Putting the record straight on Subaru Solterra

I need to clear up a bit of a misunderstanding in my electric Solterra review, writes Steve Rogers

What I thought was the Limited model was actually the top of the range Touring. Why would that be a problem? Because the range on Touring is 257 miles against the 289 miles for the Limited, so my home charge of 247 miles was only 10 off target, not 42 miles, and would, not doubt, only drop 10 miles on the Limited model.

Of course top model commands a higher price so £55,495 for Touring. Sorry for taking you down the wrong road.

Meet Solterra, Subaru’s first electric car and unlike anything seen before from the Japanese car builder.

The company’s reputation has been built on its sophisticated all wheel drive system and, of course, the rally winning Imprezza which was also favoured by the cops because no one could outrun it.

Solterra is all wheel drive but is no Imprezza, although Subaru’s expertise in chassis control has turned this family SUV into a more than capable drive.

Before we go any further let’s put the record straight. Solterra is a virtual clone of the Toyota bZ4X. It is a joint project with Subaru chipping in with its all wheel drive and chassis expertise.

There are a few subtle changes around the body but not obvious enough without close scrutiny. That said Solterra is a fine looking car so all credit to the Toyota designers. Everyone has an opinion on style but if there is a better sculptured rear end on an SUV I would like to see it.

Something that will divide opinion is the lack of a rear wiper. The thinking is that water will run off the steeply raked tailgate glass so why spoil the look? Solterra has a rear camera, backed up by a 360 degree view, so the designers reasoning seems sound but time will tell.

Inside is a bit special too, we have Toyota to thank for that as well. The all round quality is excellent with particular praise going to the dashboard which is a mix of textured fabric and soft plastics covering an unusual design which will also split opinion.

The driver’s binnacle sits high, similar to a Peugeot, but works better because the digital speedometer is always in your eyeline once the downsized steering wheel and seat height are sorted.

Solterra is well equipped with most of the little things we like along with a full suite of safety features, including adaptive cruise control, a brilliant aid that brings on emergency braking to avoid a front end shunt. We can thank Toyota for that as well.

At all but 4.7 metres long Solterra is big enough for an adult family of five. Rear legroom is particularly generous and although boot capacity is not class leading is big enough without too much intrusion from the battery pack stored under the floor.

So what is driving this car? Because Solterra is all wheel drive there is an electric motor on each axle powered by a 71.4kWh battery pack. The end result is 215bhp and a sprint to 62mph in 6.9 seconds, not a lot slower than an Imprezza, but nowhere near as swift as some key rivals.

The official range is 289 miles, but I only got 247 on a full charge from my Podpoint home charger, and then lost 12 miles with the heating on so I was down to 235 before leaving my cul-de-sac. That loss is common and a lot higher in some, I recall losing 25 miles with the heat turned on in a Volkswagen ID3.

If you can find a 150kW public charging point you should be able to achieve an 80 per cent charge in 30 minutes.

I have been giving Toyota a lot of credit but the plaudits for Solterra’s trouble free handling must go to Subaru. The ride is comfortable and the suspension deals admirably with everything our pot holed roads throw up. And it keeps its composure through tight bends with hardly any body roll. Should the going get a bit slippery then there is plenty of help from Subaru’s highly praised X-Mode which deals with different driving situations whether it be snow, sand or mud.

Apart from a car park full of rivals, the burning question is why choose Solterra over the Toyota? The cheeky answer is who wants a car called bZ4X? In most cases Subaru needs to rely on brand loyalty because Toyota also offers a two wheel drive version for a lot less than the fifty odd thousand Subaru which, of course, has to be all wheel drive.

That said I am going to be generous and put it into my top five.

What the wife says: Solterra is a good looking car and I warmed to it. It is an easy drive with no dramas if caught out by a sharp bend. The e-pedal that slows the car almost to a stop without using the brake is a brilliant way of putting energy back into the batteries. I was irritated by the number of warning bleeps, some of which are a mystery, with one sounding like someone breaking wind!

Fast facts

Solterra Limited


Twin electric motors; 215bhp

0-62mph 6.9secs; 99mph

Range: 289 miles

Max charge: 150kW

Road tax: Zero

Boot: 441 litres

Insurance group 46