Subaru Solterra review
The Subaru Solterra is an impressive, well rounded electric family SUV, but keys rivals offer substantially more range and boot space
The Subaru Solterra is an instantly competitive contender in the electric family SUV arena. It might not be as quirky as Subarus of old, but the Japanese brand’s first-ever electric car is surprisingly good to drive, features great on-board tech, and sticks with good old-fashioned, easy-to-use controls. As is the Subaru way, the Solterra comes as standard with all-wheel drive, plus some slightly off-road-style features that should please fans of the brand.
However, it must be said that while the Solterra is a well rounded electric family SUV, it simply doesn’t offer the same levels of practicality or range as some of its key rivals, many of which have much lower starting prices, too.
About the Subaru Solterra
It took a while, but Subaru has finally jumped on the EV bandwagon. The Subaru Solterra landed here in late 2022 and will look a little familiar to those in the market for an electric family car, because its almost identical sister car is the Toyota bZ4X.
But as Subaru likes to point out, this is not a bait-and-switch, badge-engineering job, a la Toyota Yaris and Mazda 2 Hybrid. Subaru helped to develop the platform used by both cars, which also serves as the underpinnings for the new Lexus RZ 450e.
Car group tests
Subaru also worked on the specific off-road settings featured in the Solterra and bZ4X. The X-Mode system controls the motors and brakes to deliver optimum traction on difficult terrain, such as deep mud, snow or even steep, slippery slopes.
Few brands are as synonymous with all-wheel drive as Subaru, so it’s no surprise that the Solterra features permanent all-wheel drive as standard, courtesy of two electric motors (one on each axle). It is an option on the Toyota though, and there are similar dual-motor versions of all the Solterra’s highly accomplished rivals, including our 2022 Car of the Year, the Nissan Ariya, plus the Tesla Model Y, Skoda Enyaq iV, Volkswagen ID.4, Kia EV6 and Hyundai Ioniq 5.
There are just two trim levels and a handful of exterior colours for Solterra customers to choose from, with prices for the entry-level Limited model starting from £49,995. For that you get 18-inch alloy wheels, a powered tailgate, adaptive cruise control, heated front and rear seats, and a heated steering wheel. Other standard kit includes a 360-degree parking camera, a digital rear-view mirror and a heat pump that should more efficiently warm the battery.
Upgrading to Touring spec adds faux-leather upholstery, 20-inch alloy wheels, a panoramic sunroof, Harman Kardon sound system, wireless smartphone charging and an electric passenger seat, and bumps the price up to £52,995 – roughly the same as a Tesla Model Y Long Range.
Electric motor, drive and performance
You might not expect a two-tonne-plus electric SUV to be the sort of car we’d praise for the way it drives, but Subaru has achieved a great middle ground between capable handling and a settled ride with the Solterra. The car remains composed over bumps and does a solid job of cushioning passengers from shocks, both in terms of noise and vibration. The cabin is well isolated from road noise as well, making the Solterra a great motorway cruiser.
But leave the motorway, find yourself a twisty B-road, and body roll is kept to a minimum around corners and the Solterra turns in keenly. The steering is light enough to make manoeuvring around town easy, yet it is still well weighted and provides a convincing impression of feedback from the front tyres.
You can adjust the level of brake regeneration on the fly via paddles mounted behind the steering wheel, while the strongest setting is accessed using a button on the dashboard. The latter is almost capable of one-pedal driving, but doesn’t bring the car to a complete stop.
0-62mph acceleration and top speed
Combined, the Solterra’s two electric motors produce 215bhp and 337Nm of torque. That’s not a huge amount of power compared to the 302bhp in the dual-motor Nissan Ariya or the Tesla Model Y Long Range’s 384bhp, but it’s plenty for the school run, accelerating from 0-62mph in 6.9 seconds.
Power delivery is smooth from the Solterra’s two electric motors, and we have no reason to doubt the claimed 6.9-second time. Slowing down is just as impressive, because the Subaru’s brake feel is reassuring, and the transition between the regeneration of the electric motor and physical brakes is almost imperceptible.
Range, charging and running costs
Unlike the majority of electric family SUVs, the Solterra is offered with just one powertrain: a 71.4kWh battery used to power two electric motors. According to Subaru, this combination is good for 289 miles on a charge in base Limited-trim cars, while Touring-spec models like the one we drove have a shorter 257-mile range, probably as a result of their larger 20-inch wheels.
For context, entry-level versions of the Model Y, Enyaq iV and Ford Mustang Mach-E also offer between 250 and 280 miles of range, however certain variants of all three can crack the 300-mile mark with relative ease.
What’s more, the Solterra seemed to be hit particularly hard by the cold, winter weather we encountered during our time with it. The car could only muster an efficiency figure of 2.5 miles per kilowatt hour, while a Skoda Enyaq iV we were testing at the same time returned 3.0mi/kWh. At that rate, the Subaru would only cover 178 miles on a full charge, compared to 231 miles in the Skoda.
Of course, we’d expect the Subaru, like all electric cars, to be more efficient during the warmer months, but we’d have to test it again to find out exactly how much better it performs.
Even though the Solterra’s 150kW rapid-charging capabilities aren’t the fastest in this class, it is at least on par with the Enyaq iV, ID.4 and Ariya. Find a suitably fast ultra-rapid charging point and a 10-80% top-up will take 28 minutes, while a 7.4kW home wallbox will take nearly 12 hours to fully replenish the battery.
As well as being relatively expensive to buy, getting insurance for the Subaru Solterra won’t be cheap either. That's because in Limited trim the Solterra lands in insurance group 46 (out of 50), and the top-spec Touring edition gets a group 47 rating. Curiously, the Solterra’s sister car, the Toyota bZ4X, sits in insurance groups 35-38, despite using the same underpinnings.
