What stands out?

The Subaru Levorg is a smart looking and quite quick alternative to a high-riding SUV wagon. It’s a reward-yourself car, offering a choice from two turbocharged engines – one of them borrowed from the sports-focused Subaru WRX – and wrapping them in a safe five-seat package that’s friendly to dogs, families and weekend getaways. An auto transmission is standard, as is auto-braking.

What might bug me?

Talking over the tyre roar. Engineers wanted owners to tap that gutsy WRX engine, so they specified Dunlop tyres that prioritised grip over everything else – including a hushed cabin.

Possibly the bumpy ride around town. Like that on the WRX, the suspension on the Levorg prioritises stable handling when the car is driven hard. Subaru says Levorgs introduced in August 2017 for the 2018 model year ride more comfortably, however.

Admitting to front passengers that adjustment for their seat is manual – even on the more expensive 1.6 GT Premium, 2.0 GT-S and 2.0 STI Sport Levorgs, which give the driver a power-adjustable seat with a memory.

Driving at 80km/h on your space-saver spare until you can fix your full-size flat tyre.

What body styles are there?

Five-door wagon only.

Every Levorg drives all four wheels, at all times.

The Levorg is classed as a medium car, lower priced.

What features do all Levorgs have?

Dual-zone climate control, which lets the driver and front passenger set temperatures independently. A reversing camera.

Proximity-key entry and start, which lets you unlock the car and drive away without removing the key from your pocket or bag.

Active cruise control, which can automatically maintain a safe distance from vehicles in front on the highway.

Self-levelling headlights, with very bright and long-lived LED beams. The headlights also switch on automatically when it’s dark, and shine into corners when you turn the wheel. Windscreen wipers that work by themselves when it rains.

A colour touchscreen, from which you can control the sound system and other cabin functions. Sound sources include an AM/FM radio, a CD player, aux and USB inputs, and Bluetooth connectivity for phone calls and audio streaming.

Height and reach adjustment for the steering wheel, which carries controls for the audio system. Height adjustment for the driver’s seat.

Two USB charging ports up front, and another two for those riding in the rear. A 12-volt power outlet in the boot space, which is handy if you want to use a car fridge.

Folding mirrors that tuck themselves into the body when you turn off the car, which is handy in tight garages.

Wheels made from aluminium alloy, which are usually lighter and better looking than steel wheels with plastic covers. A speed limited, narrower, space-saver spare wheel that’s only meant to get you to the nearest tyre shop.

All-wheel-drive. The Levorg sends drive from the engine to all four wheels at all times, improving traction in slippery conditions.

Subaru's third-generation EyeSight active safety suite. It includes automatic emergency braking that works at city and highway speeds, and an alert that warns if you are drifting out of your lane.

Seven airbags. Electronic stability control, which can help you recover from a skid. (For the placement of airbags, and more on EyeSight, please open the Safety section below.)

Eight exterior colours are available on a Levorg, and unlike many makers Subaru does not demand you pay extra for any of them.

Every Subaru Levorg carries a three-year, unlimited kilometre warranty.

Which engine uses least fuel, and why wouldn't I choose it?

Two engines are available in a Levorg, both turbocharged four-cylinder petrols. The more fuel-efficient is the smaller, a 1.6-litre, which uses 7.4 litres/100km on the official test (city and country combined).

Subaru introduced this engine when it extended the Levorg range in August 2017.

WhichCar reviewers are yet to drive a 1.6-Litre Levorg. However, supplied details suggest it will feel stronger than most popular small cars, such as Subaru’s own Impreza or a Volkswagen Golf, but won’t match hot hatches such as the Volkswagen Golf GTI.

Which means the main reason you wouldn’t choose a Levorg 1.6 is that you want the full-fat sports-wagon experience. That comes with the other engine available, a 2.0-litre borrowed from the Subaru WRX.

Levorgs with the 2.0-litre engine offer hot-hatch performance and more, while consuming 8.7 litres/100km on the test.

The cylinders in both Levorg engines are laid flat in what’s called a boxer configuration (the pistons move in the same way as two boxers standing back-to-back throw punches). That is an exceptionally smooth-running layout, and it helps keep weight low in the car (for better handling).

Every Levorg has a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Unlike a conventional auto, which drives through fixed gear ratios, a CVT can match the engine speed seamlessly to the driving conditions, improving response and efficiency. However, artificial ratio-steps allow the Levorg CVT to mimic six-speed or (on 2.0-litre cars) eight-speed conventional automatics when desired.

What key features do I get if I spend more?

The least costly Levorg is the 1.6 GT, which comes with cloth-covered seats, a 6.2-inch central touchscreen, 17-inch wheels, the less powerful engine, and the equipment in all Levorgs.

