Holden Astra 2017 review
There are those who like hatchbacks, and those who prefer sedans. Whichever way you lean, Holden hopes it has something to please you with hatch and sedan versions of its Astra small car.
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The SUV boom of the last decade certainly hasn’t done Subaru any harm. The small Japanese carmaker has long offered a range of high-riding wagons to suit the current fever for faux four-by-fours.
Subaru, though, also did good business in medium-sized wagons like the Liberty, but its parent company discontinued that vehicle a few years back, much to the dismay of many loyal customers.
Enter the Levorg, the oddly named wagon based on the previous generation Impreza. Debuting in Australia in 2016, it’s only received a lukewarm reception, so Subaru went back to the drawing board to revamp it for 2017.
We’re testing the range-topping STI Sport variant, which costs $51,990 before on-road costs.
|Subaru Levorg 2017: 2.0 STI Sport|
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
The Levorg STI Sport sits at the top of a range of four, and comes pretty well equipped for its almost $52,000 ask.
Its competitors are few, and include cars like the Skoda Octavia RS and Volkswagen’s Golf wagon. Holden will also offer a similarly sized car when the Astra wagon makes its Aussie return late in 2017.
When it comes to specs for the Levorg, the… erm, interesting burgundy leather seats are part of the STI Sport package, which also includes a different front bumper and grille, as well as 18-inch rims.
Stock kit includes automatic lights and wipers, powered and heated front seats, Subaru’s brilliant third-generation EyeSight dual-camera driver’s aid system, a 7.0-inch multimedia system with satellite navigation and phone app interface, and a reversing camera, along with tinted rear glass and keyless entry.
It also uses German-made Bilstein shocks as part of its sporting schtick, but it’s worth pointing out that this is not a true STI as we’ve come to know them over the years.
From the B-pillars forward, the Levorg shares its looks with the previous Impreza, with hints of WRX courtesy of that intercooler-feeding bonnet vent and projector headlights.
Out back, though, the Levorg is new. Its body style is unique in Subaru’s catalogue, and echoes the fourth-generation Liberty - at least in its proportions.
It’s not as outdoorsy as Subaru’s others wagons, like the Outback and Forester, with a distinct downward line towards the rear tailgate. Its high-waist, low-roof profile is made lower and sportier with side skirts and a lowered ride height.
The Levorg really hasn’t changed much from the car that debuted last year, aside from styling tweaks, new adaptive headlights, a triple-fold rear seat and a revised multimedia system.
The Levorg’s cargo area holds 486 litres with the seats up, beating its Forester stablemate by 64 litres. It’s bigger, too, than that well-regarded fourth-generation Liberty wagon, despite being a physically smaller car.
The load area jumps to 1446 litres when the rear seats are dropped. There are four tie-down points and a 12v socket in the rear section, along with flip-down toggles for the rear seat backs.
The front seats in the STI Sport are more bolstered and supportive than those in the base model cars, and they are heated and electrically powered.
A small plastic barrier divides the two front cup holders, and there is another pair in the centre rear armrest. Medium-sized bottles can also be stashed in the front and rear door cards.
There are a few not-so clever touches, though, including a myriad of controls on the steering wheel that could easily be reduced. Another irritation is the roof-mounted sash belt for the rear centre seat, which looks untidy and is a pain to latch and unlatch.
ISOFIX child-seat mounts are provided for the outside rear seats, and a cargo blind for the rear area is also included. A space-saver spare lives under the boot floor.
The STI Sport uses Subaru’s well-known 2.0-litre boxer turbocharged engine in the same tune and spec as fitted to the WRX, and is unchanged from its original deployment last year.
This means 197kW of power and 350Nm of torque, complemented by a multi-mode throttle control known as Si Drive. Controlled (weirdly) by two buttons on the steering wheel, it allows the driver to soften or sharpen the engine’s throttle map, which changes the way the car feels under acceleration.
The central ‘S’ mode is the sweet spot, giving the Levorg a little more pep off the lights without making it feel too sharp.
The continuously variable transmission (or CVT) – the only option available - offers an eight-step ‘manual’ mode that can be operated via paddles behind the wheel. CVTs suffer from a reputation for dulling the driving experience, but this one is well behaved, quiet and complements the car’s intended purpose well.
Unfortunately, a few factors combine to spoil the fun for the Levorg here. In short, its ride is below average for a car in this price bracket, being neither comfortable nor sporting.
The main issue is the Levorg’s suspension architecture. While the front end uses Impreza-spec MacPherson struts, the new rear layout is built to accommodate a large cargo area. This basically means the rear springs and shocks aren’t physically long enough to give the Levorg enough wheel travel to effectively absorb bumps and lumps and maintain a decent level of ride quality.
The rear of the car is crashy and underdamped (or bouncy, in layman’s terms), and over broken roads, it’s almost intolerably jostly and unsettled.
The more expensive Bilstein shocks don’t help much, either, and the narrow profile 18-inch tyres add the final level of discomfort.
It steers well, the turbo engine hustles it along very efficiently and it offers loads of physical road grip thanks to its all-wheel-drive platform – but your significant other will hate this car. We speak from experience…
On the up side, its dash layout and multimedia screens are easy to use, with the top screen offering camera views both in forward and side directions when the reverse camera is switched on.
The Levorg STI Sport is capable of a fuel economy figure of 8.7 litres per 100km on the combined cycle, according to Subaru.
Our 300km of testing netted a dashboard-indicated 11.2/100km.
3 years / unlimited km warranty
ANCAP Safety Rating
The EyeSight camera system is standard on the Levorg range, and includes automatic emergency braking, pre-collision steering assist, brake-light recognition, adaptive cruise control and lane-departure warning.
Lane-sway warning, pre-collision braking system, pre-collision brake assist, lead vehicle start alert and even pre-collision throttle management are also built into a single system that operates via a pair of cameras mounted at the top edge of the windscreen and a radar in the nose.
It can be momentarily fooled by a dirty windscreen in direct sun, but this third generation of the system is far more refined, robust and sophisticated than earlier versions.
Six airbags, including full-length curtain airbags, are also standard, earning the Levorg an easy five out of five from ANCAP.
Subaru offers a three-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty on the Levorg, but occasionally throws in another two years as a special offer; it’s definitely worth asking your dealer about it.
At six months (or 12,500km), the service interval on a Subaru is shorter than most other cars, thanks to the boxer engine requiring more frequent oil changes.
A six-visit capped-price servicing regime for the Levorg averages out at about $375 per visit, which includes labour, parts and fluids.
Subaru is at pains to point out that the Levorg isn’t a WRX wagon, but it doesn’t feel anything but compromised in both ride and handling. It’s got a foot in each camp, but it’s unfortunately tripped over in the process.
It’s such a shame that the Levorg STI Sport’s handling package lets the side down so badly. Otherwise, it’s spacious, safe and comfortable – but it’s much better suited to a life where the roads are smooth and the bumps are small.
|1.6 GT||1.6L, PULP, CVT AUTO||$20,300 – 27,610||2017 Subaru Levorg 2017 1.6 GT Pricing and Specs|
|1.6 GT Premium||1.6L, PULP, CVT AUTO||$24,200 – 32,890||2017 Subaru Levorg 2017 1.6 GT Premium Pricing and Specs|
|2.0 STI Sport||2.0L, PULP, CVT AUTO||$30,400 – 39,820||2017 Subaru Levorg 2017 2.0 STI Sport Pricing and Specs|
|2.0GT||2.0L, PULP, CVT AUTO||$27,600 – 36,520||2017 Subaru Levorg 2017 2.0GT Pricing and Specs|
|Price and features||7|
|Engine & trans||7|