The Suzuki Solio is an ultra-compact minivan with a surprisingly roomy cabin
Space van

THERE is something strangely fascinating about a small van. Perhaps it's the boxy proportions and the ample cabin versatility. Or maybe it's due to a secret desire to drive a breadvan. Whatever the reason, one thing is certain - the diminutive Japanese minivan has not made financial sense since COE premiums began skyrocketing. Until now. Enter the Suzuki Solio, the successor to the Wagon R+ of the late 1990s. The car Solio was actually launched two years ago in Japan but facelifted for 2014, but it remains interesting enough as a model that is ultra-compact on the outside but surprisingly spacious on the inside.

At 3,710 mm long and 1,765 mm high, the Solio is a tall car with a very large greenhouse. One eye-catching styling cue is the smooth aerodynamic polycarbonate grille, a feature usually found in more high-end Japanese cars.

Also interesting is that the Solio has two rear electric sliding doors. With its low floor, this means access to the rear bench is convenient. Once ensconced in the rear, the spaciousness is obvious.

Headroom is not an issue and neither is legroom, because the back seats, which are split 50:50, can slide forwards or backwards independently for a limo-like interior. So even if the 2,450 mm wheelbase doesn't sound like much, it doesn't matter.

Of course, when the back bench is adjusted for maximum legroom, the boot area is compromised. But if not in use, the two rear seats can be folded flat into the floor for maximum cargo space.

To drive its front wheels, the Solio has a 1.2-litre four-cylinder engine mated to a continuously variable transmission.

With a low kerb weight of 1,045 kg, the naturally aspirated unit is surprisingly adequate in hauling the Solio around briskly. The CVT is helpful too in ensuring there is sufficient pep across the small rev range.

The steering wheel is only adjustable for height but it still allows for a decent driving position. With its compact proportions and good all-round visibility, the Solio is the ideal city car. Body roll is acceptable in corners and the CG doesn't feel as high as it looks. The frugal engine also produces excellent fuel economy - Suzuki lists consumption at 18.8 km per litre.

Other highlights include the centre walk-through aisle between the two front seats, a pail-like "underbox" below the front passenger seat, auto headlamps and auto aircon. When something so spacious is this easy to drive and park, small really is beautiful.

CAR INFORMATION

Suzuki SOLIO 1.2 CVT Premium (A)

Price

:$98,900

Engine Type

:

4-cylinder in-line 16-valve DOHC VVT

Engine Cap

:

1,242 cc

Horsepower

:

90 bhp / 6,000 rpm

Torque

:

118 Nm / 4,800 rpm

Transmission

:

CVT (A)

Acceleration

:

13.5 sec (0-100 km/h)

Top Speed

:

155 km/h