First Drive

2015 Subaru Levorg 1.6 DIT review

Subaru's new Levorg is an interesting alternative to its mainstream rivals in the estate car class. It handles keenly, but it's less inspiring in its engine, gearbox and cabin

Words ByMatt Saunders

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Once highly rated for its estate cars, Subaru is returning to its heartland territory with this, its new Levorg load-lugger. Except that it wouldn’t be much like Subaru to be either normal or predictable, and so instead of simply replacing the old Legacy with a broadly similar car, it’s chosen to try something different.

The oddly-named Levorg is smaller than the Legacy it succeeds, and addresses a demand that the Legacy came to neglect as it grew older: it’s a proper Sport Tourer, an estate-turned-sporting-GT, roughly in the mould of the old Legacy Spec B.

Only roughly, though, because instead of a burbling flat six, the Levorg is powered by an all-new 1.6-litre turbocharged flat-four petrol engine with relatively modest power outputs. The only drivetrain option is a Lineartronic CVT auto, sending power via its four-wheel drive system.

There is also only one trim level available to UK buyers: Β£27,495 β€˜GT’ specification, which gets you LED headlamps, 18in alloys, a partly leather-upholstered cabin and a 7.0in touchscreen infotainment system. This makes an already niche-market appeal for the car even narrower.

What is the 2015 Subaru Levorg like to drive?

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.

Although it's fairly quiet and measured on smooth roads, there’s a 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; it does a good job of keeping the wheels on terra firma at all times, but it makes the car pitch and heave unsympathetically over bigger bumps.

The car handles just about well enough to please keen drivers. Steering weight is consistent and inspires plenty of confidence, and it's very well matched to the direct steering. The car corners very flat and fast, with excellent stability and surefootedness.

However, the Levorg’s engine and gearbox are far from what the chassis deserves. Though smooth and refined, the 1.6-litre turbo’s 168bhp feels only lukewarm on the road, and the CVT does a willing but flawed impression of a good paddle shift gearbox when you’re driving keenly, with an elastic and inconsistent shift quality and noticeable transmission whine.

Economy isn’t great, either, with 35mpg about the best that owners will be able to reproduce in the real world.

What is the Subaru Levorg like inside?

Nice enough in parts, but still sufficiently plain and plasticky elsewhere to prevent the car from presenting a really tempting alternative to a premium-brand car – which, frankly, is what it needs to be for the money.

The front seats are large and comfy, the black leather detailed with unusual blue stitching that’s more appealing on the eye than it might sound. Soft-touch mouldings border those leather surfaces to pleasingly tactile effect in most high-level places, but at lower levels the Levorg’s plastics are quite hard, shiny and unappealing.

The instruments look crowded, with the fuel and temperature gauges hard to read in particular. While Subaru’s Starlink touchscreen infotainment set-up looks good and works well, its split trip computer screens remain hard to fathom.

The Levorg’s back seats offer adequate passenger space, but nothing outstanding: there's enough space for two large adults - just. The boot’s a good size, though; 522 litres up to the window line, beating plenty of similarly sized wagons. The boot is easy to expand, with 60:40 split-folding rear seats spring-loaded for easy folding, and they also fold completely flat.

Should I buy one?

There can’t be many buyers seeking a four-wheel-drive, moderately quick but keen-handling, medium-sized, auto-only estate car. Anyone who is will probably like what they find in the Levorg, and Subaru would clearly prefer to have 100% of a very small market than 1% of a much larger one.

Even so, the Levorg seems like a niche product even by Subaru’s standards. It's a good car, but ultimately it falls between two stools, being neither a very convincing sporting option nor a mainstream one.

What Car? says...

The rivals

BMW 3 Series Touring

Skoda Octavia Estate VRS

Subaru Levorg 1.6 DIT GT

Engine size 1.6-litre petrol

Price from Β£27,495

Power 168bhp

Torque 184lb ft

0-62mph 8.9 seconds

Top speed 130mph

Fuel economy 39.8mpg

CO2 164g/km