After three years of ownership and 36,000 miles covered, our data predicts that Subaru’s first electric car should hold onto around 57 per cent of its original list price.
Interior, design and technology
The only visual differences between the Subaru Solterra and its brother, the Toyota bZ4X, are their badges, front grille and rear light arrangement. It’s a sleeker, less boxy design overall compared with the current Subaru Forester SUV, with large swathes of black plastic on the wheelarches and side sills that do give it a bit of a rough and ready look.
To help deliver optimum traction on difficult terrain, it does feature the X-Mode settings developed by Subaru, plus two electric motors for all-wheel drive, but the Solterra’s rather ordinary ground clearance means it’s not capable of venturing too far off the beaten track.
Inside, the Solterra doesn’t feel isn’t as spacious as a Hyundai Ioniq 5, but the much more traditional, user-friendly and button-laden interior is easy to get along with and will appeal to those not sold on the Tesla Model Y’s extremely minimalist interior.
The Solterra bucks the trend of relying on touch-sensitive panels and sliders, instead sticking with buttons and physical controls for the most part, particularly for the steering wheel. The climate controls are a combination of physical and touch switches, and they’re reasonably easy to get along with – it’s certainly a better set-up than cars we’ve tested that force you to dig around though the menus on a touchscreen to change the fan speed.
The Subaru might not be as airy inside as a Skoda Enyaq iV, but we can't fault the quality of the Solterra’s cabin. The sturdy plastics and use of fabric materials over the dashboard help to make it feel as premium as you might expect from a nearly-£50,000 EV.
The seven-inch instrument panel is less of a highlight. While the screen itself is clear and crisp, it’s mounted above the steering wheel, much like Peugeot’s similarly divisive i-Cockpit set-up. The system won’t work for everyone, and especially shorter drivers, who might find the wheel blocking part of the dials – as we experienced ourselves.
Some useful EV info, such as remaining battery percentage, is also missing from the instrument panel, although a software update will address this in time, we’ve been told.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
The Solterra is certainly packed with tech, but the central 12.3-inch screen is a definite highlight. It has clearly thought-out menus, it responds quickly to touches, and loads routes quickly. All versions of the Solterra come with wireless Apple CarPlay, too, however you’ll need a cable to use Android Auto and only the top-spec Touring version gets a wireless charging pad for your smartphone.
Subaru’s Care App allows owners to control a variety of car functions from their smartphone. These include the ability to remotely pre-heat the car before a journey, setting charging schedules, checking the car is locked and viewing driving analytics data.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
This being a Subaru, there are one or two quirky touches in the Solterra’s cabin, some of which we like, others less so. The large storage space under the floating centre console is pretty handy, and we quite like the smartphone tray that’s hidden by a translucent cover. However, there’s no glovebox or rear windscreen wiper, with the latter issue becoming something of a trend in new cars and one we hope comes to an end soon. At least passengers can keep their devices charged up using the pair of USB-C sockets in the back.
The Solterra is 4,690mm long and 1,860mm wide, which makes it 50mm longer and 45mm wider than the existing Subaru Forester e-Boxer hybrid SUV. The Solterra sits lower to the ground, too, standing 1,650mm tall against the Forester at 1,730mm, and with 211mm of ground clearance compared to the Forester’s 220mm.
Leg room, head room and passenger space
Passengers in the back of the Solterra get loads of kneeroom and a decent amount of headroom, too. The seat backs do recline, which particularly tall passengers might find handy. However, the limited amount of leg support for them can’t be fixed, because the high floor forces your thighs off the squab.
Boot space in the Solterra measures 452 litres in Limited-trim cars, or 441 litres if you go for Touring spec. That’s not particularly big for a car of this type – those after the most boot space possible will be better served by a Skoda Enyaq iV or Tesla Model Y. There’s also no ‘frunk’ under the bonnet of the Subaru, and the 60:40-split rear seats don’t fold completely flat.
There aren’t many features in the Solterra’s boot, either, and those that are present aren’t that well thought out. For example, the folding bag hooks are positioned on the trim surrounding the boot opening, so you’ll struggle to hang any decent-sized bag of shopping on them without blocking the tailgate.
Electric cars aren’t renowned for their towing abilities, but even still the Solterra’s 750kg maximum towing capacity is below average. Especially compared to all-wheel-drive versions of the Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Nissan Ariya, which are rated to pull up to 1,600kg and 1,500kg respectively.
Reliability and Safety
It’s hard to judge the Solterra’s reliability because it’s only just arrived, it’s the Japanese brand’s first electric car and it's based on a brand-new electric-car platform. Subaru certainly doesn’t have the best reputation for reliability, but electric cars use far fewer components than their combustion-engined counterparts and are generally more reliable as a result.
A recall was issued for the Subaru Solterra and its Toyota bZ4X sister car in June 2022 due to issues with wheel hub bolts that could have caused wheels to come loose while driving. However, very few examples of either model had arrived in the UK at that point and the problem has been solved. Since then, no other major issues have been reported.
The Subaru Solterra is covered by a three-year/60,000-mile warranty, while its battery gets an eight-year/100,000-mile guarantee.
Subaru says the Solterra needs to be serviced every 12 months or 9,000 miles, whichever comes first. Subaru has relatively small sales figures in the UK when compared to the likes of Skoda or Nissan, but it is rightly proud of the loyalty of its buyers. And when you see that Subaru’s dealers ranked fourth overall in our latest Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, it’s easy to see why those owners tend to stick around.