For those of us used to Subarus of old, the Levorg is a curious proposition.

We’re more familiar with its turbocharged engines producing horsepower numbers beginning with a ‘2’ and being mated to manual transmissions or automatics of the conventional variety.

Matt Saunders Autocar

Matt Saunders

Chief tester
Moving the SI-Drive mode buttons from the transmission tunnel to the steering wheel is a good move

But here we are: downsizing comes no more obvious than this, with a 1.6-litre turbo four-pot engine that’s coupled to a continuously variable transmission.

At least it’s still a horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine, although aurally there’s little indication of that – and certainly not in recognised Forester/Impreza fashion.

Instead, it’s just a smooth unit that spins away quietly and, to its credit, effectively. The Levorg’s 0-60mph performance of 8.4sec would be competitive enough – were there an obvious competitor.

The last car of similar size and power we drove – a Ford Focus wagon with a 148bhp 1.5-litre engine – couldn’t be coaxed to 60mph in any less than 10.0sec, even with a manual gearbox.

Certainly, the fact that the Levorg offers a broad spread of torque – and from only 1800rpm – can make the engine feel like a larger and more sprightly unit than its size suggests.

Frequently a small engine with a boosted output can feel a bit laggy as its turbocharger takes a moment to spin into life, but throwing the CVT into the mix masks this characteristic completely.

Throttle response is thus hardly sharp, but we suspect it wouldn’t matter a great deal how quickly the engine picked up, given what it’s mated to.

If you’re just mooching around, the transmission resides in its continuously variable mode, during which it’s as smooth and unobtrusive as any transmission in Christendom.

But there are also six preset ratios that allow it to do a passable impression of a conventional automatic, to give a more naturally accelerative feel than when keeping the revs at the disheartening constant drone of peak power.

There are two modes. If you’re in ‘i’, you’ll need to push past 35 percent accelerator travel in order to get the transmission to behave like a normal auto, while in ‘s’ you only have to push past 30 percent throttle, not that any of our testers could discern much difference.

Or, by assuming control with the steering wheel paddles in either mode, you can ask it to lock up into a set ratio – which it does fairly well, except when slurring ratio changes initially.

Save money on your car insurance

Compare quotesCompare insurance quotes

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Hyundai Nexo 2019 first drive review hero front
    First Drive
    13 July 2018
    Designed from the outset to use a hydrogen fuel cell powertrain, this front-driven crossover provides a taste of the future today
  • Mercedes-Benz A-Class 2018 road test review hero front
    Car review
    13 July 2018
    This new version is the most luxurious A-Class yet, but has Mercedes made it a class leader?
  • Honda CR-V 2018 first drive review hero front
    First Drive
    13 July 2018
    For its fourth-generation, the Honda CR-V grows in size and now offers a choice of five or seven seats, but slims down in terms of engine choices
  • Volkswagen Arteon 1.5 EVO 2018 UK review hero front
    First Drive
    13 July 2018
    Entry-level fastback doesn’t do enough to make the Arteon any more competitive in an already-tough class
  • BMW i8 Coupe 2018 UK first drive review hero front
    First Drive
    13 July 2018
    BMW's flagship i car has received a facelift for 2018. How does it compare to offerings from Porsche?