, but the more you ask of it, the less convincing it seems.
Should I buy one?
Given that genuinely alternative choices seem increasingly rare these days, you might.
For my money, I’d want a proper centre differential and a manual gearbox in my all-wheel-drive Subaru wagon, and the Levorg’s failure to provide either would significantly dent its appeal. I’d want a bit more grunt as well: to this tester, a 168bhp petrol flat four is neither quite one thing or the other.
But, warts and all, the Levorg is certainly different. A Skoda Octavia vRS Estate is a better car in most of the ways that matter to the majority – but it also seems so mainstream and ordinary by comparison as to be almost invisible.
Subaru would clearly prefer to have 100% of a very small market than 1% of a much larger one. And since the former leads towards greater variety, long may it continue to plough its own peculiar furrow.
Subaru Levorg 1.6 DIT GT
Location Skipton, Yorkshire; On sale now; Price £27,495; Engine 4 cyls horizontally opposed, 1600cc, turbocharged, petrol; Power 168bhp; Torque 184lb ft; Gearbox CVT; Kerb weight 1637kg; 0-62mph 8.9sec; Top speed 130mph; Economy 39.8mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 164g/km, 27%