Subaru’s UK importer believes there is a niche for the brand as “the affordable Land Rover”, pricing its models between GBP18,000 and 32,000. A facelift for the Levorg crossover-estate is the latest news but the brand itself has quite a few more developments in the pipeline.
Britain remains a small market for Subaru, as indeed does the whole European region. As previously noted, ACEA still doesn’t list Subaru in its monthly registrations data for 30 EU and EFTA countries, instead pooling the company’s numbers into something it terms “Other Japanese”. For the first two months of 2017, this total was 5,422 units. The total for the UK, as reported by the SMMT, was 226 vehicles, a 20 per cent YoY decline. The updated Levorg, plus a facelift for the BRZ, also new this month, should hopefully redress the recent fall in sales.
Updates for two models
IM Group, the importer, has had to battle with a fall in the value of the pound versus the yen caused by we all know what, plus an extremely competitive marketplace. The local line-up is larger than you might imagine, given the brand’s sales numbers. It includes the Outback, Forester, XV, Impreza and WRX STi as well as the BRZ and Levorg. We don’t receive the latest Legacy in Britain, but leaving aside some city cars available only in Japan, we get pretty much the full global line-up.
Second year of 1 million+ deliveries
Many forget how large Subaru has become, most of the big volume being imports and locally made vehicles for the USA. The company recently noted that it aims to build eight per cent more vehicles during CY2017, which if achieved, would be 1,110,000 units and the sixth year in a row for a year-on-year expansion in production.
IM Group will import fewer than 1,000 units of the Levorg this year, making this 4,690mm long crossover something of a specialist model. There’s just the one trim level, GT, and one engine, a 170hp version of Subaru’s FB16 turbocharged 1.6-litre boxer petrol unit.
While so many other OEMs have moved to DCTs, Subaru instead prefers what it terms a Lineartronic automatic gearbox. This is a continuously variable transmission which was developed specifically for use in all-wheel drive vehicles with boxer engines. Lineartronic combines a torque converter with lockup damper and a CVT. In the UK, Lineartronic is standard on the Levorg. There are six pre-set ratios for ‘manual’ shifting.
Another thing which Subaru does differently is what it calls EyeSight. Others employ camera and radar or microwaves but this driver assistance system instead uses stereo cameras. The two lenses are positioned on either side of the rear-view mirror’s casing. These monitor the road ahead for hazards up to a range of 110 metres. It is claimed that EyeSight can help to prevent rear-end collisions at speeds of up to 28mph and also to lessen the severity of impact and damage at greater velocities.
The Levorg is also the first Subaru to be available in European markets with the brand’s SRVD (Subaru Rear Vehicle Detection). This assists with safe lane changes on dual carriageways and is radar-based. The sensors are located beneath the tail lamps and covered by the rear bumper. They detect cars on either side of the vehicle. Blind spots, cross traffic hazards and another car approaching from the rear in an adjacent lane are all flagged up by SRVD. It works well too.
A roomy car for its size, the Levorg has a boot capacity of 522 litres, rising to as much as 1,446 litres with seats down. The whole interior has a near-premium feel to it now too, which is a big improvement on Subarus of only a few years back. Dark leather trim for the seats and steering wheel, with blue stitching, give a sports feel and look and there is a good amount of standard equipment, including heated seats.
The 2017 Levorg is about to reach UK dealerships priced at GBP29,680.
This car has another three years of production ahead of it at Fuji Heavy’s Gunma Main plant in Japan. For the next generation, it will swap platforms and become another to use SGP (Subaru Global Platform), the brand’s newest architecture.
What’s next from Subaru?
Later in 2017, we’ll see the next generation XV with that model having recently premiered at the Geneva motor show. Other new cars scheduled to appear this year include a big new SUV for the USA, which could be called ‘Ascent’. This will be manufactured at the Lafayette plant from the fourth quarter. It will be based on SGP. This set of modules premiered with the fourth generation Impreza, a car which went on sale in North America and Japan towards the end of 2016. At the moment, there is no official word on when or if Impreza 4 will reach the UK.
There could be a new BRZ in 2018 as by then, the current model will be six years old. It might instead be delayed until 2019. That’s also when the next generation of the WRX and WRX STi are expected, along with a facelift for the Impreza. Rounding out that year should be the replacements for the Legacy and Outback.