Remember back in the late 1990s and early 2000s when Subaru was a brand many desired to own? Remember when the Japanese brand sold cars that genuinely turned heads and excited not only car people but the average consumer alike?

    As a former Subaru WRX owner, I can attest to the pull the brand had back 15 years ago, when it offered affordable cars across its range that were not only best in class but also highly desirable.

    But over the last few generations, it has seemingly done everything it can to become as generic as possible and now with the pricing of its new electric car, it appears the brand has completely lost the plot.

    Subaru has for decades relied consistently on this notion that all-wheel drive still means something to the average customer.

    In fact, if you go to the Subaru Australia website, the primary image is that of a new Subaru Impreza, with the tagline ‘All-Wheel Drive’ as the main selling point.

    One would struggle to tell it apart from the current Impreza, and if its predecessor is anything to go by – with just 1949 sales so far this year (Jan-October 2023) – the Impreza is definitely not impressing anyone.

    In fact, the front-wheel drive Hyundai i30 (18,013) and Toyota Corolla (16,122) are proving the main selling point of the brand is almost irrelevant when it comes to small cars.

    For years, we have heard that Subaru wanted to move away from its image of modified WRXs and move into a new position as a premium Japanese carmaker.

    The problem, though, is that while it still makes some pretty decent cars and has had some sales success with the Forester and Outback, the company currently doesn’t have a single model that I could hand on heart say is best in class. Brands like Nissan, Mazda, MG and even BMW all offer far newer technology and better value than Subaru.

    Nonetheless, we had all sat back and waited and hoped that perhaps Subaru had been heavily investing in the electric car space, but with the announcement today that its new and only electric car – the Solterra – is going to cost substantially more than a BYD Atto 3 and even more than a Tesla Model Y (which, despite being an older car is still light years ahead), one has to ask the question: has Subaru lost the plot?

    Subaru Australia expects buyers to pay $77,990 before on-roads for the entry-level AWD Solterra variant, and an insane $83,690 before on-roads for the AWD Touring. With a 71.4kWh lithium-ion battery pack, the electric Subaru can do just 414km on a single charge.

    Let’s for a moment compare that to a few other things out there. The $48,000 front-wheel drive BYD Atto 3 has 420km of range, the rear-wheel drive Tesla Model Y costs $65,400 and has 455km of range while the Model Y AWD variant has 533km of range and costs $78,400.

    Let’s also point out for a second that the fully electric BMW iX3 starts at $89,100 with a 80kWh battery and 461km range. Not only is it a BMW, but it has 210kW of power and 400Nm of torque with a claimed 0-100km/h time of 6.8 seconds. The Solterra – on the other hand – has 160kW and 337Nm.

    So instead of buying a ‘top-spec’ Solterra, you can spend another $5400 and get a BMW with far more performance, range and technology. Subaru has lost the plot.

    There is even a line in the press release that says the Solterra is: “equipped with dual electric motors strategically positioned at the front and rear,”…as opposed to what? Being strategically positioned in the boot or in the glovebox?

    Don’t get me wrong, I still have a lot of love for the brand and have owned multiple in my time, but Subaru is at serious risk of becoming irrelevant in the modern age. It can’t continue to repeat the same formula and rely on its reputation to sell cars.

    There is an onslaught of high-tech models coming from China and the notion that Japanese cars are vastly more reliable than the competition no longer holds true. New buyers that have never had a Subaru in the family will look at the brand very differently in the coming years.

    It’s time to innovate and give buyers a solid reason to pick Subaru outside of just familiarity.

    As the market moves toward electrification and brands like MG and BYD come in from the bottom and brands like BMW and Tesla come in from the top, what does Subaru have to offer customers to pick its vehicles over its far better-value competitors?

    Why would you buy a Subaru Solterra? Seriously, we would very much like to know in the comments below.

    Alborz Fallah

    Alborz is the founder of CarAdvice (sold to Nine and now Drive) and co-founder of CarExpert. He is an honourary adjunct professor & entrepreneur in residence at the University of QLD. He loves naturally-aspirated V8s, V10s and V12s and is in denial about the impending death of the internal combustion engine.

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