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In-depth reviews

Subaru Solterra SUV review

"The Subaru Solterra is a four-wheel drive electric SUV that’s practical but rather expensive to buy"

Carbuyer Rating

3.9 out of 5

Owners Rating
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Pros

  • Good to drive
  • Interior is good quality and practical
  • Four-wheel drive is standard

Cons

  • Small boot for the size of car
  • Expensive to buy
  • Range isn’t as good as rival cars

Verdict - Is the Subaru Solterra a good car?

The Subaru Solterra is the Japanese brand’s first electric car, and it’s an excellent first effort. Like most Subarus it’s good to drive, has lots of technology including the latest safety equipment, and has a nicely laid-out cabin that’s easy to use. Of course it’s also four-wheel drive, which is great for those who live in remote areas, although electric power might be the sticking point there as rapid charging isn’t as readily available rurally. It’s a shame that the driving range of the Solterra, especially in winter, is a key drawback. It’s able to reach 289 miles, which is easily enough for daily driving, but falls short of some of the best electric SUVs around and we found it to be significantly less efficient in cold weather in our real-world tests.

Subaru Solterra models, specs and alternatives

The Subaru Solterra is the brand’s first all-electric SUV. It was designed from the beginning to be an electric car, rather than being a normal car with electric motors shoehorned in, although it does share many parts with another car: the Toyota bZ4X.

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The Lexus RZ 450e also uses a similar setup. The Solterra and the bZ4X were developed together, but Subaru’s model has slightly different technology including an off-road focused X-Mode that works for mud, snow or just wet grass. It’s a four-wheel drive car because there are two electric motors, one driving each axle.

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Four-wheel drive isn’t as unusual as it once was, since it’s so simple to make an electric car with power at all of the wheels. The bZ4X is available with four-wheel drive, and rivals such as the Nissan Ariya, Tesla Model Y, Skoda Enyaq iV, Volkswagen ID.4, Kia EV6 and Hyundai Ioniq 5 are all offered with this set-up as well.

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There are only two trim levels in the Solterra range: Limited and Touring. The former comes with 18-inch alloy wheels, a power tailgate, adaptive cruise control, heated seats and a heated steering wheel. Touring comes with 20-inch alloy wheels, a panoramic sunroof, a Harman Kardon stereo, wireless smartphone charging and an electric passenger seat. Even the entry-level model is more expensive than the top-spec version of the bZ4X, so the Subaru looks rather expensive despite the long list of standard kit.

Trim levels

Power options

  • Limited
  • Touring
  • Dual motor (215bhp)

Subaru Solterra alternatives

Premium small electric SUVs

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Hybrid SUVs

Petrol SUVs

MPG, running costs & CO2

“The electric Subaru can’t quite match its rivals for efficiency, especially in cold weather”

There’s only one battery set-up in the Subaru Solterra, which is a 71.4kWh battery with two electric motors. This allows a range of up to 289 miles in entry-level Limited models and 257 miles in higher-spec Touring versions (thanks to larger alloy wheels reducing efficiency).

There are various models available in rival models like the Model Y, Enyaq iV and Ford Mustang Mach-E, and smaller-battery versions of those cars have similar range figures to the Subaru. However, all are also available with larger batteries for more range – over 300 miles. Even the Toyota bZ4X, the Solterra’s sister car, manages up to 318 miles according to official figures.

During our real-world tests, we achieved efficiency of 2.5 miles per kilowatt hour, while the Skoda Enyaq iV returned 3.0mi/kWh. This resulted in a true range of 178 miles in the Subaru and 231 miles in the Skoda. This was during cold weather, so represents something like a minimum range you can expect, yet it’s still disappointing.

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Still, you get 150kW rapid charging in the Solterra, which is the same as in the Skoda Enyaq iV, Volkswagen ID.4 and Nissan Ariya. This means you can get a 10-80 per cent top-up in under half an hour. A 7.4kW home wallbox takes about 12 hours to refill the battery from empty.

Model 

Battery size

Range

Limited

71kWh

289 miles

Touring

71kWh

257 miles

Engines, drive & performance

“The Solterra is enjoyable to drive and stays settled on bumpy roads”

Subaru has built a reputation over the years for making cars that are enjoyable and satisfying to drive. While the brand has moved away from the rally cars it became famous for in the 2000s, its cars are still more fun than many rivals. The Solterra doesn’t disappoint here, as it’s smooth and easy to drive but also comfortable.

It makes a great cruiser, as it’s quiet and relaxed on the motorway, although the limited range doesn’t help there. It’s great on local roads too, as the steering is direct and it doesn’t roll too much in corners. You can also adjust the amount that the electric motors regenerate when you lift off the accelerator pedal – it’s not quite possible to drive with one pedal only but you can get close, which some people really enjoy.

The dual electric motors in the Subaru produce a combined 215bhp and 337Nm of torque. This is a lot less than you get in the Tesla Model Y (384bhp), but 0-62mph takes just 6.9 seconds, which feels more than fast enough for normal driving. It’s punchy from very low speeds so getting up to speed is easy. It’s also quicker than the Toyota bZ4X, which takes 7.5 seconds to get to 62mph.

