2016 Subaru Levorg 1.6i GT DIT Sport Tourer Lineartronic long-term review – Update 2 (final)

Update 2: 24th November 2016 – 17th January 2017

Final milage: 22,040 | Miles covered this update: 1,363 | Average (UK) mpg: Town: 24 – 26 mpg | Motorway: 40 – 44.7 mpg | Mixed routes: 33 – 37 mpg

In my first update of the long-term test Subaru Levorg GT, I’d covered the car generally. Three months on and the Subaru has gone back. So, what was it like to use a Levorg on a daily basis? Let’s start back with the drive.

I had the Scooby estate over a long, boring winter that seemed to drag on forever with its dreary, short days mainly consisting of heavily overcast skies, damp, chilly conditions and the occasional downpour to make things just that bit more depressing. Oh, and to top it off we saw precisely zero snowfall in our area, much to my dismay as I’d really have loved to have put the Levorg’s Symmetrical All-Wheel-Drive system to the test properly.

While this was this case, the local councils still dutifully gritted the roads, leaving them super-slippery after heavy rain fell rather than snow or frost – a regular occurrence. Throughout the entirety of the three month test though, every single trip out in the Levorg proved to me time and again that its exceptionally high level of road-holding capability only ever provides supreme driving confidence, no matter the conditions.

Some of that can be down to the tyres fitted (in this case, a set of grippy 225/45/R18 SP Dunlop Sport Maxx’), but add to that Subaru’s brilliant AWD, plus the 4-channel ABS with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist, and negotiating even something like a country road covered with a slimy combo of mud from farm vehicles, standing water, fallen leaves and the occasional patch of frost, is something the Levorg brushes off, and makes it feel as simple as driving on dry tarmac. Yes, it really is that good.

Subaru tout the Levorg as a sport-tourer, and indeed it is. No, the (not-really-important) 0 – 62 miles-per-hour run isn’t exactly fast at just under 9 seconds, and the power or torque figures are aren’t anything to brag about either at 168hp and 184 lb ft (250Nm). However though, somehow the Scooby’s rolling acceleration from 40mph to motorway speeds feels absolutely adequate. Do I like cars with lots of power? Yes. Would the Levorg benefit from more power/torque? I don’t think it would. There’s no need for it.

Actually, on that front it kinda reminds me of the BRZ coupe in some ways. No huge power under the bonnet, but that means you can give it a good thrashing without fearing either ending up in a hedge, or at the end of the long arm of the law.

Like the BRZ, it’s great fun to push the Levorg GT hard on a winding road, so you’re guaranteed a good grin-factor in this car. Helping it along is its fairly light kerb weight of just 1,554 kilos (3,426 lbs), the fact you’re sat lower to the ground than the traditional Subaru ride height, and the tight suspension set-up to keep you planted in the corners.

While the enjoyable handling is a positive, something that I simply could not get used to was the Levorg’s firm ride. I mentioned exactly this in the first update, and two months later I still feel the same way about it. While the ride isn’t stiff to the point of hurting, the fact remains that it can be jarring over speed bumps, potholes and poorly maintained road surfaces.

Update; For the 2017 Levorg, the suspension has been tweaked and is reportedly now less firm, more forgiving, and it also handles even better. While I’ve not tested this newer model yet, several journos are reporting this so for now I’ll go off that. 

This means that bumping along on lower-speed city roads – and let’s face it, the UK councils don’t exactly provide us with beautifully smooth tarmac – the harshness can become irritating. I believe this to be down to both the suspension set-up, and the low-profile tyres, which look great but aren’t practical when it comes to comfort.

Yes, the Levorg is a ‘sport-tourer’, but does it really need to be this stiff-a-ride? I don’t believe so. Subaru could compensate it with a more forgiving set-up and fatter sidewall rubber, and the car would still be fun to drive. Thankfully, the comfortable seating (which I talk about further down the page) does go some way to alleviating the firm ride.

While I’m on this, I do need to point out that after these three months with the Subaru, I still consider there to be a little too much road noise coming into the cabin, as it’s obvious even from as low as 40 miles-per-hour. This is yet again largely due to those low-profile 225/45/R18 tyres, but Subaru should certainly strive to improve sound-deadening on either the next Levorg, or preferably when a ‘facelifted’ model is planned.

The good news though? These are about the only negatives that I found with the Subaru Levorg after 12 weeks testing it. Something that really stood out to both myself and the other tester is that it is absolutely clear that Subaru’s interior designers have made sure to look at the kind of buyers they attract, and fully cater to them. The place this was most apparent? The boot.

