M di­vi­sion

Top Gear (UK) - - GARAGE -

e’ve been putting in the miles this month, giv­ing our Kia Soul a good test on the UK’s mo­tor­ways, with trips to Birm­ing­ham, Coven­try, Not­ting­ham and Northamp­ton, cov­er­ing sev­eral hun­dred miles. While the Kia drives well in town, it’s a bit of a let­down on the long haul.

First, we’ve got an auto which de­liv­ers 0–62mph in 11.7secs, and the ac­cel­er­a­tion at higher speeds is limited. The road noise kicks in at about 55mph, which means ei­ther con­ver­sa­tion is kept to a min­i­mum or the kids’ mu­sic is blast­ing out. The seats don’t fare much bet­ter. My bufeted ears were only out­done by my numb back.

I’d ex­pect a car in this seg­ment to be more eco­nom­i­cal, but you only get a dis­ap­point­ing 37mpg against a pre­dicted 47.1mpg for the new Soul’s diesel en­gine.

It seems our Soul is defnitely suited to ur­ban driv­ing – a good rea­son to stay in town in fu­ture.

W1582cc, 4cyl tur­bod­iesel, FWD, 126bhp, 192lb ft 47.1mpg, 158g/km CO2 0–62mph in 11.7secs, 110mph 1557kg £21,550/£21,550 his month’s big ques­tion: is the lat­est Mini a good­look­ing car? Beauty, of course, is in the eye of the be­holder – sev­eral ap­par­ently sane hu­mans I’ve chat­ted to, for ex­am­ple, be­lieve London’s Shard sky­scraper to be a beau­ti­ful piece of ar­chi­tec­ture rather than gauche blas­phemy of the land­scape – but, after six months of star­ing at our Cooper, TG is qual­ifed to pass judge­ment.

And the judge­ment is this: it’s nowhere – nowhere – near as bad as we, and the rest of the world, feared it might be when the frst spy shots emerged of the MkIII car in 2013, spy shots show­ing a yel­low car with a chin to put Jay Leno to shame. In fact, so un­fat­ter­ing were the spy shots, and so ve­he­ment the on­line re­sponse, that Mini’s PR ma­chine felt suf­ciently moved to re­lease a state­ment that they no doubt in­tended to read as ‘jovial fst-wav­ing’ but only man­aged to achieve ‘sense of hu­mour fail­ure’.

“Re­lent­less pap­ping is some­thing Bri­tish celebri­ties have learned to live with,” read the re­lease. “Ab­so­lutely un­aware and with­out make-up, the youngest mem­ber of our fam­ily was caught by sen­sa­tion­al­ist pho­tog­ra­phers in a highly sen­si­tive fam­ily mo­ment...”

And so on for sev­eral para­graphs more of an­thro­po­mor­phic weird­ness. Those orig­i­nal shots tran­spired to be of the Cooper S, which wears a rather bolder front spoiler than the stan­dard Mini One and Cooper, a bot­tom lip that gives it the look of a suferer of both chronic un­der­bite and spade­face syn­drome. Our car’s phi­zog is rather less chal­leng­ing.

Still, the Mini is one of those cars that’s cu­ri­ously colour-de­pen­dent. Bright shades,

TRoom in the rear for two, and ex­actly no more. New fve-door Mini has a three-seat rear bench to th­ese eyes at least, seem to high­light the MkIII’s bulkier fanks, whereas dark colours, like the blue of our test car, help to shrink it vis­ually. But no mat­ter the paint job, there’s no ques­tion the new­est Mini doesn’t man­age the taut simplicity of the 2001 orig­i­nal (not to men­tion the 1959 orig­i­nal-orig­i­nal), in­stead re­sem­bling the ofce worker who’s piled on a few pounds but in­sists on wear­ing the same slim-ft shirts. (Ob­vi­ously this is not an au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal sim­ile.)

Tough gig for the Mini de­sign­ers. BMW’s re­boot proved an un­ex­pect­edly neat pas­tiche of the Fifties icon, leav­ing lit­tle in the way of wig­gle room to evolve later gen­er­a­tions. In truth, the MkIII doesn’t do a bad job in squeez­ing more room, tech and com­fort into some­thing still recog­nis­ably Mini-shaped. It’s pret­tier than the Shard, at least.

RE­PORT 2

£

1798 Si­mon Car­ring­ton

Can the Soul hack it as an ur­ban fam­ily runaround? RE­PORT 6 1499cc, 3cyl turbo petrol, FWD, 134bhp, 162lb ft 62.8mpg, 105g/km CO2

0–62mph in 7.9secs, 130mph 1085kg £ £15,300/£24,830 To­tal mileage 7206 Driver Sam Philip Why it’s here Is the orig­i­nal posh hatch still the best posh hatch?

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