Road test: Modern sporty Subaru perfect for a trip back in time

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Subaru's Levorg


YOU can’t beat a bit of nostalgia, especially when you get to our age. So it was that the Subaru Levorg GT was pressed into service taking us back to the days of steam trains and when rally cars looked something like the models they were based on.

The Levorg is the modern incarnation of the sporty Subaru. It looks like an estate car but it’s shorter although, at 1,446 litres the boot space is still bigger than many so-called hold-alls.

It’s quite a decent car to drive, maybe a bit firm for our old bones on some country roads but more bearable on the smoother blackstuff, of which there is still some to be found.

There’s only one engine offered in the Levorg, a 1.6-litre flat four, the layout you might expect from Subaru. There’s also only one trim level, GT, and it only comes with a continuously variable transmission.

If that sounds like a package that doesn’t appeal you may end up looking elsewhere for your next motor but it’s worth giving this Subaru at least the once over.

That CVT Lineartronic box takes drive to all four wheels, so it’s a grippy car and was the natural choice to take to a classic car event at Sherborne Castle where parking would be on a grassy field and rain was threatened.

In the end, the rain mostly held off and the field was still grippy enough for any car to get going but you never know. There’s nothing worse than waiting hours to be towed out by a tractor because you’ve left the 4×4 at home!

Naturally the car show had its collection of Subarus, done up in rally livery because that’s the competition field where the Japanese marque made its name thanks to Richard Burns and Colin McRae.

The Levorg looks somewhat tamer but is no slouch to drive, despite its figures looking a shade on the slow side for true enthusiasts. And when the going gets really tough, there’s nothing better to get you out than a CVT box linked to a full 4×4 set-up because it never changes gear so never loses traction.

Dip the clutch in a manual 4×4 to swap ratios and you risk coming to a halt in really sticky conditions.

Inside the Subaru Levorg GT

It also helps that the flat-four layout of the engine is one that thrives on low revs – peak torque comes in at only 1,800 rpm which is incredibly low for a petrol engine.

It was very tempting to go round a few of the Ferraris at the show and tell the owners we had a car with the same type of engine as them due to its horizontally-opposed cylinders, but decided we’d rather poke around a few old rally cars from the ’60s instead. They are fascinating beasts that endured some hellish trips before the days of carbon fibre and Kevlar, the modern materials that make competition cars almost indestructible.

Two days before that show, the Levorg had whisked us to the Cotswolds and the Gloucestershire and Warwickshire Steam Railway, where we had a pleasant time being tugged along restfully. There’s something about the rhythm of a steamer and the way it rocks the carriages as they clack over the jointed rails that you just don’t find anywhere else, least of all travelling in one of the horrendously noisy modern diesel trains or in a Subaru with sporty pretensions.

That said, the Subaru manages to be quieter than a modern diesel multi-car train even if its ride is not as smooth. It’s also great at the country road jolly type of journey; maybe a bit low to the ground but surefooted if you have to ease up the side of the bank to squeeze past anyone.

One aspect that needs modernising is the dreadful dashboard ergonomics. The cars looks as if someone got a handful of essentials, threw them at a rough mock-up, and then placed them in the finished item wherever they had landed.

Particularly cumbersome is accessing trip information, which can pop up in the centre of the fascia at the top or in front of the driver. It was interesting to see that over almost 1,700 miles the car had averaged 34.2mpg, just slightly less than the 34.5mpg we achieved.

Enthusiasts for safety info on the move will also appreciate Subaru’s “Eyesight” suite of electronic aids that look out for dangers you may have missed. Still a good idea to keep your eyes peeled though!

Maurice and Annette Hardy

Car: Subaru Levorg 1.6i GT Lineartronic

Does it fit your ego…

0-62 mph: 8.9 secs

Top speed: 130 mph

Bhp: 170 @ 4800 rpm

Torque: 250 Nm @ 1800 rpm

…and your wallet…

Price: £29,995

Combined: 39.8mpg

CO2 emissions: 164 g/km

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