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.