When I was young, I always had a soft spot for the Kia Pride. It was simple and not pretentious. But I never got to ride one until a decade ago, when the car was already a rarity. I still liked it because it was a reliable and practical way to get around town. Technically speaking, the Rio subcompact is the successor of Kia’s quirky little car from the 1990s. But given its size and purchase price, it is eons away from the basic people-mover that the Pride was. So when the Korean automaker launched the budget-oriented Soluto last year, I wondered if it somehow had the Pride’s DNA in it.
Admittedly, the Pride’s styling was dull. But I’ve always loved simple, basic cars, and I can say the same with the Soluto’s exterior. The front part is pretty much a straightforward affair. The multi-reflector headlamps flank the brand’s signature tiger-nose grille. Faux side air vents bookend the gaping slatted opening on the bumper where the fog lights are located. The simplicity continues at the sides, with clean lines that will probably age well. The 14-inch wheels are on the small side, but that’s expected at this price point (and nothing that aftermarket rims can’t fix). The rear end gives the same no-nonsense vibe. If anything, the rear fog lamp is a bit of a surprise on an econobox like this.
One of the Pride’s quirks was the absence of creature comforts. This gave me the impression that the Soluto is worth more than its sticker price. The steering wheel with audio controls feels good to the touch. The dials are quite legible, and the multi-information screen has all the vital driving information you’ll ever need. Even the air vents look premium. The Apple CarPlay– and Android Auto-capable infotainment system is a great addition, although the speakers do leave a lot to be desired. The leatherette seats feel great on my bum, and the hard plastics seem durable. I can forgive the power-window toggles on the center stack and the lack of an automatic up-and-down function since the Pride made me roll down the glass manually (I miss doing that, though).
Doing duty under the hood is a 1.4-liter engine good for 94hp and 133Nm. It idles smoothly and feels refined for something that powers what is practically the least expensive nugget in Kia’s stable. The four-speed automatic transmission looks unimpressive in today’s world of six-speed gearboxes, and the engine could benefit from more torque at low revs. But this powertrain combo does the job without complaining, much like that in the Pride. It was anemic, but the mechanical simplicity meant that it could stand up to repeated use and abuse especially in taxi use.
The Soluto is relatively fuel-efficient, too. Sure, there was a time when it returned only 6km/L. But that was in horrible EDSA traffic on a payday Friday. Getting 11km/L should be the norm in Metro Manila’s usual pace, with 20km/L quite possible on open roads. Speaking of open roads, while the car is generally refined at low speeds, it does get a bit loud as you come closer to the legal speed limit. Thankfully, the car has the usual slew of safety features like two airbags, antilock brakes, Isofix anchors, and even a reversing camera that should make road trips feel a lot more secure—something I cannot really say about the Pride.
Just like its ancestor, the Soluto is an honest little car that promises nothing but a comfortable and practical means to get from point A to B. At P755,000, the range-topping EX is value for money. After a week of driving it, I must admit that I fell in love with the car. It’s easy to drive and live with, and its simplicity will probably see it through many years of trouble-free ownership. The Soluto is something that I envision owning myself on the basis of it being the Pride that my older and wiser self still yearns to have.
KIA SOLUTO 1.4 EX AT
|Engine||1.4-liter four-cylinder gasoline|
|Power||94hp @ 6,000rpm|
|Torque||133Nm @ 4,000rpm|
|Dimensions||4,300mm x 1,700mm x 1,460mm|
|Upside||Practicality and mechanical simplicity as a city car. And the affordable price tag.|
|Downside||Quite lethargic on inclines, and no automatic up-down window for the driver.|