Fuji Heavy Industries in Japan designed and produced a compact car called the Subaru Leone in 1971. The car remained in production until 1994. The name ‘Leone’ is taken from Italian for ‘lion’.
The Leone replaced the Subaru 1000 and also released before the arrival of the Subaru Impreza. Subaru EA boxer engine was used in all the production models of Leone. Majority of the Leones were offered with an option of all-wheel drive.
The vehicle was introduced in Japan along with many other overseas markets under the Leone nameplate and was regarded as the only Subaru’s car marketed worldwide where the kei cars including Vivio, Rex, R-2, 360 and Sambar were not measured as road legal. It is for this reason the Leone was recognized through the trim level designation in many larger markets including Australia, Europe and North America. The available trim levels were DL, GL, GLF, GLF5, GL-10 and RX. The identification through trim level designation suggests that the vehicle would most probably be referred to as Subaru GL or Subaru L-series.
First Generation (1971-1981)
October 7, 1071 was the date when first generation Leone was launched. It was available as front-wheel drive coupe having DL, GL and GSR trim levels. The 2- and 4-door sedans were launched in April 1972 under DL, GL, and Super Touring (only in Japan) trim levels. A station wagon version with all-wheel drive was launched in September 1972. The Leone station wagon version debuted in US market in 1974. The Subaru Leone had a competition with Mitsubishi Lancer, Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic and Nissan Sunny.
The first generation Leone was powered by a 1.4-L engine which was later joined by a 1.6-L carbureted OHV engine. Both the engines were mated to a 4-speed manual, 5-speed manual and a 3-speed automatic transmission which was introduced in 1975.
Second Generation (1979-1989)
The second generation Leone was introduced as a completely redesigned model in June 1979. It was offered in a range of body styles including a 2-door hardtop coupe, a 4-door sedan and a station wagon, and a 3-door hatchback. The second generation Leone arrived in US market in 1980.
The best part of this generation was the introduction of dual-range 4-speed, 4-wheel drive transmission featuring both high and low range gears. Japan’s first 4-wheel drive car with an automatic transmission, featuring world’s first ‘wet hydraulic multi-plate clutch’ was launched by Subaru in November 1981.
It was launched with a 1.8-L EA81 engine and a turbocharger with an option of multi-port fuel injection was added later in 1983.
Third Generation (1984-1994)
The third generation Leone was launched with a second major revision of design. It was made available to general public on July 16, 1984. It was available as a 3-door hatchback, 4-door sedan and a station wagon body style was retained from previous generation. The third generation Leone landed on US soil in 1985.
The European market received a wide range of Leone including 1.3-L DL, 1.6-L DL, 1.6-L GL, 1.8-L DL and 1.8 G-L 4-wheel drive trims. The sedan version was available until 1992 before the whole Leone lineup was restricted to only station wagon version in 1993. Availability of different versions depended on the market in which it was sold.
The 1.6-L failed to make any impression and eventually discontinued from the whole range of North American market. The only engine left behind was the 65 hp (48 kW) 1.3-L engine.
For the third generation model, the 1.8-L flat-4 OHV engine was dropped in favor of a new 1.8-L SOHC engine. The engine also featured a single carburetor, single point fuel injection, multi-port fuel injection or multi-port fuel injection with turbocharger.
A full-time all-wheel drive manual transmission or a full-time all-wheel drive, 4-speed electronically-controlled automatic transmission was made available from 1985 model year onward.