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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.
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.
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.