Subaru Levorg (2020) review: so very misunderstood

Published:16 April 2020

Subaru Levorg (2020) review: so very misunderstood
  • At a glance
  • 4 out of 5
  • 2 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 3 out of 5
  • 3 out of 5

By Jake Groves

CAR's deputy news editor, gamer, serial Lego-ist, lover of hot hatches

By Jake Groves

CAR's deputy news editor, gamer, serial Lego-ist, lover of hot hatches

► Subaru’s oddball family estate
► Levorg was updated in 2019
► Is it worth £35,000?

This, the Subaru Levorg, might be the oddest car you can currently buy for a number of reasons. Not only is its name ‘grovel’ backwards (Levorg actually stands for LEgacy reVOlution touRinG), but it continues to sit in a range of Subaru cars that have a lot of crossover in them.

And I’m not just talking about literally. There’s the XV, which actually is a crossover, but there’s the Outback, a tough all-wheel drive estate that should really trample all over the market space the Levorg also inhabits. Then there’s the powertrain…

What about the powertrain?

Well, the Levorg was updated in the middle of 2019 – not that anyone noticed. Out went the 1.6-litre turbocharged flat-four and in came a 2.0-litre naturally-aspirated one, with 19bhp and 38lb ft power deficit. That engine’s mated to Subaru’s Lineartronic CVT auto with six steps acting as pretend gears and a power-shuffling all-wheel drive system.

Levorg side

It certainly feels lethargic on the road. Low-speed pickup far from generous and if you let the CVT rev the engine hard, it’s thrashy and there’s little in the way of serious thrust – even if Subaru nerds will notice a welcome underlying grumble reminiscent of a WRX STi. There are two drive modes under the ‘SI-Drive’ moniker, with S supposedly being the more potent. There’s not much point in pressing the button – there is little tangible difference to the engine’s behaviour.

This is more a car for pottering around in and letting the CVT keep the revs as low and the mpg high. That still doesn’t really stop the engine being the weakest part of the Levorg’s recipe.

Is the ride and handling any better?

There’s much more goodness here than bad, so let’s get the bad out of the way first. The 18-inch wheels on GT spec (the only trim available in the UK) look enormous in the wheel wells, which translates into a buzzy ride on anything less than French Autoroute-smooth tarmac, sending jolts and contributing to the significant amount of cabin noise.

Levorg wheels

Good news is the chassis, suspension itself and steering altogether are much more cohesive. The springs do their best to dial out the wheels’ jolts, rounding larger lumps out – and the ride itself does actually settle somewhat at faster speeds.

When you feel like pretending to be in a BTCC race (in which the Levorg had featured between 2016 and 2019), there’s a sweet chassis buried deep beneath this wagon. The steering, for example, has a fine balance; just the right amount of juicy weight and directness without being cumbersome or over-wrought, and there’s tonnes of grip to exploit from that clever all-wheel drive system. This thing is ripe for a WRX STI powertrain, and it seems Subaru agrees – it debuted a Levorg STI Sport concept at the 2020 Tokyo Auto Salon.

Subarus are meant to be super-usable, right?

And, for the most part, the Levorg is too. Loads of storage cubbies, decent front seats, a competitive amount of boot space with the seats up and space for a six-footer to sit behind an equally-tall driver. Towing capability, something Subaru is supreme at being capable of, is okay but not great – the Levorg can tow a 1500kg braked trailer.

Levorg boot

As for the interior itself, it’s very traditional Subaru. All of the switchgear is chunky and the dashboard is beset with hard-wearing and tough plastics that’ll survive the apocalypse. There’s a very obvious swinging pendulum of an instant mpg meter that guilt trips you into taking your time and an inset third screen displaying driving data at a glance above the dashboard – handy for keeping the instruments tidy. As for the infotainment, it’s a decent if not amazing system – glossy screen and bright visuals make it easy to read and there’s a simple layout but look elsewhere in the market for more sophistication.

Subaru Levorg: verdict

And now we come back full circle to the Levorg’s general oddness. A weak powertrain is its biggest drawback, especially when the chassis is so well sorted. But use it as intended – a functional, durable, low-stress estate car – and it will be just that – a useful, reliable car.

But if you look at the spec box below, you’ll see it’s not exactly competitive in many areas. A claimed fuel economy of around 36mpg is nothing to be particularly proud of, its £35k price tag puts it squarely in the sights of cars like an Audi A4 Avant, BMW 320d xDrive Touring or Vauxhall Insignia Country Tourer and some change. Financing isn’t competitive either; looking on our sister site Parkers, you could have anything from an Audi A6 Avant quattro to a Jeep Wrangler for a similar finance price.

The Levorg has a loveable character and its different-ness is to be celebrated but, logically, there are plenty of better places to spend your £35k.

Check out our Subaru reviews

Specs

Price when new: £34,770
On sale in the UK: Now
Engine: 1995cc four-cylinder boxer, 147bhp @ 6200rpm, 146lb ft @ 4200rpm
Transmission: Continuously variable transmission with six ‘speeds’, all-wheel drive
Performance: 10.0sec (est) 0-62mph, 121mph, 32.6mpg, 167g/km
Weight / material: 1564kg
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 4690/1780/1490mm

Other Models

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  • Subaru Levorg (2020) review: so very misunderstood
  • Subaru Levorg (2020) review: so very misunderstood
  • Subaru Levorg (2020) review: so very misunderstood
  • Subaru Levorg (2020) review: so very misunderstood
  • Subaru Levorg (2020) review: so very misunderstood
  • Subaru Levorg (2020) review: so very misunderstood

By Jake Groves

CAR's deputy news editor, gamer, serial Lego-ist, lover of hot hatches

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