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Subaru Solterra test drive

This is Subaru’s first all electric car and its only proper SUV in the range so is it one to consider for your next car?

Summary

Although the Solterra is a little pricey, it’s a great futuristic addition to the Subaru lineup offering customers an all-electric option.
Design
8
Comfort
7
Driving experience
8
Value for money
6
Safety
8

Summary

Although the Solterra is a little pricey, it’s a great futuristic addition to the Subaru lineup offering customers an all-electric option.

Make and model: Subaru Solterra
Description: Medium SUV, electric
Price range: from £52,495

Subaru says: “The Solterra moniker was created using the Latin words for ‘Sun’ and ‘Earth’ to represent Subaru’s commitment to delivering traditional SUV capabilities in an environmentally responsible package.”

We say: Moving towards an electric future, Subaru has created a family electric SUV that’s capable of managing passengers, luggage and even a little bit of towing.


Introduction

Launched in 2023, the Solterra is Subaru’s version of the electric Toyota bZ4X SUV. The Toyota version reached customers more than a year prior but this is Subaru’s first all-electric model in the company’s line up for the UK. 

As is common with rebadged cars, the Subaru version has a more limited range of options available. The Solterra comes as an all-wheel drive variant as standard with no entry-level two-wheel drive option on offer. 

The two cars score closely in our Expert Rating Index. As of April 2024, the Subaru Solterra holds a New Car Expert Rating of A with a score of 74% and the bZ4X has the same A-grade rating but with a slightly better score of 79% – the difference is a more complete set of servicing costs available for the Toyota and better media scores, which is surprising given that the cars are essentially identical.

What is the Subaru Solterra?

As we move towards an electrified future, more manufacturers are adding all-electric models to their offerings. In collaboration with Toyota, this is Subaru’s first electric model which is a five-seater SUV. 

In this same segment other competition includes the likes of the Ford Mustang Mach-E, the Hyundai Kona Electric, the Kia EV6 and the Volvo EX40 (previously known as the XC40 Recharge). Most manufacturers’ first electric cars are focused on the SUV sector so there’s a good amount of choice if you’re in the market for an electric SUV. As well as being Subaru’s only electric car, it’s also the brand’s only SUV option. The rest of the line up features family cars that favour the form of jacked up estate cars rather than the traditional SUV shape. 

First impressions

Whilst most of the Subaru range retains rugged exterior styling, signalling off-road capabilities, the Solterra is quite a step away from the brand’s usual styling. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing though. There’s often either a woeful lack of inspiring styling for new EVs or a futuristic flair that has a completely different take on car design. We’re pleased to say the Solterra leans into the futuristic vibe and diverges away from traditional SUV predictability. 

As a nod to its Subaru heritage and marketability as an EV that will go off-road the wheel arches feature large plastic surrounds. At the front these also wrap around to create channels for air to flow through, improving aerodynamics. This air-conscious design theme continues at the rear with two fins that stick out over the back window, continuing the roof line. 

We like: Futuristic styling
We don’t like: Chunky plastic wheel arch surrounds

What do you get for your money?

Two trim options are available for the Solterra: Limited and Touring. The entry-level trim starts from £52,495 and Touring starts at £55,495. As standard the Solterra comes with all-wheel drive which has different driving modes for snow/dirt and deep snow/mud.  

Limited is well equipped with 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights and windscreen wipers, heated front and rear seats, electrically adjustable driver’s seat, keyless entry, powered tailgate, heated door mirrors, 12.3-inch touchscreen, wireless Apple CarPlay and wired Android Auto, sat nav, reversing camera, 360 degree view and tire pressure monitoring. 

Touring adds 20-inch alloy wheels, panoramic roof, electrically adjustable passenger seat, wireless phone charging, Harman Kardon eight-speaker audio system with subwoofer and memory functions for the driver’s seat and door mirrors.  

Subaru advises getting the Solterra serviced every year or 9,000 miles, whichever comes first. The car comes with a standard three-year/60,000 mile warranty with a three-year recovery and assistance package for travelling in the UK and Europe. The battery has a separate eight-year/100,000 mile warranty.  

We like: Entry-level spec is well equipped with lots of tech
We don’t like: Pricey starting point compared to rivals

What’s the Subaru Solterra like inside?

The modern futuristic theme continues inside with a sleek centre console that houses the touchscreen at the top. This is much simpler to use with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto connected. Climate control buttons are integrated into the piano black finish at the bottom of the screen. Whilst most of the buttons are flat, the icons make them easy to identify and access rather than being buried in screen menus. 

The set back driver’s display acts as a cross between a head up display and a traditional instrument panel, so it’s convenient to quickly glance down without taking your eyes off the road for too long. 

Storage space comes in the form of door bins and a cubby under the centre console. The middle armrest also lifts up to reveal room for odds and ends and there’s two cup holders between the driver and front passenger. The Solterra doesn’t have a glove box, instead there’s a shelf on the passenger side for paperwork or a notebook. 

