After years of making products that felt too expensive for what they really are, it's nice to see Kia doing what they do best: serving great value propositions. No other car in their range does it better than their subcompact sedan, the Soluto.
We rather liked having the Kia Soluto around the Autoindustriya office. Last time out, we drove the top-spec 1.4 EX with an automatic transmission. Sure, it's no sports car, but Kia's smallest sedan appeals to the sensible side in us. Besides, where else can you can a load of tech features for less than Php 750,000? The thing is, there's the similarly equipped 1.4 LX, also with an automatic transmission. Has Kia hit the nail on the head with the entry-level variant too?
But before we answer that question, let's split the differences between this 1.4 LX and 1.4 EX on the outside. The LX loses the alloy wheels, fog lights, chrome door handles, door mirror-mounted turn signals and reverse sensors from the EX...and that's pretty much it. If you're not too fussy about it, the LX looks totally fine from the outside. Sure, some will say that it looks too much like an entry-level model, but it somewhat makes up for it with its design.
There's the angry-looking headlights up front, which gives it a bit of flair. It's then complemented by the signature 'Tiger Nose' grill too which puts it in line with the rest of the Kia range. The tall greenhouse (windshield, windows) makes it look airy to look at, while the rear is an exercise in minimalism. All in all, I say it looks slightly better than its mechanical twin, the Hyundai Reina, but I digress. Perhaps I just prefer the more angular looks of the Soluto. I even like the color of this particular car.
So while it looks basic on the outside, the same couldn't be said about the interior. Sure, it doesn't come with (faux) leather seats, but the equipment list is almost the same. That means you get nearly the same kit in this “bare” model, comprehensive infotainment system and all. This, perhaps, is the most affordable new car in the market today that comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. You even get an auxiliary port, a USB port, and Bluetooth to go along with those neat features.
Yes, the interior looks pretty plain, but you can't deny the fact that it has features you'd usually see in cars costing about a million pesos. Hard plastics are abound but that's typical of this sort of car in its class. All in all, I have to say that ergonomics are good, although the only gripe I have with it is the location of the window switches. Instead of it being on the doors, they placed it just below the air-conditioning controls on the center stack. It takes a bit of getting used to but a week's use with it meant I adjusted to it, eventually.
Like I said before, space is decent but not exactly class leading. It's great for short adults inside and the front seats are set high to give you a better view of the road ahead. The latter does cut into headroom a little bit, and the fixed seat height means you can lower it. A small, young family should be perfectly fine in here, though. Four fit perfectly fine but five might be a squeeze. It's got a decently-sized trunk though.
Under the short hood of the Soluto is a 1.4-liter, four-cylinder engine. It's good for 95 PS and 132 Nm of torque. It's no sports car but, again, typical figures in its segment. I was initially skeptical about the four-speed automatic transmission last time out, but it was actually alright in the EX.
Having driven the 1.4 EX a couple of months back, I was expecting the 1.4 LX's driving experience to be exactly the same. To the surprise of no one, it was.
That said, it means you're getting the same experience as the top of the line model. It's not exactly an enthusiast's car as the steering feel is almost non-existent and the suspension simply squats the moment you're a little too overzealous entering a turn. It can take on corners, sure, but it won't exactly enjoy it. Handling then is average as it is generally well-behaved for the most part, it's just not soul-stirring. However, this is a car for getting from point A to B, not autocross events and track days, so on to the things that matter more for its target market.
The soft suspension, which won't please the corner carvers, is great around town and the highway. It even feels robust, shrugging off the bumps, holes and ruts strewn all over the city. This is a car that can take on quite a bit of punishment. The (almost) zero feedback steering is helpful for maneuvering around tight spots, and it also makes parking a whole lot easier. Then again, the small sedan should be easy to park thanks to its huge windows. But if that's still a challenge, it even has a reverse camera. Yes, this “base model” comes with it as standard.
Performance? It's not fast, but you expected that answer already. I can say that performance is actually decent, but it is lively. That said, opinions can vary from driver to driver but I found it responsive enough for what it is. Powertrain isn't bad considering it only has four gears to work with either. But what's more important in this segment is fuel consumption, and we managed 8.8 kilometers per liter at an average pace of just 14 km/h or very heavy traffic.
As a driving experience, the Soluto is a means of transport. It won't appeal to the heart, but it will tick all the right buttons in your head. This particular variant, with the comprehensive infotainment, reverse camera, comfy ride, and all, starts at just Php 675,000. It has everything you need in a modern commuter car. That's not just a bargain, it's an absolute steal. If anything, this is the variant I'd get if I were in the market for a budget subcompact sedan.
Sure, there are small sedans out there that are subjectively better. There are those that drive livelier, deliver even better economy, or have more space, but it's hard to beat the Soluto in price and value. This is a car that has (almost) everything you need.