Less is enough

Third-gen­er­a­tion Mini starts off with three cylin­ders

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Front Page - PAUL POTTINGER CARSGUIDE ED­I­TOR paul.pottinger@carsguide.com.au

ORIG­I­NALLY pitched at hip­sters, Kia’s el­e­vated hatch­back has yet greater ap­peal for those liv­ing with hip re­place­ments.

When in­tro­duced in 2007 the Soul was mar­keted as many small cars are — as much a life­style state­ment as a means of trans­port. So to en­tice gen­er­a­tion Y buy­ers, for whom Blue­tooth con­nec­tiv­ity is held to be of more im­por­tance than kilo­watts, the first Soul was em­bla­zoned in lurid hues and plas­tered with de­cals.

Yet as though to prove that mar­ket­ing types are not blessed with the insight some of them seem to imag­ine, it is baby boomers who are among the Soul’s most nu­mer­ous buy­ers. They value the stance of this el­e­vated hatch­back for its ease of egress and the com­mand­ing driver’s po­si­tion.

We’ve wit­nessed a plethora of mini SUVs in­vad­ing show­rooms in the past 12 months, most of which are con­trived and point­less. The Soul, which pre­cedes al­most all of th­ese, en­dears with its lack of pre­tence.

Re­leased this week, the re­vived Soul is im­proved in most re­spects.

VALUE

An ex­tra $2000 is charged for an au­to­matic trans­mis­sion. That’s about stan­dard now and it keeps the ver­sion ev­ery­one will buy to $25,990. A $620 ask for “pre­mium” paint is a bit Ger­man though.

Oth­er­wise we’re look­ing at the value equa­tion of your av­er­age mid-spec­i­fi­ca­tion hatch­back — re­vers­ing cam­era, 17-inch al­loys, Blue­tooth, cruise, full steer­ing wheel ad­just­ment, six airbags.

Kia’s war­ranty and ser­vic­ing pack­age is best prac­tice and in it­self rea­son to con­sider the brand’s in­ex­pen­sive but ca­pa­ble small cars.

TECH­NOL­OGY

The Soul sits on a plat­form de­rived from Kia’s Corolla-sized Cer­ato and the still smaller Rio. It most re­sem­bles the Rio in terms of size but em­ploys the Cer­ato’s 2.0-litre four-cylin­der petrol en­gine.

There’s no more diesel and that’s no loss. We’re not mad about them in smaller cars and given the Soul’s role is run­ning about the sub­urbs, the dis­tances needed for diesel to as­sert a sub­stan­tial fuel econ­omy ad­van­tage aren’t likely. Not that Kia’s 2.0-litre four is bet­ter than

ad­e­quate — the 8.4L/100km claimed for the auto ver­sion is worse than the out­go­ing Mazda3 and that’s al­most 11 years old. A man­ual saves less than 1.0L/100km in ba­sic un­leaded petrol.

As with any Kia, much com­po­nen­try is shared with Hyundai. Pre­vi­ously the so‒called FlexS­teer sys­tem, which pro­vides a choice of three weight­ings through the steer­ing wheel, was a gim­mick. Now, at least, there’s a dis­cernible dif­fer­ence be­tween set­tings though it re­mains 2.85 turns lock‒to‒lock whichever is se­lected.

We’ve whined about the road roar made by some of Kia’s tyre choices. The Nexus 17s aren’t ex­actly dis­creet, es­pe­cially on coarse chip sur­faces, but the Soul’s clearly im­proved lev­els of re­fine­ment keep it tol­er­a­ble.

DE­SIGN There’s not a lot that looks like it. Apart from su­per­fi­cial changes, this highly prac­ti­cal yet ap­peal­ing box has grown slightly to the ex­tent that a lump like me can sit be­hind his own driv­ing po­si­tion with legroom to spare. The Soul’s height ben­e­fits the less ag­ile driver and the taller pas­sen­ger.

As if to ac­knowl­edge buy­ers are just as likely to lis­ten to the Bea­tles as Bey­once, the vivid colour choices that made many wince have been joined by calm sil­vers.

As to the in­te­rior, you can have any colour at all as long as it’s — that’s right — black.

There are some smart stor­age touches in the cabin and un­der the hatch with un­der­floor com­part­ments be­ing as use­ful for stash­ing wet stuff as for con­ceal­ing a lap­top.

You could cavil that the driver has no dig­i­tal speedome­ter, much less a head‒up dis­play, but the old fash­ion ana­log dial is clar­ity it­self — big white nu­mer­als just be­low the line of sight. A rear cam­era view is seen through a small por­tal be­neath the top of the cen­tre stack. It’s ad­e­quate.

SAFETY Not yet crashed by lo­cal au­thor­i­ties but there’s no oc­ca­sion to doubt that the Soul will share the max­i­mum rat­ing of the Rio and Cer­ato. There are ful­some disc brakes on all wheels and, should it all go wrong, six airbags in­side .

DRIV­ING You smile at the rollover warn­ing on the driver’s sun vi­sor. Will ever a Soul be so tossed?

Un­likely as that is, the new ver­sion is more ca­pa­ble than the orig­i­nal. Cer­tainly on the open road it does bet­ter than merely keep­ing up with traf­fic, pulling a comfy 2700rpm at 110km/h, so ven­tur­ing be­yond the ’burbs isn’t bur­den­some.

More to the point per­haps, the Soul’s highly civilised in the city — the 10.6m turn­ing cir­cle is tight enough for the carpark. The ride is adept on one of our least favourite test patches of city con­crete joins. It’d be a for­mi­da­bly steep drive­way to cause a scrape.

VERDICT Highly prac­ti­cal and quite cute, it serves all city Souls.

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