Turbo wagon faceoff: Subaru’s Levorg GT-S vs Volkswagen’s Golf Variant R-Line

The 1.6-litre Subaru Levorg GT-S (far left) has a sporty cockpit (top), while the 1.4-litre Volkswagen Golf Variant R-Line (left) has a dashboard (above) that is equipped with intuitive infotainment controls.
The 1.6-litre Subaru Levorg GT-S (above, left) has a sporty cockpit, while the 1.4-litre Volkswagen Golf Variant R-Line (above, right) has a dashboard that is equipped with intuitive infotainment controls. PHOTOS: TAN WEI TE
The 1.6-litre Subaru Levorg GT-S (far left) has a sporty cockpit (top), while the 1.4-litre Volkswagen Golf Variant R-Line (left) has a dashboard (above) that is equipped with intuitive infotainment controls.
The 1.6-litre Subaru Levorg GT-S has a sporty cockpit (above), while the 1.4-litre Volkswagen Golf Variant R-Line has a dashboard that is equipped with intuitive infotainment controls.
The 1.6-litre Subaru Levorg GT-S (far left) has a sporty cockpit (top), while the 1.4-litre Volkswagen Golf Variant R-Line (left) has a dashboard (above) that is equipped with intuitive infotainment controls.
The 1.6-litre Subaru Levorg GT-S has a sporty cockpit, while the 1.4-litre Volkswagen Golf Variant R-Line has a dashboard (above) that is equipped with intuitive infotainment controls.

Which is better - the 1.6-litre Subaru Levorg GT-S or the 1.4-litre Volkswagen Golf Variant R-Line?

Station wagons are not as popular as hatchbacks in Singapore, but that has not stopped Subaru and Volkswagen from introducing the Levorg and Golf Variant.

The Levorg's "face" is dominated by a prominent bonnet scoop, which feeds fresh air to the top-mounted intercooler. Further hinting at its performance potential are the muscular lines found throughout its body and a pair of exhaust tips.

The Levorg makes the Golf Variant seem meek in comparison. The only Golf Variant sold by Volkswagen Singapore has the R-Line package, which comes with a bodykit and upsized wheels as standard. Despite these accessories, the neatly styled Golf Variant remains as understated as ever.

The VW is more impressive once you have settled in the driver's seat. The cockpit is more user-friendly than the Subaru's, with a dashboard angled towards the driver and equipped with intuitive infotainment controls.

More importantly for cars like these, the Golf Variant offers greater cabin functionality, thanks to its larger and more numerous storage points.

  • SPECS / SUBARU LEVORG GT-S 1.6 (A)

  • Price: $131,800 with COE

    Engine: 1,600cc 16-valves flat-four turbocharged

    Transmission: CVT with seven-speed override

    Power: 170bhp at 4,800-5,600rpm

    Torque: 250Nm at 1,800-4,800rpm

    0-100kmh: 8.9 seconds

    Top speed: 210kmh

    Fuel consumption: 7.4 litres/100km

    Agent: Motor Image Enterprises

  • SPECS / VOLKSWAGEN GOLF VARIANT R-LINE 1.4 (A)

  • Price: $140,400 with COE

    Engine: 1,395cc 16-valves inline-four turbocharged

    Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch with manual select

    Power: 125bhp at 5,000rpm

    Torque: 200Nm at 1,400-4,000rpm

    0-100kmh: 9.5 seconds

    Top speed: 205kmh

    Fuel consumption: 5.2 litres/100km

    Agent: Volkswagen Centre Singapore

Although less practical than the Golf Variant, the Levorg will please keen drivers with its sporty cockpit. Racy touches include alloy pedals with rubber studs for enhanced grip, a chunky steering wheel that is a delight to hold and well-padded front seats that are more supportive than the Golf Variant's.

Boy racers will also love the instrument cluster's blue accents, along with digital readouts for the turbo boost and oil temperature.

But when it comes to backseat accommodation, occupants in the Levorg are more likely to feel Singapore's heat than those in the Golf Variant because the Subaru does not have rear air-conditioner vents.

The Levorg, however, offers a pair of USB points, which might please Pokemon Go players who need to recharge their smartphones on the move.

While the Golf Variant loses out in terms of connectivity, its rear bench feels more upmarket, thanks to a panoramic sunroof. The rear footwells also offer more space for feet and legs than in the Levorg.

And when it comes to boot space, it is again the Golf Variant that offers more, with 605 litres compared to the Levorg's 522 litres. If your weekend activities include cycling and bulk purchase of groceries, the VW is more useful than the Subaru.

The Golf Variant may be roomier and more versatile, but it is not as athletic as its rival here. Volkswagen's turbocharged 1.4-litre four-pot produces 125bhp and 200Nm, but seems a bit weedy compared to Subaru's turbocharged 1.6-litre flat-four, which delivers a healthier 170bhp and 250Nm.

Not surprisingly, the Levorg is livelier than the Golf Variant, completing the century sprint in 8.9 seconds or 0.6 of a second faster than its competitor.

Acceleration aside, the Levorg, with its all-wheel-drive system, also has the edge in handling.

In fact, the Levorg loves being flogged. Set the SI-Drive setting to Sport and you will discover that it enjoys having an enthusiastic driver stomp on its throttle and enter corners a bit too fast. You will even get the sense that the Levorg likes having its chunky steering wheel suddenly yanked left or right.

You will need strong arms to perform the last action, though, because the Levorg's helm is weightier than expected. This is great during highway runs, but annoying when you are manoeuvring in carparks.

Although the Golf Variant is not as quick or nimble as the Levorg, it does have a lighter helm and a more pliant ride. There will not be any impromptu arm workouts while parking and the softer damping means more comfortable daily commutes.

Because the Subaru is focused on performance, it appeals to drivers who drive hard. Not so appealing, however, are its continuously variable transmission (CVT) - less responsive than the Golf Variant's dual-clutch gearbox - and its unforgiving ride.

In this contest, the Levorg pummels its opponent with its purposeful design and Japanese athleticism. But the Golf Variant strikes a better balance between driveability and practicality.

• The writer is with Torque, a motoring monthly published by SPH Magazines.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 20, 2016, with the headline 'Battle of the turbo wagons'. Print Edition | Subscribe