Matt Prior: New Solterra signals Subaru's return

Our man thinks Subaru’s new EV can make the brand popular in the UK once more

Could Subaru be on its way back in Britain? Yes. Very modestly speaking, I mean. By its own admission, the Japanese brand put in an “embarrassing” performance here last year, selling just 951 cars. 

It has decided against bringing its next BRZ sports coupé to the UK and no longer sells the WRX here, while the estates and 4x4s it does specialise in – and for which it’s known among the rural private buyers that have traditionally been its heartland – aren’t exactly fuel efficient. 

Which is why the new Solterra, an electric SUV similar to Toyota’s bZ4x, gives me some hope. 

In rural areas, buyers are more likely than townies to have space to charge a car, so as to make it warm and ready for a cold winter morning: cabin cosy, windows cleared of frost. Farm and business units have strong electricity supplies for quick charging and EVs return good efficiency on slow rural roads.

With a deft torque-vectoring four- for all of Autocar’s history wheel drive system and on rugged tyres, this practical electric Subaru wagon could be a proper car for those who live out in the sticks. It’s about the same size as the Forester. 

With its fast Imprezas, Subaru spent time building a reputation as a performance car manufacturer when it wasn’t one. This could be the right car at the right time. 

Are you not amazed?

“Feeling hungry?” rang a recorded message across the forecourt as I refuelled my car. I wasn’t, but I, probably like the filling station’s nearest neighbours, couldn’t help listening to the broadcast. Quite loud. “Check out our quick food-to-go selection,” it said. Righto. “You will be amazed at what we have to offer!” 

Will I be? Really? Amazed? This was a bold claim for a small filling station on the outskirts of a provincial market town. If it didn’t just have a coffee machine, bottled drinks, a bunch of pasties, a small selection of sandwiches, some crisps and biscuits and sweets and that’s about the size of it, then yes, I would be amazed. Reader, I wasn’t amazed.

 I know it would be unreasonable to expect more fare, so I don’t. This is a small filling station and pre-packaged food with as long a life as possible, plus some fresh sangers, is the most it’s ever likely to offer, because that’s all its footfall expects – perhaps demands. If I wanted a full delicatessen with a cheese counter, I could find one in one of the supermarkets or the town centre all within a few minutes away, not here.

Here, time is of the essence: fill the tank and grab whatever you need for the ensuing drive – and quick, before somebody wants to use the pump at which your car is parked. I expect nothing more.

I would like, though, something more from the advertisement – one of my other pet subjects beyond cars. This is a poor advert. 

I wasn’t amazed. I know a filling station has some food. Sell it to me. Play a better recording and on a timer so that instead of a repetitive loop (I heard the same advert twice), I’m offered a coffee to relieve my bleary eyes in the morning or late at night; recommended great snacks for elevenses; or asked whether I would like an afternoon bun. 

Or, better still, just leave me alone. 


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