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Independent, Expert EV Reviews & Advice Since 2006

Subaru Solterra Review

The Subaru Solterra may be the brand’s first electric car, but it’s good to drive on the road, and it’s capable off-road.

  • Subaru Solterra
  • Subaru Solterra
  • Subaru Solterra
  • Subaru Solterra
  • Subaru Solterra
  • Subaru Solterra
  • Subaru Solterra
  • Subaru Solterra
  • Subaru Solterra
  • Subaru Solterra
  • Subaru Solterra
  • Subaru Solterra
Green Car Guide Rating: 9/10

Key stats

  • Model/Engine size:    Subaru Solterra Touring AWD
  • Fuel:    Electric
  • Electric driving range (WLTP): 257 miles
  • Maximum rapid charging rate:    150 kW

Summary

  • Good to drive
  • Capable off-road
  • Practical body style
  • Real-world electric driving range falls short of official figure

BACKGROUND

Subaru has traditionally mainly been associated with all-wheel drive petrol (and more recently) diesel SUVs and crossovers, and of course rally-winning hatchbacks; the company hasn’t had any electric cars on sale to date. So it’s big news that the brand now has an EV – the Solterra. However Subaru has had more than a little bit of help from Toyota, because the Solterra is essentially the same car as the Toyota bZ4X. The Solterra isn’t likely to be at the top of most people’s minds when thinking about an electric car, but should it be?

Subaru SolterraSubaru Solterra

DESIGN & ENGINEERING

The Subaru Solterra not only shares a platform with the Toyota bZ4X (as it also does with the Lexus RZ 450e), it shares pretty much everything else as well; slightly different frontal styling around the grille is the only main visual difference between the two cars. The only other key variation is that whereas the Toyota is available with front or all-wheel drive, the Subaru only comes with AWD.

Both cars have the same 71.4kWh lithium-ion battery. There are dual motors, 80kW per axle, giving a total power output of 215bhp.

Because this is a bespoke EV platform, there’s more space inside the car than you might think. There’s good rear legroom and a decent-sized boot (452 litres), with a storage compartment underneath for charging cables, although the ‘fastback’ rear styling reduces the boot height.

The interior may be functional, but it doesn’t have the premium feel of many rivals.

Subaru SolterraSubaru Solterra

SUBARU SOLTERRA DRIVING EXPERIENCE

One of the first things you’ll notice about the Solterra’s cabin is that there’s a small steering wheel, and you look over it to see the driver’s instrument display (a similar layout to a Peugeot 208). This small steering wheel, and the responsive steering, helps to make the Solterra fun to drive.

But the fun doesn’t end there; the chassis also feels agile, unlike many EVs, resulting in enjoyable handling, yet the Solterra also has good ride quality, and the grip of all-wheel drive, combined with the responsive powertrain typical of most EVs (it has a 0-62 mph time of 6.9 seconds).

When we tested the Toyota bZ4X, it snowed all week, and the EV managed to get through all of the weather that was thrown at it, even with standard road tyres. There was no snow when we tested the Solterra, but we did give it an off-road test to check Subaru’s claims about its off-road capability. Based on every Subaru that we’ve driven previously, we were hoping for some off-road tyres, but, like the bZ4X, it just had standard road tyres. However despite this the Solterra had no problems with any of the off-road challenges that it was presented with, the all-wheel drive system just kept the car going up rocky and gravel hills with no loss of traction.

An ‘X-Mode’ button gives the options of Snow/Dirt mode or Deep Snow/Mud mode, and there’s also a button for hill descent control.

You can increase the amount of brake regeneration using a button, or steering wheel-mounted paddles to give a choice of four levels (the bZ4X doesn’t have paddles), and there are drive modes of Eco, Normal and Power (you just get a standard driving mode and an Eco button on the Toyota). And there’s a button to switch off the traction control system.

Another button allows you to display a 360-degree view around the car from external cameras, and you can switch off the lane departure warning system using two buttons on the left-hand steering wheel spoke.

By now it’s probably becoming obvious that the interior has quite a few buttons, which is unfashionable, but this is more functional than having to delve into sub menus on the touchscreen. And there are also separate buttons for the heating and ventilation controls.

Of course there’s also a touchscreen, and it’s a big one. The infotainment system generally works well, although most rivals have more sophisticated mapping graphics.

A strange feature, shared with the Toyota, is that if you put your hand at the top of the steering wheel the car says ‘Driver monitor unavailable, see owner’s manual’, which can get a bit tiresome.

Subaru SolterraSubaru Solterra

SUBARU SOLTERRA ELECTRIC RANGE AND CHARGING

The Subaru Solterra Touring AWD, with 20-inch wheels, has a WLTP combined electric driving range of 257 miles (the ‘Limited’ trim level, with 18-inch wheels, has a longer range of 289 miles). During a week of real-world driving, the Solterra averaged 228 miles with the heating off, but this dropped to 205 miles if the heating was on. Unlike most other EVs, the Toyota bZ4X also displayed a big difference in range depending on whether the heating was on or off – even though the cars from both brands feature a heat pump.

For comparison, the all-wheel drive version of the Toyota bZ4X has a WLTP combined electric driving range of 286 miles and the front-wheel drive model has a range of 318 miles.

The Solterra’s maximum rapid charging rate is 150kW, which should provide a 0% to 80% charge in 30 minutes.

Electric cars do not charge at their maximum charge rate for an entire charging session – their charge rate typically starts off high with a battery with a low state of charge, then the charge rate decreases as the battery charge increases. See the charge curve for the Subaru Solterra from Fastned below.

Toyota_bZ4X_Fastned_Chargecurve_Q4_2022

How to charge an electric car

Subaru SolterraSubaru Solterra

PRICE AND MODEL RANGE

The Subaru Solterra is available in two trim levels, Limited (£49,995) and Touring, as tested (£52,995). Both have all-wheel drive, but the Touring model has more equipment, including a fixed panoramic roof, synthetic leather seats, electric driver’s seat with memory function, and electric passenger seat. The Touring version also has larger, 20-inch alloy wheels, rather than the 18-inch alloy wheels on the Limited model – but the larger wheels are a key reason for the reduced range for the Touring version.

For comparison, the Toyota bZ4X is available in four grades and is available with front or all-wheel drive, from £46,110.

Subaru SolterraSubaru Solterra

Conclusion

There are lots of electric SUVs and crossovers on sale from volume brands so it’s likely that the Subaru Solterra won’t make it onto the shortlist for most car buyers. The Solterra also lacks the premium interior of many rivals, and the real-world electric range seems to fall quite a way short of the official figure. However the Solterra has lots of plus points, the main one being the rewarding, agile driving experience, which is missing in many EVs. It’s also capable off-road, and our test of the Solterra’s twin, the Toyota bZ4X, showed that it could cope with driving in snow for a week. The Subaru Solterra is awarded a Green Car Guide rating of 9 out of 10.

Car facts and figures Subaru Solterra Review

  • Test electric driving range: 189 miles (winter)
  • Consumption (WLTP): 4.0 miles/kWh
  • CO2 emissions (WLTP): 0 g/km
  • Vehicle tax rate (VED):    £0
  • Benefit in Kind (BIK) company car tax liability (2022/23): 2%
  • Price:    £52,995
  • Insurance group:    38E
  • Power:    215 bhp
  • Torque:    337 Nm
  • Max speed:    100 mph
  • 0-62 mph:    6.9 seconds
  • Weight:    2,000 kg
  • Towing capacity: 750 kg
Paul Clarke

Review by:
Paul Clarke, GreenCarGuide Editor