IT'S fair to say that the Subaru Levorg is something of a motoring anomaly.
A stand-alone estate model, or tourer as they're often fashionably known these days, which shuns conventional wisdom by eschewing the diesel option that would appeal to this sector's usual target market of fleet and business buyers.
In fact, the concept of options is one which you have to pretty much forego with the Levorg - there's one engine, one gearbox and one trim level. The only real choice is to either take it or leave it.
Nevertheless, anyone who spends time behind the wheel may find themselves somewhat drawn to this seemingly nichest of niche vehicles.
With a distinctive, sporty design; high tech infotainment and safety equipment; all-wheel drive assurance; decent space and practicality; and one of the most refined cabins ever in a Subaru there is much to like.
The signature bonnet scoop, chrome-framed hexagonal grille and low-slung stance are design cues straight from the WRX STI performance saloon, while 18-inch alloys, a chunky rear bumper, twin tailpipes and an integrated diffuser complete the muscular image.
Power, however, comes from a 170ps 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine, in Subaru's trademark Boxer configuration, rather than the 2.5-litre, 300ps beast that resides in the WRX STI.
Nevertheless it offers some sprightly performance for an estate car, covering the 0-62mph sprint in a snip under nine seconds on its way to a top speed of 130mph. That's more than enough pace for a family tourer.
And with the automatic continuously variable transmission employed by Subaru continuing to improve in responsiveness and refinement, progress is prompt and smooth for the most part and there's a manual option via paddle shifters if you feel the need to intervene.
The Boxer engine contributes to the Levorg's low centre of gravity which, in conjunction with well-weighted and accurate steering, offers some agile handling for an estate and makes driving it an enjoyable experience.
Subaru's renowned symmetrical all-wheel drive system ensures plenty of grip in all conditions and is further enhanced by the addition of the brand's vehicle dynamics control system as well as active torque vectoring, for smooth and settled cornering.
Lack of ground clearance means that opportunities to test the Levorg's off-road capabilities are restricted but the vagaries of a winter such as the one we've just endured will present few problems.
And there's more peace of mind built in via a plethora of safety features, not least Subaru's Eyesight system.
This uses twin cameras mounted on the windscreen to scan up to 110 metres ahead and, depending what it detects, offers audio visual warnings, automatic emergency braking, lane keep assistance and adaptive cruise control functions.
On top of this a rear vehicle detection system adds blind spot monitoring, lane change assist and will also alert the driver to vehicles passing behind the car, when reversing out of a parking space, for instance.
The cabin has a classy feel while still retaining the solid and durable character you would expect of a Subaru.
There are plenty of soft-touch materials, leather upholstery, heated sports front seats with automatic adjustment for the driver, a flat-bottomed multifunction sports steering wheel and sporty aluminium pedals.
The dashboard is built around an intuitive seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system, incorporating Bluetooth, navigation and digital radio, while other kit includes a rear view camera, air conditioning and no less than six USB ports - so everyone can keep their mobile gadgets powered up.
Practicality, of course, is always a key consideration in any estate car and the Levorg measures up well, with good head and legroom all around and a boot which, at 522 litres, should cope with most family needs and features hidden under-floor storage. Capacity rises to 1,446 litres with the 60/40 split rear seats folded down.