David Motton

See other tow car reviews written by David Motton

Do you dare to be different? We put the Subaru Levorg through its paces to establish what tow car ability this petrol-powered estate offers caravanners

Overview

Subaru has never been afraid to do things differently, and the Levorg is yet another example of this.

There’s just one model in the range, equipped with four-wheel drive, a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) and a 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine. Sadly, there’s no diesel option on o•ffer.

Has Subaru assembled its unusual ingredients to make a compelling leftfield tow car? Or is the Levorg just too odd for its own good? Let's find out what tow car ability it has!

Towing

The Levorg is a relatively small car, but it has a healthy kerbweight of 1554kg. That gives an 85% match figure of 1321kg, well within the 1500kg legal towing limit.

We matched the Subaru to a Swift Expression 586 with a Mass in Running Order of 1335kg.

Despite the engine’s modest 1.6-litre capacity, there’s enough power (168bhp) and torque (184lb ft) to pull a caravan of this weight. Indeed, we recorded a brisk 30-60mph time of 10.8 seconds.

The Subaru is stable as well as strong. In our lane-change test the Levorg gripped hard and felt composed.

On our fastest attempts at this manoeuvre we could see the stability control light flickering on the dashboard, but the intervention was subtle. We never felt that the caravan was about to take charge.

In regular towing, the Levorg inspired great confidence at all times, feeling secure and stable at motorway speeds.

Hill starts also proved straightforward. The electronic parking brake held both car and caravan still on the 1-in-10 slope and released smoothly. The car then pulled to the top of the slope without fuss.

Our test drive took place in dry conditions, but the Subaru Levorg’s four-wheel-drive system would have come into its own on a wet surface.

In most conditions torque is split 60:40 between the front and rear axles, but more power will be sent to the wheels with the most grip if one axle struggles for traction.

In normal towing, the brakes were easy to apply smoothly. However, in an emergency stop on dry Tarmac the Subaru needed 11.3 metres to come to a halt. That’s a metre or so further than we’d expect.

Everyday driving

The bonnet scoop brings to mind some of Subaru’s rally cars, but the Levorg only partly lives up to that image.

It’s brisk rather than outright fast, although the engine sounds reasonably sporty.

The automatic gearbox adds to the sense of discrepancy between the aggressive image and the relatively mild reality.

Use gentle throttle openings and the gearbox behaves as you’d expect a CVT to, varying the ratio (and engine revs) continually rather than using set gears found in a conventional automatic gearbox.

Push the throttle beyond a certain point, though, and it switches to using six forward gears – or at least mimics set gears. That avoids the excessive engine noise that often blights CVTs under hard acceleration.

There are paddles behind the wheel so the driver can take over gear selection, but the changes aren’t as crisp or quick as we’d like.

The Subaru Levorg handles well and the steering is pleasingly direct, but there’s not much feel from the wheel.

Grip is tenacious, though, and there’s little lean when cornering.

Space

The Subaru’s interior feels made to last, and the driving position is comfortable. There’s enough adjustment to the seat and wheel to keep most drivers happy.

Compared with a Škoda Octavia Scout, though, the Subaru lags behind for rear legroom. There’s enough space for adults but there’s not enough room to stretch out.

Boot space is also less generous than in cars such as the Seat Leon X-Perience or the Škoda.

The Subaru’s 522 litres is well under the Seat’s 597 litres or the Škoda’s 610 litres. Fold the seats and the space expands to 1446 litres, but other 4x4 estates have more room for bags.

Running costs

This is where it becomes hard to really make a case for the Subaru. It’s simply too expensive to run.

Subaru asks £27,495 for the Levorg. It’s hard to find like-for-like rivals for the car, given the unusual engine and gearbox combination.

Running costs are also likely to be high: the official combined economy figure of 39.8mpg is very poor – we saw mpg only in the mid-30s in solo driving, and achieved just 20.1mpg towing on A-roads and motorways. We’ve towed big twin-axle caravans behind huge SUVs and achieved better.

On the plus side, the Subaru comes with a five-year warranty and has achieved a five-star safety rating from Euro NCAP.

Technical specs

Engine size1600 cc
Kerbweight1554 kg
85% KW1321 kg
Towball limit90 kg
Maximum towing limit1500 kg
Power168.0 bhp
Torque184.0 lb ft
Official MPG39.8 mpg
CO2164 g/km
30-60mph10.8 seconds
30-0mph11.3 m

Verdict

The Subaru Levorg is a car that’s easier to like than it is to recommend.

It makes a very stable tow car, but there are more practical and more frugal estate cars out there.

Conclusion

Pros

  • It is pleasingly different and distinctive
  • Despite being relatively small, it has a healthy kerbweight
  • As a tow car it is strong and stable
  • The cabin is well built

Cons

  • The CVT gearbox won't be to everyone's tastes
  • Its boot and rear-seat space can be bettered by others
  • It could prove expensive to run
  • There's no diesel option
Share with friends