REVIEW: Subaru Solterra EV

Subaru is 70 years old this year and it has traditionally attracted a small but devoted core of buyers in Ireland. So there was much interest from those Subaru fans and other ‘tyre-kickers’ when Subaru announced that they were entering the electric car market.

In the past the company targeted those who desired its signature engine and drive train, all-wheel drive and rough-road capabilities, or affordable sports car designs. Subaru were famous for their low-set Boxer engines. There still is an engine but no Boxer this time.

Thanks to Subaru’s link-up with Toyota we are now getting two very similar cars, one from Subaru and one from Toyota, with Subaru taking the lead on the all-wheel drive model. The two Japanese companies got together to co-develop the platform for this compact SUV, which is also underpins the new Toyota bZ4X as well as other future models.

Externally the cars are very similar with everything from the body cladding to the rear spoiler identical and the quickest way to decide which car is which is by the logo on the bonnet. Inside a similar theme is continued on the futuristically styled digital instrument display. But it’s a lovely design.

The Solterra is a chunky motor and I really liked the high driving position. The controls on the dash are well laid out and easy to use. Plenty of head and leg room for all five passengers and oodles of space in the boot, but as usual with electric cars no spare wheel.

The grill on the old Subaru was attractive, but now it’s bland and similar to any electric car. We are told that name Subaru comes from the Japanese name for the Pleiades star cluster M45, or the ‘Seven Sisters’ one of whom tradition says is invisible, hence only six stars in the Subaru logo. The name Solterra is derived from the Latin words for sun and earth. Now you know!  

The Solterra is not an exceptional electric car, but it certainly bolsters Subaru’s line-up and matches the brand’s ethos. It’s a very safe car to drive and I found it very frugal when driving in city traffic.

Prices start at €51,495, while the fancier Touring version that I drove will cost you €56,495. The Touring version had 20-inch alloys, panoramic roof and synthetic electric seats. The panoramic roof certainly brightens the interior. As usual with electric cars, road tax is only €120.

We are constantly being told that it’s a waste of time charging behind 80% and Subaru say with a fast charger you can get to 80% in half an hour. The claimed range is 465km, but you won’t get that in an Irish winter or indeed Irish summer either. A range of 360km is more realistic.

At first I had a slight problem with the charger as I kept getting a message saying the car had rejected the charge. After speaking to my helpful colleagues in the Irish Motor Writers (IMWA) they advised me to drive very close to the charger and to ensure there was no strain on the charge cable. It worked and as I held up the cable I could feel the charge travel from the charger to the battery. I only had to hold the cable up for a few seconds to get the charger started. A useful tip if you ever have trouble charging an EV.