Model 

Power

0-62mph

Top speed

Dual motor

215bhp

6.9s

100mph

Interior & comfort

“With lots of buttons for ease-of-use, the Solterra stands in contrast to certain touchscreen-focused rivals”

Many electric cars including the Volkswagen ID.4 and Tesla Model Y have a minimalist interior with a big touchscreen that controls virtually everything in the car. It’s come under a lot of criticism from buyers for being annoying to use – and Subaru has avoided this completely with the Solterra.

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There are tactile buttons and physical controls on the dashboard and steering wheel for most functions and only a handful of touch-sensitive buttons. The climate controls are far easier to use than in the Skoda Enyaq iV or VW ID.4, for example.

It also feels upmarket inside, as expected of an expensive electric SUV, although the cabin is a bit darker and smaller than in rivals such as the Hyundai Ioniq 5. Some may find it cosy, while others will feel cramped. The position of the digital dials above the steering wheel is our only sticking point – it’s not ideal for certain drivers as the wheel partially blocks your view.

There’s also a 12.3-inch screen in the centre of the dash with wireless Apple CarPlay and wired Android Auto. Top-spec models come with wireless phone charging too. The menus are nice and easy to use, like the rest of the interior, and the screen is bright and modern-looking.

You can also remotely pre-heat the car, choose when the car charges up, view driving data and check if the car is locked using a Subaru smartphone app. 

There are two trim levels: Limited and Touring. All models get 18-inch alloy wheels, a power tailgate, adaptive cruise control, heated seats and a heated steering wheel and Touring adds to this with 20-inch alloy wheels, a panoramic sunroof, a Harman Kardon stereo, wireless smartphone charging and an electrically-operated passenger seat.

Key features

 

Limited

 

  • 18-inch alloys
  • Powered tailgate
  • Adaptive cruise control
  • Digital dials
  • Heated seats

Touring

(Limited, plus…)

  • 20-inch alloys
  • Electric passenger seat
  • Stereo upgrade
  • Wireless phone charging 
  • Panoramic sunroof

Practicality & boot space

“There’s plenty of legroom in the Solterra, plus even the back seats recline for extra space in the cabin”

There’s plenty of legroom and headroom in the back of the Subaru Solterra and the seat backs recline, so taller passengers should be able to fit in without bumping their head. The high floor isn’t ideal, though, as it means your knees end up very high in the air. It’s absolutely fine for kids and child seats, though.

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The Solterra is 4,690mm long and 1,860mm wide, so it’s exactly the same as the Toyota bZ4X and slightly shorter than the Tesla Model Y. It’s taller by 50mm, and you feel a little higher in the driver’s seat, but not by much. The Skoda Enyaq iV is also very close in overall size.

Size comparison

Model 

Length

Width

Height

Subaru Solterra

4,690mm

1,860mm

1,650mm

Toyota bZ4X

4,690mm

1,860mm

1,650mm

Tesla Model Y

4,751mm

1,850mm

1,600mm

Skoda Enyaq iV

4,649mm

1,879mm

1,605mm

In the cabin there’s a large storage space under the centre console and a hidden smartphone tray. There’s no glovebox, but rear-seat passengers can make use of two USB-C sockets for charging their smartphones.

Subarus have been good tow cars for decades but the Solterra’s 750kg maximum towing capacity is pretty poor and the Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Nissan Ariya are both able to tow more than double that.

Boot space

There’s 452 litres of boot space in entry-level models, or 441 litres in higher-spec Touring models. Both the Skoda Enyaq iV and Tesla Model Y have more space in the boot, plus in the Subaru the seats don’t fold completely flat and there’s no additional storage under the bonnet. It’s not the most useful shape either, and loading big items in might be more difficult than in the Skoda.

Boot space comparison

Model 

Boot space

Subaru Solterra

441-452 litres

Toyota bZ4X

452 litres

Tesla Model Y

854 litres

Skoda Enyaq iV

585 litres

Reliability & safety

“Top safety rating means the Solterra is up to latest standards, plus it should be dependable”

Since the Subaru Solterra is closely related to a Toyota model, we expect it to be very reliable – especially as electric cars have far less potential to go wrong than a petrol car with far more moving parts, and fewer items that wear out.

There was a recall early in the model life to fix an issue with the potential to cause the wheels to come loose and fall off. It sounds scary but all models should have had this issue sorted by now and will be as safe as you should expect of a new car. In more positive news, Subaru came fourth out of 32 manufacturers in our latest Driver Power survey, after a hiatus of several years. Owners were particularly impressed with their Subarus’ reliability, interior layout, practicality, ride and handling, and the brand performed well overall despite 35% of respondents reporting a fault within the first year.

Safety

Euro NCAP tested the Subaru Solterra in 2022 and awarded it the top five-star rating for safety. It scored well for crash protection but was outstanding for safety equipment with a score of 91 per cent in that category.

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