The 1.6 GT has been added to the Subaru Levorg range to create a more affordable entry price for budget-minded buyers. Is the 1.6 enough engine for the segment though?
The 2017 Subaru Levorg 1.6 GT is an interesting beast that presents something of a conundrum for potential buyers. Any vehicle proudly wearing a Subaru badge carries the weight of AWD credibility, safety, durability and exceptional build quality.
There’s one added expectation, though. Said vehicle also needs to be fun to drive, which is more crucial for Subaru than most brands given that’s why so many buyers opt for the Japanese brand in the first place.
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Straight from launch the Levorg, carrying a name that is both stupid while also evoking images of a Lord Of The Rings villain, was slow to attract buyers, despite the fact an Impreza wagon seemed like the smartest idea in the world. The model on test here – 1.6 GT – was added to the range to deliver a new entry price and therefore hopefully appeal to even more buyers.
Pricing for the 1.6 GT starts from $35,990, with the step up to GT Premium starting from $42,890 before the usual array of on-road costs. Read our full pricing and specification guide for more info, but this is very much a life-cycle tweak in terms of design changes.
On that subject, the snout is very much Impreza/WRX, especially the subdued bonnet scoop, but you’re never left wondering whether you’re looking at a Subaru product, that’s for sure. Move around to the rear, however, and the story is a little bit different – some love it and some hate it.
I quite like the styling, even though the length of the overhangs isn’t as tasteful as the Liberty, for example, when you look at the Levorg side on. Still, the subtle rear styling is something I like from the rear three-quarter. You know what they say about beauty, though, so don’t take our word on how attractive it is – or isn’t.
The 17-inch wheels look small too. It’s common with newer cars, and some of you won’t care less, but look at the Levorg side on and you will notice it. We heard all manner of different comments during our week with the Levorg, with most of them praising the smarts of a Subaru wagon that wasn’t as big as a Liberty.
The cabin maintains Subaru’s recent modus operandi of quality, well-appointed interiors, if not right at the head of the segment in terms of tech. The Levorg is comfortable, feels solid when you thud the door closed, and remains calm once on the move. The doors don’t have the weighty heft of a premium Euro when you swing them open, but the cabin feels premium enough when they are closed. Especially for the price point.
While the basic infotainment screen is capable enough, the touchscreen doesn’t feature Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. To a degree, these days I can’t understand why every manufacturer doesn’t just give us a dumb screen and let us work everything else out with our smartphones. Surely it’s an easier solution for the manufacturer, and it’s a better result for us as buyers. The Subaru, along with brands like Toyota, is a perfect example of my argument, and the Levorg would be better for the inclusion of smartphone capability.
Second-row passengers get USB ports, and there’s another USB port in the console bin. The switchgear is generally easy to understand, although most CarAdvice testers reckon there is too much switchgear on the steering wheel – you will get used to that over time, though.
The Bluetooth phone connection is solid and reliable, and audio streaming also worked well too. Not one dropout over a week from either. There’s plenty of storage, cup- and bottle holders, and the rear seat is a 60/20/20 design, meaning you can easily liberate a huge amount of storage. Switches located just inside the tailgate aperture make dropping those rear seats as easy as possible.
Those of you with baby seats will want to know about the two ISOFIX mounts for the outboard second-row seats, and there’s also a cargo cover to keep valuables out of sight.
Why would you opt for a wagon instead of an SUV? Possibly because you’re smart, but also because the drive experience is more car-like than SUV-like. Consequently, that’s where the Levorg needs to shine brightest. For many, this will be the non-negotiable feature that the Levorg needs to deliver on. Intelligent Drive gives you two different throttle maps, but aside from testing that once, we didn’t bother switching between the two on test.
The bone of contention in the CarAdvice office is the 1.6-litre engine. Is it too small for a vehicle of this size? Will it deliver any kind of driving engagement? Does it make enough power and torque? The turbocharged four-cylinder spins out 125kW and 250Nm, so in short, it doesn’t seemingly make enough power and torque on paper. It’s mated to my personal favourite transmission (not) in the form of a CVT.
Now, you can get the Levorg up to speed, and keep it there. There’s no doubt the 1.6 does enough to tackle the daily grind. However, it rarely feels like it has enough power to do anything more than that. Combined with the CVT, it feels like you have to constantly work the 1.6 hard to really get the Levorg cranking.
If you’re not an enthusiastic driver, you won’t care, but if you’re expecting the usual sharp Subaru driving experience, apply elsewhere in the Levorg range. It’s important to reiterate the point here that buyers on a budget who don’t care about a sharp turn of speed, will not have any issue with the 1.6.
Against an ADR claim of 7.4L/100km, the Levorg 1.6 GT used 8.6L/100km. We covered just over 350km during the week, so that figure is typical of what you can expect from the 1.6. The Levorg does ask for 95RON as a minimum, so keep that in mind. Personally, I advise everyone to avoid E10 like the plague anyway, but those of you who do use it will need to remember the 95RON requirement.
The Levorg’s 17-inch wheels and chubbier tyres help it absorb bumps with more alacrity than lower-profile rubber would, and while the suspension errs on the firm side, it doesn’t crash over every small rut in the road. It’s certainly comfortable enough to use around town.
The flipside, though, is this Levorg doesn’t like to be pushed too hard, and isn’t as capable at speed as any number of its stablemates. The AWD system is, as expected, excellent in all conditions and delivers on the promise of safety and sure-footedness even on wet surfaces.
In terms of occupant safety, the Levorg is typical of Subaru in that it gets a full five-star ANCAP rating and the excellent EyeSight system with its full suite of safety electronics. It’s this feature that makes the Subaru product such a safe (pun intended) bet for family buyers, and there’s every reason that will continue.
The Levorg is backed by a three-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty, and servicing is required every six months or 12,500km. Six services are part of a capped-price plan and average out to approximately $380 per visit.
While the Levorg is undoubtedly competent and capable, the 1.6 GT simply isn’t the one I’d buy, unless budget is your main concern. In that case, you’ll get a perfectly usable family wagon with plenty of space and a feeling that your dollar has stretched a decent amount.
However, if you can afford to dig a little deeper, look elsewhere in the range, specifically the 2.0-litre, which is an excellent alternative and still real value for money. The Levorg is a clever platform and a poignant reminder of the flexibility of the wagon body style. Don’t just rush out and buy an SUV.
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