Spending more gets you a Levorg 1.6 GT Premium, which has the same engine but brings you suspension from specialist Bilstein, 18-inch wheels with wider tyres (for more grip), and more luxury and driver assistance.

The 1.6 GT Premium comes with leather trim on the seats, heating for both front seats, and powered adjustment, with a memory, for the driver’s seat. The central touchscreen is bigger at 7.0-inches, and it displays satellite navigation. There is a power-opening sunroof. Headlights dip automatically for oncoming drivers. And you get an additional suite of sensory driver aids that Subaru calls Vision Assist, comprising lane-change assist, blind-spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert, side-view monitor, and front-view monitor.

Spending more again on a Levorg 2.0 GT-S brings you the Bilstein suspension, bigger wheels, and other equipment from the 1.6 GT Premium but swaps the smaller engine for the much stronger 2.0-litre unit.

Finally, spending as much as possible on a Levorg will get you a 2.0 STI Sport, which trims the seats in maroon leather and adds a range of race-themed aesthetic touches from Subaru’s race department, Subaru Tecnica International (STI). The 2.0 STI Sport also runs a different suspension tune: Subaru points to pink-coloured springs from STI, and suggests damping and mounts have been firmed up to match.

Does any upgrade have a down side?

Adding a sunroof robs the interior of headroom. If you’re a tall driver it’s worth checking you can comfortably sit in a Levorg with a sunroof fitted (that’s all of them, except for the Levorg 1.6 GT).

How comfortable is the Levorg?

Not as comfortable as you might assume, and especially when driving around town. That was our verdict after driving the original Levorgs at Subaru’s launch event.

Low-speed ride was described as fussy, with every lump and bump on the road making its way into the cabin.

Things improved a lot if you built up to freeway speed, when the Levorg rode with aplomb most of the time. But it would still give a big thump if you were on a particularly rough bit of road and hit a sharp bump.

It looks like someone influential at Subaru reached similar conclusions. And so cars arriving from August 2017, when the range expanded to four, have two significant revisions aimed at improving the ride.

First, the Levorg 1.6 GT, the least costly Levorg, comes with smaller diameter wheel rims, and narrower tyres with a slightly deeper profile. They should absorb suburban bumps at least a little bit better than the shallower tyres on the original Levorg 2.0 GT.

Second, Subaru says it has got into the Bilstein suspension that comes with the other cars and adjusted the spring stiffness and damper tune, among other aspects, with the aim of improving comfort.

Unfortunately we can’t tell how successful the engineers have been, because Subaru has not been able to get us a car. You’ll know soon after we do – we’ll update this article.

Our other criticism from the Levorg’s launch highlighted the tyre roar. The Levorg’s handing – and it does go around corners very well – was built around the tyres, which were chosen more for grip than anything else. They grip, but over coarse-chip roads, which cover most of Australia’s road network, they make a lot of noise. How much? It’s a bit like sitting in a plane as it is taking off. And that is not likely to change.

In other respects the Levorg shows itself as a good long-distance tourer. The front seats are comfortable and supportive, and the 2.0-litre engine is happy to tool along at low revs on the highway.

What about safety in a Subaru Levorg?

The Levorg’s standout standard safety package builds on seven airbags, a reversing camera, anti-lock brakes and the mandatory stability control, adding to this auto-on LED headlights and wipers, active cruise control, and other features of Subaru’s third-generation EyeSight active safety suite.

In any Levorg there are knee and head airbags directly in front of the driver; a head airbag in front of the front passenger; an airbag alongside each front occupant at chest level; and a curtain airbag down each side protecting the heads of front and rear occupants from side impacts.

EyeSight is based on a pair of forward-looking cameras that – just like a pair of human eyes – can judge the distance to objects in front (with the help of an electronic brain). The Levorg uses them to watch that you’re not about to rear-end the car in front, or to collide with a pedestrian, and it can automatically jump on the brakes to avoid a collision. This autonomous emergency braking system works not only in the city but also at highway speeds.

EyeSight also focuses on where you are in relation to lane markings, and alerts you if you have begun to drift distractedly – and perhaps very dangerously – into another lane. And it can let you know that a car ahead of you in a queue has moved off.

Paying more for a Levorg 1.6 GT Premium, 2.0 GT-S or 2.0 STI Sport brings you additional driver aids under the description Vision Assist. These guardian angels warn you if there is a car alongside to the rear that you can’t see in your mirrors, or if you are about to change lanes into the path of a car roaring up from behind. They will also tell you if you’re about to reverse into oncoming traffic, an aid aimed at saving you from carpark and driveway crashes.

From August 2017 the Vision Assist cars also have Side view and Front view monitors. The former helps you see how close your wheels are to the gutter when parallel parking. The latter places a camera at the very front of the bonnet, giving you a chance to see past vehicles that may have pulled up alongside – when you are waiting to make a turn, for example.

