Gareth Butterfield finds plenty to like in the mid-range Subaru Levorg
SUBARU needed to plug a gap in its UK range between the off-road biased Outback and the compact Impreza, so it brought over one of its models that’s selling well overseas and just happens to fill the slot nicely. The Levorg.
You might think of it as a small Outback, or a large Impreza, but the truth is it’s neither. It’s a competent model in its own right, and while it does share DNA with the Impreza, it lacks the poise. And while it is also related to the Outback, it’s not as competent off-road.
So a pessimist would say it’s the worst of both worlds. But actually, it’s better than that. It’s a nicely rounded mid-range option which sits neatly between two rival camps in the grander scheme of things.
On the one hand it competes favourably against some of the cheaper soft-roading small-estate cars such as the Skoda Octavia, but it’s significantly cheaper than similarly specced premium soft-roaders such as the Audi A4 and Mercedes C-Class.
It feels more rugged and well-built than most of its rivals, which is a typical Subaru trait, and its strong boxer engine along with its handsome looks will appeal to all the usual Subaru devotees. And I don’t just mean the agricultural set.
It’s an easy car to invest your hard-earned potato payouts in too. Largely because there’s only one model to choose from. The 2.0i GT Linguatronic comes in at just shy of £35,000 but that’s the only spec option available. And there’s only one engine, too. A 150bhp flat four. Oh, and you can have any gearbox you like as long as it’s a CVT automatic.
More on that gearbox later, but the engine itself is fine. It’s not going to win any fuel economy awards and the lack of a turbo on UK versions of the Levorg is a little sad, but power is adequate and it’s a strong, characterful unit.
Press on in the bends and you’ll be rewarded with surprisingly lovely steering feel, and supportive seats. The suspension doesn’t pitch or wallow as you might expect from a car that can cross a ploughed field with ease, but it’s no Impreza WRX.
Progress is hampered further by that wailing CVT Lineratronic gearbox, which constantly hunts for the right ratio and just sends revs flailing around under load.
With a manual gearbox, the Levorg might actually be a bit of fun. With a manual gearbox and a turbo, it could be a hoot. But we’re not getting one. A new Levorg is set to be announced at the end of this year, so fingers crossed Subaru UK rediscovers its adventurous side in time.
Because, truth be told, there’s little else to dislike about the Levorg. The interior is great, Subaru’s improving them all the time, and even the infotainment screen is better than ever.
There’s plenty of standard kit, which is a blessing given the lack of specification choice, and my test car came with a digital rear-view mirror.
It’s the first time I’ve used such a device and to say it takes some getting used to would be an understatement. Objects appear overly-close, at first, until you realise you’re actually seeing a view of your behind that’s completely unobscured by pillars and window frames.
Persevere, and you might grow to love it. I did. My wife refused to even give it a try though, which is a shame.
The cost of running a Subaru Levorg might appear, at first, as one of the thorns in its side. A lack of diesel and only a relatively large petrol engine leave you with 32.6mpg on the WLTP combined cycle and 167g/km. But remember, depreciation is usually strong with Subarus and reliability is also a trump card. As a rule.
The Levorg will seat four adults in comfort, with a raised middle seat for occasional use, and there’s a 522 litre boot. Practicality, then, is hardly market leading, but it’s acceptable.
But visibility is good, seats are comfortable and everything you prod and twist is easy to lay your hands on and intuitive to use.
In essence, the Levorg would be an unusual choice for a family car buyer. But that doesn’t mean it’s a poor choice.
It’s a capable, well-specced, fairly-priced small estate car with plenty going for it, not least its hereditary off-roading capability.
If you can cope with the limited choice of engines and specifications, and a CVT gearbox doesn’t put you off, it’s worth a look.