In the back, the floor is almost flat so the middle passenger doesn’t have their knees up around their ears. Leg room for all is decent and the seats fold down in a 60/40 split to make room for extra long luggage. The boot is a good size and has a flat floor so there’s no lip to load over. Cable storage is tucked away under the boot floor but there’s no frunk space up front.

We like: Modern interior space
We don’t like: Competitors offer larger boots

What’s under the bonnet?

There’s just one configuration available in the Solterra, a dual-motor set up with a 71.4kWh battery. This offers official ranges of 289 miles in the Limited specification and 257 miles in a Touring trim variant. Charging is available via a 7kW AC connection which would typically be a wallbox charger at home or work, or it can take up to 150kW DC fast charging at public chargers. Failing either of these, it can be charged from a three-pin plug but this will take a long time. Fast charging allows up to 80% charge in around half an hour. 

Braked and unbraked towing capacity is limited to 750kg so it would be suitable for towing a trailer but it wouldn’t be able to tow the vast majority of caravans. Also, towing will have an impact on range capabilities so long journeys with a trailer need some extra planning to ensure regular charging opportunities. 

What’s the Subaru Solterra like to drive?

Being electric, it’s super easy to drive and get familiar with the Subaru Solterra. Regenerative braking can be adjusted to give a one-pedal driving experience or something closer to a petrol or diesel car where the brake pedal is needed. Whichever you’re most comfortable with allows for a smooth and relaxed experience. 

Out of the front visibility is good but the rear window is quite small so it doesn’t offer great visibility behind. However, the Solterra has blind spot monitoring and lane keeping assist which supports driver awareness of other road users around the vehicle. 

Unlike other manufacturers that show blind spot information on the outer edge of the wing mirrors, the Subaru system illuminates an amber light on the inner side of the mirrors. This helps to clearly distinguish in your peripheral vision a blind spot warning and an indicator signal. Lane keeping information is shown using a head up display-style lighting system which flashes an amber line on the side of the lane the car is moving over. This makes it clear what the system is communicating. 

Other safety equipment includes driver monitoring which sounds an alert and flashes a reminder on the instrument panel if it deems the driver is not looking at the road. This can be a useful safety feature but it can also be annoying in some instances such as looking out the window to find a house number. When unlocking the car, unless the driver’s door is opened first, other doors won’t open without an additional click of the button. This is a good feature to make sure other people don’t hop into your car but for every day usability it can get frustrating. 

On the road, electric power is readily available and getting up to speed is no issue. The 18-inch wheels will offer a more comfortable ride over patches of broken road but that doesn’t mean the 20-inch wheels are uncomfortable. As you’d expect, the cabin is very quiet and the artificial noise at low speeds isn’t annoying.

We like: Great blind spot and lane keeping technology
We don’t like: Limited rear visibility

Verdict

As a family electric SUV, the Subaru Solterra is a good pick. Deciding if it’s right for you comes down to price point, range and whether an EV will fit into your lifestyle. Given it’s only available as a four-wheel drive variant, its entry-point is more expensive than rivals like the bZ4X. 

While better range figures might be more costly with other car makers, Subaru doesn’t have the option of a larger battery so if 289 miles in the Limited spec isn’t enough then a different EV might be more suitable. However, this will be more than enough for the vast majority of commutes and regular journeys so range figures shouldn’t be off putting. With charging at home or work, the Subaru Solterra would make a great alternative to the traditional petrol or diesel SUV. 

Similar cars

If you’re looking at the Subaru Solterra, you might also be interested in these alternatives.

Audi Q4 e-tron | BMW iX3 | Citroën ë-C4 | Ford Mustang Mach-E | Hyundai Ioniq 5 | Hyundai Kona Electric | Kia e-Niro | Kia EV6 | Mercedes-Benz EQA | Nissan Ariya | Polestar 2 | Skoda Enyaq iV | Tesla Model Y | Toyota bZ4X | Volkswagen ID.4 | Volvo XC40 Recharge

Key specifications

Model tested: Subaru Solterra Touring
Price as tested: £55,495
Engine: 71.4kWh battery 

Range: 257 miles 

Power: 215 bhp
Torque: 168.5 Nm

Top speed: 110 mph
0-62 mph: 6.5 seconds

CO2 emissions: 0 g/km
Euro NCAP safety rating: No rating (Toyota bZ4X 5 stars)
TCE Expert Rating: 74% (as of April 2024)

More information


More news, reviews and information about the Subaru Solterra at The Car Expert

Subaru Solterra

Subaru Solterra

Five-star crash test results for 15 new cars

Five-star crash test results for 15 new cars

Subaru Solterra unveiled as brand’s first EV

Subaru Solterra unveiled as brand’s first EV

First Subaru EV to be called Solterra

First Subaru EV to be called Solterra

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Trinity Francis
Trinity Francishttps://www.trinitygfrancis.com/
Freelance automotive journalist and motoring writer focusing on all aspects of automotive content, with particular attention to emerging trends, industry innovations, tech and consumer advice.
Although the Solterra is a little pricey, it’s a great futuristic addition to the Subaru lineup offering customers an all-electric option. Subaru Solterra test drive