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Subaru are experts in making estate cars, and they have decades of experience pleasing customers. Buyers purchasing them want the safety and year-round performance of all-wheel-drive, combined with renowned reliability and – perhaps equally as important – the boot space to pack in a whole load of gear plus a hound or two.

If you want this, the Levorg delivers. For starters, the boot is large, holding a total of 1,446 litres. The rear seats fold down to make for a completely flat floor, and the inner wheel wells don’t intrude too much, which is great if you want to transport larger items. To make it easier to access all that space, there is a button each side of the boot, which you press to make the rear seats fold down either altogether or in a 60/40 split. Very useful.

With 522 litres of space available with the rear seats in place, there’s still a vast amount of room for your stuff. If you have a dog and are wondering if it’ll fit okay, I’ve a large cross-breed (Alsatian X Labrador) and he had loads of room in there, both sitting up and laying down.

Now for the thought that’s gone into that boot space. My favourite feature is the ‘hidden’ underfloor storage. Lift the lid of the one nearest to the boot lid, and you’ll find a wide, deep box (approx. 40 litres) made of heavy-duty polystyrene. Subaru have cleverly included three slots across it, and a plastic divider which allows you to split the compartment in either an 80/20 or 50/50 divide. This is incredibly useful for stowing anything that’ll either slide or roll around, or something fragile you don’t want to break.

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I used this space all the time for storing my camera equipment, laptop, dirty work boots (bagged, of course), shopping items, and one time a whole load of oils etc to do a full service on my own car. A brilliant feature, and I applaud Subaru for coming up with something so simple, yet effective.

There’s also another underfloor section with its own lid, which houses the small bag of inflation equipment in place of a spare. While not as much room as the other box, it is again, useful. More functionality includes two sturdy, pop-out shopping bag hangers, a recess each side which have thick nets to keep things from sliding out (they’ll fit a shopping bag in), and the nets can be removed should you want to fit something wide across the boot. Finally, there are also four sturdy tie-down points.

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There are three points I’d like to see in the next Levorg boot; one is including a 12-volt socket somewhere in the back, as these are always useful for things like a mini-fridge, charging larger electronics such as a laptop or one of those large camping lanterns. The next is to have harder, more scratch-resistant plastics as the side panels scuffed easily, and finally the boot light should have a bright LED bulb, as the yellowy standard bulb only puts out low light, which is no good when you’re searching through your gear in the dark.

Having a look at the accessories for the Levorg though, there are some good ones that’ll suit buyers, such as the Tailgate Illumination Kitroof-mounted Barracuda bicycle holder and ski attachment.

Into the main cabin area, and even more practicality awaits. There are no less than six USB slots; two in the storage area in front of the gear selector, two DC5 power outlet versions under the front armrest, and two more in the back for those needing to charge their tablets/phones etc. I think that’s the most I’ve seen on any car yet. Alongside these are two 12V/120W power outlets, plus an auxiliary port. Talk about keeping everyone happy!

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I loved that the space underneath the armrest is large too, and padded at its base to keep things like keys from sliding and jangling annoyingly. It was even spacious enough to stow the larger professional camera I use, which is handy when I was jumping in and out to take shots, but didn’t want it flying about between those moments.

After testing the Levorg for twelve weeks and almost 2,400 miles, the Levorg’s seats still impress with their level of comfort, both in the front and rear. I really like the cool, contemporary design of front seats, which are sporty enough that each time you get behind the wheel it gives you a little buzz of excitement, with sufficiently deep bolsters to keep the thighs, back and shoulders in place should you want to throw the car into the bends, while also allowing for a good level of comfort on longer journeys.

The rear seating is surprisingly good too, thanks mainly to the longer seat base which goes right to the back of the knees, and each side are not only wide but also have small bolsters of their own. To top that off, they also recline to a decent degree – one of my favourite rear-seat features.

Something else that not many think of but is fairly important are the door armrests, which are thankfully wide and long enough so that your arm rests in a naturally comfortable way. There’s also a broad central armrest with large cupholders in, and the piano black and satin silver surrounds prove that Subaru’s interior guys really are showing much more attention to detail than they would have in the past.

As is pretty much the norm with the majority of cars, the centre section of the rear seating isn’t as pleasant as the sides, as it’s not only narrower but also slightly more upright due to the armrest. However, Subaru have made the armrest flush with the back section of the seat, as opposed to other manufacturers who leave it sticking out slightly for whatever reason. This makes the central seat more useable, which was a good call on Subaru’s part.

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Now the car has gone back, I really miss the all-round practicality and comfort it offered, and if you’re looking for a sporty-but-highly-functional estate, the Levorg has to be on your list of test-drives as they delivered yet another superb car on those fronts.

