Subaru Solterra (2023) review
Subaru's first electric car was made with Toyota, but is that enough to make it the electric SUV of choice?
James Fossdyke
James Fossdyke

Published on July 19, 2023

Toyota isn't shy about sharing. Not only does it have a deal with Suzuki that spawned the Across and the Swace, but it is also sharing tech with BMW, hence the Z4 and the iX5 Hydrogen. And, of course, it has a long-running deal with Subaru, which has already seen the BRZ and GT86 share pretty much everything that matters. Now, though, Subaru and Toyota have taken their partnership in a different direction to create the new Solterra. Based on the Toyota bZ4X, it's an electric SUV that's here to challenge the usual suspects, but can it really compete?

In the metal

Subaru hasn't been very subtle about its collaborations with Toyota, and the Solterra is no different. Pretty much everything from the body cladding to the rear spoiler is identical, and the biggest clues to the change are the badges on the front and rear. Admittedly, the front bumper design is slightly altered, with a hint of a grille marking the Solterra out from its cousin, but otherwise the changes are negligible.

That theme continues inside, where the Solterra has the same dashboard architecture, the same futuristically styled digital instrument display and the same centre console. That might mean it looks more like a spaceship than a Subaru, but it comes with the classic Toyota quality that means all the switchgear feels solid and though some of the plastics feel slightly cheaper than the car's price tag might suggest, every part fits perfectly alongside its neighbour.

And while Toyota's technology might not quite be perfect, it's significantly better than anything else in the Subaru range. The touchscreen feels modern and fresh, albeit occasionally a challenge to read, but it's fairly responsive and it works well with the Android Auto and Apple CarPlay technology. The covered wireless charging cubby is a useful inclusion, too. And there's the digital instrument display, which might be small, but it's still clear and easy to read, providing all the information you need.

For all that, though, practicality is the name of the game, and the Solterra delivers in terms of cabin space. Rear legroom is particularly impressive, and despite the low roofline, headroom is more than adequate. Although the very tallest passengers might find their hair grazing the roof lining, most adults will have more than enough space. Boot space is less impressive, at 441 litres for this top-of-the-range Touring model, and there's no 'frunk' under the bonnet, but while cargo capacity isn't enormous, it is at least sufficient for most people.

Driving it

Shock of shocks, the Solterra even shares a powertrain with the bZ4X, or at least it did. Originally, the Toyota was offered with the same 218hp all-wheel-drive system found here, complete with two 80kW electric motors and a 71.4kWh battery pack. In fact, that's the car we drove during our first drive of the bZ4X last year.

But, while Toyota grew its range with the two-wheel-drive variants, more off-road-orientated Subaru stuck with the all-wheel drive tested here, and we don't really have a problem with that. As in the bZ4X, it's a smooth system with respectable real-world range of about 300km even on a motorway. Okay, cold weather might eat into the range significantly, and that's nowhere near the official 413km range, but at least the readout on the screen will be fairly accurate.

Charging speed is a consideration, too, and though the 150kW maximum DC charging speed is hardly ground-breaking, it's good enough to be getting on with. Finding a charger that can deliver more than 150kW isn't always easy, and getting 150kW from said chargers is even less common. Anyway, having the ability to charge from 10-80 per cent in about half an hour will be good enough, and it puts the Solterra roughly on a par with its rivals.

There's also the question of performance. Because the Solterra is heavy - big batteries tend to weigh a lot - the acceleration is no more than brisk. Nobody will have any trouble getting up to speed in the Solterra, and the security of the all-wheel-drive system means it'll perform admirably in any weather.

And, it must be said, it'll perform over most terrain. Of course it isn't as capable as some of the big 4x4s when it comes to off-roading, but for a spacious family SUV it really isn't bad at all. In fact, we'd go as far as to say it's much more capable than any customer will ever need it to be. Low traction surfaces aren't a problem thanks to the clever electronics, and it'll even wade through water. Land Rover won't be quaking in its boots, but buyers won't need to worry about the odd farm track or snow flurry, either.

Nevertheless, the Solterra will spend most of its time on the road, and there it proves much the same as the bZ4X. That's no criticism, but it isn't the compliment of the century, either. The car is set up to be safe and predictable, and that's exactly how it feels. It's stable, it has plenty of grip and though the steering isn't laden with feel, it is at least dependable and linear. The car doesn't lean too much, and it feels poised enough to elicit a modicum of fun on a good road. But only a modicum.

More importantly, the ride is strikingly mature. There's no sense that you're riding on springs made from marshmallows and mattresses - the weight of the car leaves it too compromised for that - but nor will potholes send too many shockwaves through the seat of your boxer shorts. On the motorway, it's particularly smooth, but sharper bumps and lower speeds expose some of the Solterra's inherent shortcomings that stop it being silky.

What you get for your money

Solterra prices start at €51,495, which pays for the basic Limited model. That comes with 18-inch alloys, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, not to mention heated front and rear seats, keyless entry and a 360-degree manoeuvring camera. It's a packed equipment list, but it has to be when the Toyota bZ4X is around €1,500 cheaper. However, that isn't a like-for-like comparison when the bZ4X is currently only offered with less power and front-wheel drive.

That price difference, then, doesn't sound too bad. And there's always the option of spending a little more to get a bit more kit. The range-topping Solterra Touring model we tested, for example, came with synthetic leather upholstery, larger 20-inch alloy wheels and a panoramic sunroof, not to mention the Harman/Kardon sound system and wireless phone charging.


Like the bZ4X, the Subaru Solterra is hardly going to change the electric SUV market, but that doesn't mean it should be ignored. Here is a wholly competent, dependable and comfortable family car that will slot into your life with consummate ease. Admittedly, the bZ4X's longer-range, two-wheel-drive powertrain might give it the edge over the Subaru for some customers, but for those who want all-wheel-drive power and traction, the Solterra is every bit as good as its twin.


Tech Specs

Model testedSubaru Solterra Touring
Irish pricefrom €51,495
Powertrainelectric - two 80kW electric motors plus lithium-ion battery pack of 71.4kWh capacity
Transmissionautomatic - single-speed, all-wheel drive
Body stylefive-door, five-seat SUV
CO2 emissions0g/km
Irish motor tax€120
Electric range413km
Maximum charging speed150kW on DC
Electrical consumption18.0kWh/100km
Charging port typeCCS combo
Top speed160km/h
0-100km/h6.9 seconds
Max power218hp
Max torque336Nm
Boot space441 litres
Rivals to the Subaru Solterra