Review: Subaru Solterra

From £49,995

Not only has the Subaru Solterra been co-developed with the Toyota bZ4X and Lexus RZ models on the same e-TNGA platform – it’s also manufactured alongside them at the same plant in Motomachi, Japan.

And it’s fair to say that the Subaru Solterra bears more than a passing resemblance to the Toyota and Lexus (which isn’t such a bad thing).

The key thing for Subaru is that the partnership with Toyota/Lexus allows it to get an EV in showrooms super quick.

Subaru is known for making very capable 4x4s which are renowned for their durability and it has intensely loyal owners.

And even though its cars sell in much larger numbers in countries such as the US and Australia, the Solterra gives it a foothold in the UK’s EV scene.

Its other SUV rivals include everything from the Tesla Model Y, Skoda Enyaq iV and Nissan Ariya to the Ford Mustang Mach-E, Kia EV6 and Hyundai Ioniq 5.

Subaru has kept things simple with the Solterra, which is only available in twin-motor four-wheel-drive form.

There are only two trim choices, too – entry-level Limited and top-spec Touring. Both are almost identical, mechanically, which means they share a 71.4kWh battery pack and two electric motors, producing a combined total of 215bhp and 249 lb-ft of torque – enough for 0-62mph in 6.9 seconds.

However, Limited has a claimed range of 289 miles, while Touring is slightly lower at 257 miles. The only obvious difference between the two is that the latter has 20-inch wheels (Limited has 18s) and the Touring weighs 25kg more.

As Subaru SUV customers would expect, the Solterra’s 4×4 system is permanent, plus there’s an X-Mode button which helps you navigate tougher terrain such as deep mud, snow and steep, slippery slopes in a controlled, calm way.

We tried some mild off-roading and the Downhill Assist Control, the speed of which can be adjusted via a simple switch on the steering wheel, and it’s particularly effective.

What’s more, with a minimum ground clearance of 210mm, it can tackle trips some EV competitors can’t and it has a water-fording wading depth. Sadly, caravan owners won’t be so pleased because the Solterra has a towing capacity of just 750kg.

If it looks similar to its Japanese cousins outside, then it’s hard to separate them inside.

It shares the same unconventional layout for the driver. In other words, there’s a low steering wheel position and high instrument binnacle (not unlike a Peugeot i-Cockpit), plus a centrally mounted 12.4-inch infotainment touchscreen.

Apart from the fact that some drivers might find that the steering wheel partially blocks their view of the digital instrument panel behind, it’s surprising how easy it is to get used to the driving position.

Overall, the cabin is a pleasant and comfortable place to be and well put together, but it won’t score points for visual excitement and some of the plastics used are hard and on the flimsy side.

That said, there’s plenty of room for adults to sit comfortably in the rear, while the boot capacity is a useful 452-litres (441-litres in the Touring version). On the minus side, there’s no ‘frunk’ under the bonnet to store charging cables and there’s no glovebox inside.

All-round visibility is good, plus there’s a reversing camera and 360-degree surround-view monitor. However, just like the Toyota bZ4X and Lexus RZ, there’s no rear wiper, which is fine in light rain, but a nuisance on filthy motorway journeys where your only option is to pull into the services and physically wipe the hatch screen.

We tested a Touring spec Solterra, which is extremely well equipped. As well as leather seats, a heated steering wheel, heated front and rear seats and 20-inch alloy wheels, it has wireless phone charging, headlight washers and adaptive high beam headlights.

It also comes with Subaru Safety Sense, a full suite of driver assistance and safety systems, including adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency braking that can detect pedestrians and cyclists, blind-spot monitoring, and traffic sign monitoring.

As is the case with most modern EVs, it achieved a maximum of five stars in Euro NCAP crash testing.

On the road, the Solterra feels solid, composed and surprisingly agile for a relatively large, heavy SUV.

Hustle it on more challenging roads and body roll is well controlled, plus there’s plenty of grip and the steering turns in keenly.

Ride comfort is good, too, taking the edge off all but the worst potholes.

There are three driving modes (Eco, Normal and Power). As ever, Eco dulls the overall experience so best left for motorway runs, while Normal is just fine for everyday driving. Power livens things up a bit and is fun for overtaking, but battery consumption will take a hit if over-used.

Even though the 71.4kWh battery and two motors are on the modest side compared to some competitors, the Solterra is fast, though not as gut-wrenching as some rivals.

The brakes are progressive, while brake regeneration can be adjusted via paddles mounted behind the steering wheel.

If you do test drive a Solterra, we’d recommend choosing a smooth stretch of road and listening out for noise. It may have just been our test car, but it wasn’t quite the whisper-quiet experience we’d hoped for, with just a little too much road and wind noise making it into the cabin.

Based on a week of mixed driving, we reckon the real-world range is closer to 200 miles than the claimed 257 miles. As ever, if you switch off the heating and drive very sensibly in warm weather conditions on flatter terrain, you will squeeze out more miles.

Frankly, we’d suggest saving a few thousand quid and opting for the entry-level Limited spec with those extra miles of range.

An 80% battery boost can be delivered in as little as 30 minutes via its (average) 150kW fast-charging system. The same charge at home will take 7-8 hours.

Our charging experience wasn’t ideal because the weather was cold, so we couldn’t match the 30-minute target time or get close to the claimed charge rate.

So, it’s not perfect, but we really like the Solterra. In fact, we’d say it just edges the bZ4X.

However, there is one more consideration if you are torn between the two. The Solterra is covered by a three-year/60,000-mile warranty (whichever is sooner), while the bZ4X benefits from Toyota’s warranty which covers your vehicle for 10 years (up to 100,000 miles), provided your car is serviced by a Toyota dealer.

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The Solterra is an impressive EV debut from Subaru. Delivering an assured drive, it’s easy to live with, well equipped, safe and spacious. There are a few gripes, but at the very least, we’d highly recommend a test drive.
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Quality

3.50/5

Performance

3.50/5

Range

4.00/5

Comfort

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Dynamics

4.00/5

Fast Facts

Price

£49,995
-52,995

Battery Capacity

71.4 kWh

WLTP Range

257-
289 miles

Maximum Power

215 bhp

Torque

249 lb-ft

0-60

6.9-
6.9 secs

Top Speed

99 mph

Boot Capacity

441-
452 litres

Pros and Cons

Impressive driving experience
Well-equipped and safe
AWD off-road ability
High starting price
No rear wiper or glovebox
Driving position not for everyone
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