Into the driver’s seat and without fail, every single time sat behind the ‘wheel and fired that Boxer-four into life it gave me a degree of satisfaction. The steering wheel looks and feels sporty, with a flat bottom section, inner contrast stitching and cutouts for better grip, and the physical grip section is quite fat for comfort and again, grip.

The moment you press the starter button, the bright white needles flick across the easily-read dials. No digital screens here, it’s all old-school-cool, and it suits the Levorg perfectly. Part of the satisfaction is hearing the aforementioned four-cylinder Boxer engine. As a 1.6 petrol turbo, it may be a smaller cc to the WRX STi, but it sounds every bit as good. That cylinder configuration and unique sound alone makes Subaru truly stand out from the crowd.

Over the long-term test period of the Levorg, I also had a Kia Sportage on test as well as having my own car to use occasionally. Obviously the Kia is a completely different vehicle to the Subaru and a great SUV in its own right, but whenever I got back in the Levorg after a week or two of driving different cars, the Subaru’s distinct character provided a warm, familiar feeling from the moment I set off down the road. In fact, the other driver I use for testing liked it so much he would try and pinch the keys to the sporty Scooby estate. I wasn’t having any of that!

As I said earlier, the 2016/17 winter months seemingly dragged on forever, with harsh, grey skies, bitterly cold wind and rain, but the Levorg shone a ray of happy warmth in that cabin. It’s a fun car to drive, sure, but when it’s miserable weather outside and all you’ve got ahead is a dull commute or an errand to run, all it takes is to shut the door of the Subaru and you’re embraced with the joy of heated seats, an engine that runs so efficiently it’ll start pushing hot air through the vents within literally a couple of minutes, and a drive that feels as planted and secure as they come, whatever the weather tries to (unsuccessfully) throw at you.

As part of the tests I do with any car is to see how much attention it gets when parked, so I’ll park outside a coffee shop with a large window, grab a bite to eat and an Americano, and watch what happens. Interestingly, in this case the Subaru gets attention, but in a completely different way to something like say, the Jaguar F-Type.

While the F-Type will have heads turning off the majority of passers-by, who will – for the most part – then carry on walking and looking, the Levorg seems to attract scrutiny from those who know the brand, but haven’t seen this model. Those types will walk up to the car, sometimes point at the badge and bonnet scoop if they’re with someone, have a wander around the bodywork and take a long look inside. And it attracted all ages too; the young, mid-aged and the older generation (usually men). This is becuase you’ll see way more F-Types on the road than Subaru’s new estate model, but it’s those ‘in the know’ who’ll want to have a closer look at this fairly rare specimen. I like that.

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Should you want to make it stand out even more, Subaru offer accessories such as a set of ultra-cool 18″ black multi-spoke STI alloys, STI side spoilers and an STI rear under-spoiler which looks utterly brilliant!

My other test driver commuted to work twice a week on an approximately 80-miles round-trip, down roads that were mainly motorways. We’d often swap cars so he could use the Scooby on those days and rack up some miles doing higher speeds rather than city commutes and country lanes. If your work requires a motorway a commute, you’ll be glad to know the Levorg does a more than satisfactory job of munching up the miles in a few ways. See the video drive review below;

Firstly, you’ll be comfortable over longer distances thanks to the well-designed driver’s seat, and the higher speeds and better road surfaces make you forget that hard low-speed ride. I was quite surprised by the 40 to 45 miles-per-gallon fuel economy too, as that’s one issue petrol Subarus of past had.

Secondly, don’t think that just becuase the Levorg ‘only’ has a 1.6 petrol turbo engine pulling a large-ish state around, that it’s going to struggle over longer distances, or be straining at the higher speeds. Quite the opposite. That Boxer engine is a thing of beauty, and Subaru’s engineers have sure that in top gear it’s not revving highly (around 2,500 – 3,000 rpm at 70 mph or 112 km/h), and there’s still a nice band of power to go at for overtaking or accelerating at those kind of speeds.

Thirdly, with only one spec of Levorg available it includes built-in satellite navigation, which I used a load of times. There’s no point in going into this in-depth, but suffice to say it’s a really good nav system with easy-to-use menus, neat, clear-cut contemporary graphics and clearly-marked roads, turn-offs, roundabouts etc. Importantly, the stereo system is a decent one, and alongside that you have all you need in the way of radio stations and tunes with the DAB system and Bluetooth for those boring commutes.

As this update ran late due to illness, it’s useful to note that should you buy a Levorg that was new into the U.K from October/November 2016 onward, it now also comes with something called EyeSight. EyeSight features six technologies to maximise safety: Pre-Collision Braking, Pre-Collision Throttle Management, Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Departure & Sway Warning, Pre-Collision Steering Assist, and Lead Vehicle Start Alert.