The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) rated the Levorg at five stars for safety, in June 2016.

I like driving - will I enjoy this car?

You should. The Levorgs are targeted at families, and because you might need to share one around the family – including teaching the kids how to drive – Subaru has fitted the cars with only a continuously variable transmission (CVT), a version of an automatic gearbox that is able to always keep an engine in its most fuel-efficient, or powerful, spot.

The CVT takes a bit of getting used to, as at times it sounds as though the clutch is slipping and the engine seems to just drone away under the bonnet.

However, there is a manual mode in which it acts more like a conventional six-speed automatic, allowing you to use a pair of paddle shifters mounted on the steering wheel to pick a gear ratio.

There is also a button on the steering wheel that lets you switch between normal, Sport, and on 2.0-litre cars Sport# (pronounced sport-sharp) modes. Sport and Sport# change the way the engine and gearbox respond to the accelerator pedal, making the car jump more smartly as you squeeze with your right foot. And Sport# adds two more steps for the CVT, so that it feels something like a conventional eight-speeder.

In 2.0-litre form, the Levorg is quick, with a 6.6-second 0-100km/h sprint – meaning you will have a fair chance of winning the traffic-light drag race, if that’s your thing. It also makes very light work of overtaking on the highway.

We’ll let you know about the 1.6 Levorgs after Subaru hands one over.

The best bit of the Levorg from a driver’s point of view is grip. The Dunlop tyres hang on like limpets, meaning you can push harder through corners than in very many other cars.

How is life in the rear seats?

Not bad, apart from the tyre roar that fills the cabin. All three seats across the rear are nicely bolstered and comfortable, with adequate headroom, assuming you don’t want a sunroof. The front seatbacks have scallops in them to give knee room to rear-seat passengers, and there’s enough space under the front seats to tuck toes in comfortably.

There’s a fair bit of body roll, so expect rear-seat passengers to slosh around from side to side on a twisty road.

The electronic-device-friendly USB ports on the back of the front-seat armrest will keep connected kids powered up and happy – as long as there are only two of them.

How is it for carrying stuff?

Quite good. The Levorg is the sort of family car we used to buy before high-riding SUVs became the new darlings of the car world. There’s more than enough room on the centre console to stash a purse, wallet and mobile phone, and front door bins with generous-sized drink holders make up for a relatively small glovebox. The rear door bins are smaller, but still useful.

Where the Levorg shines over a hatchback is boot space. With the rear seats up, you have 522 litres of packing space, or about the same as similar wagons with swept rooflines. Fold the rear seats down and you get 1446 litres of space (which is 100 litres less than the much boxier looking Skoda Octavia).

One distinction from medium SUV alternatives arises in the towing capacity: on a Levorg, the legal limit for a braked trailer is only 800kg, with a maximum towball download of 80kg.

Subaru expects people may want to tow a jet ski or very light camper trailer. The electronic stability control was tuned by engineers in Australia to take the trailer weight into account.

Where does Subaru make the Levorg?

The Subaru Levorg is made in Japan.

What might I miss that similar cars have?

Perhaps support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which would allow you to display some smartphone apps on the car's central touchscreen and to control them from there (or by voice). The front-wheel drive Skoda Octavia RS 169 TSI and Volkswagen Passat wagons offer this, for example. Subaru’s own Impreza and XV, while less powerful, also offer this feature.

Otherwise not much. The Levorg is very well specified. In 2.0-litre form, its 197kW performance and all-wheel drive are hard to match in a medium wagon for similar money.

I like this car, but I can't choose which version. Can you help?

This is one instance where shopping down the model range isn’t going to hurt you. A Levorg 2.0GT has the same engine as the more expensive models, so you miss no performance. The cloth seats are just as well bolstered as the leather ones in the more expensive cars (which, on reflection, are a bit slippery when you drive the Levorg with enthusiasm, so cloth is better), and the sunroof in the two costlier models robs the interior of valuable headroom. There is no badge telling people you’ve bought the cheap one, so it’s up to the trainspotters to pick that you’ve gone for it.

Are there plans to update the Levorg soon?

The Levorg was launched in Australia in June 2016, in 2.0-litre form only.

In August 2017 Subaru extended the Levorg range, introducing a second (1.6-litre) engine with less power, and a cosmetically enhanced Levorg STI Sport (with the 2.0-litre engine). Cars fitted with Bilstein dampers received modified suspension components, and among other changes all Levorgs gained steering-responsive headlights.

The Levorg is based on the fourth-generation Subaru Impreza small sedan and hatchback, and gets its 2.0-litre engine from the performance oriented Subaru WRX. The Impreza was replaced in December 2016 by a fifth-generation car, but a new-generation WRX is not expected before 2019. Don’t expect a major update for the Levorg any sooner.