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The Soluto is a solid subcompact

2019 Kia Soluto 1.4 EX A/T

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The Soluto is Kia Philippines’ first salvo in the very crowded and highly competitive subcompact segment. That makes us the first export market of this B-segment unit that is made in China (known there as the Kia Pegas). It is a very bold move by Ayala’s newly acquired company but a very necessary one as the price point of the Soluto introduces them to a whole new set of young, moneyed buyers eager to get either their first car, or just an efficient daily driver. Should you be considering this model’s top trim, well, you’re on the right article. Read on as I tell you about the 2019 Kia Soluto 1.4 EX A/T.

Even in clear white it looks petite, but don’t be deceived as it does a great job of using all 2,570 mm of wheelbase to make the cabin feel spacious. The façade is nothing fancy and in fact, I could say the same for the rest of the exterior design.

Its slim black grille with chrome borders isn’t exactly a head-turner, but it does follow the look of more modern Kia models. Halogen headlamps are standard throughout the lineup but the EX models (A/T and M/T) do come with fog lamps, mirror-mounted turn indicators, and chrome door handles. The rear is more plain, sans any décor on the trunk lid. It looks clean and pristine, which actually makes it appear more classy.

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What it lacks in exterior bling, it more than makes up for in the cabin. Leather on the seat may be synthetic but it still looks a whole lot better than fabric, and a hell of a lot easier to clean as well. The two-tone is a nice touch as well and blends very nicely with some of the interior’s panels. It fits very well and is adjusted quite easily, but what I love is the right armrest on the driver’s seat.

The dashboard’s plastic seems to scratch easy but in terms of design and layout, Kia didn’t go over the top and put in patterns, knobs and switches just for kicks. Put together very neatly, it has the seven-inch touchscreen system at the center that handles audio, connectivity and even doubles as a reverse monitor. There are four buttons and a knob on the left side but these aren’t backups of touchscreen icons.

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Its operating system is snappy and responds to touch commands almost instantaneously, which tells you Kia put this together in-house and it isn’t just any third-party software. Did I mention it also comes with a USB port, which will switch on Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, when you plug in a phone?

The steering wheel is leather-wrapped and has two glossy spokes along the center, the left bearing audio controls, and brushed aluminum on the bottom part. The only weird thing, power window controls are found along the center stack, right below the air-conditioning controls. Let me be honest, this will take some getting used to.

Powering the Soluto is a 1.4L gasoline engine with continuous variable valve timing (CVVT). Its output is clearly rated for city driving at 95 PS and 132 Nm of torque.

Leave the four-speed automatic transmission on D and it will downshift the way your Dad does, way before it even comes close to 2000 RPM. The result is a less than exhilarating drive especially if you like aggressive acceleration and fancy overtaking maneuvers. There is a solution though. Shift it down to “3” and feel the RPM pick up to give you some oomph without additional throttle input.

Northbound on EDSA from BGC to QC at 3 p.m. on a workday Thursday netted me 8.5 kilometers per liter. If you know the ebb and flow of EDSA like I know you do, that should give you an idea of this unit’s fuel economy.

It is quiet enough in the cabin for its price point and it does a better job of muting road noise and softening the effects of potholes similar China-made competitors in the segment like the VW Santana. I’d definitely give it top marks for comfort.

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While it may fall short in terms of exterior styling, it does come with a loaded (for its segment) cabin and modern amenities like keyless entry. For what it offers at P735,000, it should make for a practical choice in the subcompact segment.

Text and photos by Eric Tipan

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