2017 Subaru Levorg review

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Subaru Levorg 2.0GT-S Spec B

Priced From $43,240Information

Overall Rating

0

3 out of 5 stars

Rating breakdown
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Safety, value & features

3 out of 5 stars

Comfort & space

4 out of 5 stars

Engine & gearbox

3 out of 5 stars

Ride & handling

3 out of 5 stars

Technology

3 out of 5 stars

Pros & Cons

  1. ProGood safety; driver appeal; lifestyle friendly.

  2. ConNoisy tyres; bumpy ride around town; a bit thirsty.

  3. The Pick: 2017 Subaru Levorg 2.0GT 4D Wagon

What stands out?

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

Subaru announced in August 2017 that it had added a second, less powerful, engine option for the Levorg, and had modified the suspension of some Levorgs. This review will be updated shortly to reflect the changes.

What might bug me?

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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.

The bumpy ride around town. Like that on the WRX, the suspension on the Levorg is tuned for stable handling when the car is driven hard, at the expense of comfort when driven gently at suburban speeds. A Levorg will feel unexpectedly firm in day-to-day driving if you are used to alternatives that place less emphasis on performance.

Admitting to front passengers that adjustment for their seat is manual – even on the more expensive GT-S and GT-S Spec B 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?

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Five-door wagon only. The most expensive Levorg, the 2.0 GT-S Spec B, wears a lairy aerodynamics kit that gives it street racer looks.

Every Levorg drives all four wheels.

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

What features do all Levorgs have?

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A reversing camera, and rear parking sensors (these help you judge how far the bumper is from obstacles).

Dual-zone air-conditioning, which lets the driver and front passenger set temperatures independently.

Proximity-key entry and start, which allows you to 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 – they adjust themselves up and down depending on how much load is in the car - with very long-lived LED low-beams. LED brake lights that are brighter than, and light up faster than, conventional brake lights.

A colour touchscreen, from which you can control the MP3-compatible audio system. Sound sources include an AM/FM radio, a CD player, iPod-compatible aux and USB inputs, and Bluetooth connectivity for phone calls and audio streaming. Controls on the steering wheel for the audio system.

A USB port up front to connect a mobile phone or music player, and two more USB ports for rear-seat passengers. 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. Lights that turn themselves off when you switch off the engine, preventing a flat battery.

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 a car recover from an unexpected skid and is mandatory on new cars. (For the placement of airbags, and more on the Levorg’s EyeSight active safety systems, please open the Safety section below.)

Seven 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?

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There’s only one engine available in a Levorg, a powerful-for-its-size 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol, with its four cylinders 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).

It consumes 8.7 litres/100km on the official test (city and country combined). By industry standards, that’s a little thirsty.

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 steplessly to the driving conditions, improving response and efficiency.

What key features do I get if I spend more?

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Stepping past the least costly Levorg, the 2.0GT, and spending more for a 2.0GT-S replaces the cloth seat trim with leather, highlighted with blue stitching. The front seats are heated, and the driver’s seat is power-adjustable and can remember two settings (handy if there’s a height difference between drivers). The external mirrors are heated also. Headlights switch themselves on when it’s getting dark, and dip their high beams automatically for oncoming traffic. Windscreen wipers switch themselves on when it rains. A better multimedia unit unit - with a slightly bigger, 7.0-inch touchscreen - works with Apple’s Siri and the Pandora music-streaming app, and adds satellite navigation. And you get a power-operated sunroof, and black wheels.

The 2.0GT-S adds more driver aids to the EyeSight active safety suite, under the description Vision Assist. They include a blind-spot monitor, a rear cross-traffic alert, and headlights that switch to low-beam automatically.

And the GT-S has better front shock absorbers, from suspension specialist Bilstein – but you would need to be a race driver to notice any difference in handling on the road.

Spending more again on a GT-S Spec B means you’re a car enthusiast. On top of what you get with the GT-S, there’s a plastic body kit that makes the exterior look more like a race car than a road car. And there is a tower-bar under the bonnet – a brace that makes cornering at the limits of grip a bit steadier. Once again, if you’re a race driver, you might notice something. Less skilled drivers won’t.

Does any upgrade have a down side?

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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, before ticking the box.

The Spec B upgrade is mostly lairy plastics on the body.

How comfortable is the Levorg?

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This is the biggest problem with the Levorg. It is a station wagon tuned to be a bit sporty, and that means there’s a downside to live with.

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

Things improve a lot if you build up to freeway speed, when the Levorg rides with aplomb most of the time. But it will still give a big thump if you’re on a particularly rough bit of road and hit a sharp bump.

The 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.

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

Because the Levorg is a wagon, Subaru expects people may want to tow a jet ski or small caravan. The electronic stability control was tuned by engineers in Australia to take the extra weight of a trailer into account.

What about safety in a Subaru Levorg?

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

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 to protect the upper body from side-impacts; and a curtain airbag down each side protecting the heads of front and rear occupants.

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 2.0GT-S or Spec B 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. And they will dip your headlights automatically at night, to avoid dazzling oncoming drivers.

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?

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You should. The Levorg is targeted at families, and because you might need to share it around the family – including teaching the kids how to drive – Subaru has fitted it 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 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 they add two more steps for the CVT, so that it feels something like a conventional eight-speeder.

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.

The best bit of the Levorg from a driver’s point of view is grip. Its 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?

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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?

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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).

Where does Subaru make the Levorg?

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The Subaru Levorg is made in Japan.

What might I miss that similar cars have?

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Not much. The Levorg is well specified, and its 197kW performance and all-wheel drive are hard to match in a medium wagon for similar money.

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 (and at a much higher price, the all-wheel-drive Passat 206TSI R-Line wagon supplies performance comparable with the Levorg's). Subaru’s own Impreza and XV, while less powerful, also offer this feature.

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

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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?

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Yes. It has just been updated.

The Levorg was launched in Australia in June 2016.

Subaru announced in August 2017 that it had extended its 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 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.