First Drive: Subaru Levorg

It’s not an SUV, has a thirsty engine and is fitted with a CVT gearbox. Is there anything here for UK buyers to like?

Subaru holds a unique place in the hearts of UK drivers. For us, it’s the company behind the Impreza Turbo, the blue car with gold wheels that catapulted Colin McRae to international fame as he won the world rally title in the most exciting style imaginable.

Everywhere else, it’s a brand that makes four-wheel-drive estate cars, which is why we’ve got a Subaru Levorg to test. Levorg? Yes, an amalgamation of the words Legacy, Revolution and Touring. Obviously…

It promises to combine the practicality of the previous Legacy estate with some of the all-wheel-drive excitement of the famous Impreza. There’s just one engine choice, a 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol unit, and just one gearbox choice in the form of a continuously variable transmission, both rather unusual choices in a segment dominated by diesel engines and automatic gearboxes.

Combining practicality and performance in the styling of the Levorg hasn’t been easy. The front half of the car is an Impreza WRX. It doesn’t just look like one, it actually is one, bonnet scoop and all. From the middle it turns into a swept back estate, the beltline rising steeply above some muscular wheelarches. It’s certainly distinctive, but also manages to create enough space for 522 litres of luggage – more than you’ll find in a Ford Mondeo estate. The Levorg is also spacious in the cabin, with those in the rear better looked after than Audi A3 Sportback passengers.

Up front it’s all very uncomplicated. There’s no Audi-esque digital dials and no BMW-like iDrive system. It’s all very focussed, sensible and ergonomically flawless, with a seven-inch touchscreen lifting the interior and a digital panel offering feedback on turbo pressure, oil temperature and more lending a sporting feel to things. It’s all just a little dark and plasticy though, but there’s no doubting that it’s tough.

Being a Subaru in the UK, it should also be fast. Sure, the suspension gets a bit confused over poor surfaces and the ride is on the firmer side of the spectrum. That’s all balanced by permanent four-wheel-drive that offers reassurance through wide tyres. It feels quite agile, although won’t revealing that famous Impreza – it’s tuned very much for security, with the stability control computers stepping in at the merest hint of misbehaving. That said, in the dry you’ll be hard pushed to reach any limits of adhesion.

Despite the relatively small 1.6-litre engine, there’s enough power to get into trouble. The Levorg is quicker off the mark than any but its most overtly sporty rivals, yet the CVT gearbox means it’s also quiet and refined when cruising. That doesn’t help economy though, where a claimed figure of 39.8mpg isn’t much to write home about.

Strong residuals will help recover some of that lost petrol money though, and you’ll be driving something that’s unusual and distinctive which is worth a little extra. It’s a left field choice in an increasingly conservative segment, and all the better for it.

Model Tested: Subaru Levorg 1.6i GT
Price: £27,495
Engine: 1.6-litre turbo petrol
Top speed: 130 mph
0-62 mph: 8.9 seconds
Power: 170 PS (168 bhp)
Torque: 250 Nm (184 ft lb)
Monthly PCP*: £404
Official fuel economy: 39.8 mpg
Road test economy: N/A
CO2 Emissions: 164 g/km
Car Tax: £140 (£200 in Year 1)
Insurance group: 24E
* Monthly PCP estimate based on 20% deposit, 36 month term, 5% APR, final payment of 36%.
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Phil is a motoring writer for print and web, failed racing driver, car hoarder and banger rally competitor. Nominated for the Headline Auto Rising Star award and a MGMW member, Phil freelances for outlets as diverse as Diesel Car magazine, and Cambridge Magazine, amongst many others. He also maintains a fleet of unloved motors, but spends most of his time driving an old Corvette.

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