While systems from other manufacturers use various sensor technologies such as camera and radar or microwaves, EyeSight functions purely optically.  The Subaru technicians have placed two camera lenses to the left and right of the rear-view mirror that together create a stereoscopic image.

Pre-Collision braking can also reliably capture pedestrians in dark clothing in un-lit areas, as commonly found throughout rural areas of the UK, and when needed initiate emergency braking. Up to a speed of 28mph accidents can be completely avoided and the severity significantly reduced at higher speeds.

All said and done, after three months and 2,400 miles of use, was this ‘ownership’ of the Subaru Levorg a good experience? Mainly very much so, yes, but with a hint of ‘needs improvement’ in mind. The improvement is that I found as both a driver and passenger the ride is slightly too firm, and there’s certainly more road noise than I expect in a modern car. The low-profile tyres will almost certainly play a main part in this, but I feel these areas do need addressing by Subaru.

However, the Levorg provides a fantastic drive, and it is genuinely sporting in its handling and in these ways does stand out in the range against the rest of the lineup. Its Lineartronic CVT gearbox is much more engaging than other manufacturers’ CVT versions, making it more fun whilst also being incredibly smooth too.

With surprisingly decent fuel economy from the beautifully throaty turbocharged petrol Boxer-four engine, responsive acceleration that doesn’t seem to add up ‘on paper’ when you look at the power and torque stats, and almost guaranteed famous Subaru reliability, it’s certainly a great choice for people who are already fans or loyal customers of the brand.

While all that already adds up to a good car, the areas of the Levorg that really stood out to me are the interior design and build quality, and also the brilliant practicality, where it’s clear to see that Subaru’s guys must have listened to – and applied – customer feedback to get it spot on.

Who would the Levorg suit? My thinking is someone who does a fair amount of outdoor stuff for recreation – hiking, snowboarding, camping, cycling, dog walking etc – so needs to practicality of an estate, the ability to get to where they need to be in bad weather and therefore a good AWD system is essential, while also having something that’ll be fun to drive and looks more stylish, cooler and ‘younger’ than the rest of the Subaru lineup.

In summary, if you’re one of those people, then the Levorg has absolutely got to be part of your ‘must test-drive’ list of cars.

Thinking of buying a Subaru Levorg, have questions about it or simply want to share thoughts on your own? Leave a comment using the form below! 

Model (as tested)  2016 Subaru Levorg 1.6i GT DIT Sport Tourer Lineartronic
Standard spec includes 18″ alloy wheels with 225/45R18 tyres, leather seats and upholstery, automatic LED headamps with auto-levelling, reverse camera, 8-way power driver seat, 2-stage heated front seats, heated and folding side mirrors, power windows, dual climate control & automatic air conditioning, rain sensing wipers, leather covered steering wheel, keyless entry and start, 7-inch touchscreen system with satellite navigation, Bluetooth, Subaru Starlink, Gracenote, DAB digital radio, AUX and USB ports, engine auto stop-start. See full spec here
Safety  Subaru Symmetrical All-Wheel-Drive, Subaru Rear Vehicle Detection (SRVD). Airbags: front, front side, front & rear curtain, driver knee. 4-channel ABS with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD), Brake Assist, Auto vehicle hold, Euro NCAP safety rating of 5/5 stars.
Options fitted  N/A
Off-road information  Ground clearance: 135 mm (5.4″) 
Price (inc. options)  (correct Nov. 2016) £27,595. Note: Price rose to £29,995 after an update in Oct/Nov 2016.
Engine  Petrol, 1.6 litre, 4-cylinders (Boxer configuration), 16-valves, Direct Injection Turbo, Euro 6b compliant 
Power, Torque  Power: 168 bhp (170PS) @ 4,800 – 5,600 | 184 lb ft (250Nm) of torque @ 1,800 – 4,800 rpm.
Drive, Gears (as tested)  Subaru Symmetrical All-Wheel-Drive| 6-speed Lineartronic CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) 
Towing capacity, boot space Towing: Unbraked: 750 kg (1,653 lbs), Braked: 1,500 kg (3,307 lbs) | Boot capacity (litres): behind rear seats: 522, underfoor storage: 40, Rear seats folded: 1,446.
Top Speed, 0 – 60 mph, Euro NCAP  Max speed: 120 mph | 0 – 62 mph: 8.9 seconds
Fuel economy (UK mpg), CO2  Urban: 33.2, Extra urban: 44.8, Combined: 39.8 | CO2 (max): 197 g/km
Weight (kerb)  1,554 kgs (3,426 lbs)
Websites  Subaru UKSubaru USA, Subaru global

Words: Chris Davies | Photography/film: Chris Davies, Patrick Davies

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