A WORTHY CHAMP?
Kia’s Soul has done well in our Top 12 Best Buys awards over the years. Would 12 months with the car reveal any shortcomings we hadn’t noticed before?
THIS Soul had it all to lose. Kia’s light crossover range has won its Top 12 Best Buys Light Suv/crossover category before and is the current runner-up. Would spending 12 months in CAR’S long-term eet sully that exemplary record? After all, spending a year behind the wheel of a vehicle in various scenarios, having a wide range of friends, family and colleagues on board, while also raking up 20 000 km is a very different kettle of sh to our standard twoweek road-test procedure.
Our Kia is the top-of-range 1,6-litre CRDI Smart. This means it develops a round 100 kw and 300 N.m that’s transferred to the front wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.
Furthermore, the cabin of the Smart variant offers leathertrimmed seats, keyless start, parking sensors, six airbags and vehicle-stability management, as well as Bluetooth connectivity for your phone, both to communicate and for audio streaming. Other standout features include xenon headlamps, cruise control, LED daytime-running lights and even mood lighting, which encircle the front-door speakers and pulse and change colour according to the beat of a song. I quickly switched off that function...
This vehicle’s two-tone paint scheme – a white roof with dark Newport Blue body – makes it stand out in traf c. Equipped with 18-inch alloy wheels, the Kia is an attractive crossover and the designers should be lauded for making what is a boxy design chic.
It’s the Soul’s square shape that transforms the cabin. I’m 1,87 metres tall and, once seated, my hair touches the roof lining in many test vehicles (Mercedes-benz’s GLA being a recent example), but the Soul offers ample scalp clearance (and loads of legroom). We measured
the deep boot space using our industry-standard ISO blocks at 248 litres, which can be expanded to a generous 1 096 litres. I appreciated the boot carpeting’s grippy finish, which stopped items from rolling around; not sure why all cars aren’t equipped with a similar lining.
There’s no mistaking the Soul’s 1,6-litre for anything other than a diesel when you start it up, but once on the move it becomes quieter. It’s nicely torquey; even near the national speed limit, the Soul accelerates strongly when you floor the throttle, making overtaking a breeze. The dual-clutch transmission shifts gears effortlessly and, although there are no steering-wheelmounted shift paddles, it is easy modulate the gearbox with inputs through the throttle pedal. Only some lag at city speeds proved an annoyance.
Being a diesel, the big benefit, of course, is that the Soul averaged an overall 6,72 L/100 km during the 20 000 km it travelled with us. The best tank-to-tank figure I achieved was a low 5,30, while the worst was 8,20. The result is that the overall cost per kilometre (only taking fuel consumption into consideration) worked out to just R0,82, one of the lowest in the fleet.
Although handling is not a high priority when we review a crossover, the Kia negotiates corners better than you would expect. Grip levels are high courtesy of the 235/45 R18 rubber, but they don’t come at the expense of ride comfort except on very rough surfaces, where some choppiness and crash is evident. The Kia was also used several times as a tracking vehicle for photography purposes on our various road-test shoots, and was often packed to the brim for weekends away. The longest journey it did was a return trip from Cape Town to Johannesburg, and comfort levels were tops.
In terms of interior sophistication, the only fault is with the infotainment system. By 2017’s standards, the screen is small and feature-starved compared with the units fitted to other vehicles in this segment. The flipside, however, is it’s incredibly simple to use. The cabin also feels
Even near the national speed limit, the Soul accelerates strongly, making overtaking a breeze
sturdily built, offering soft-touch surfaces on those parts you regularly touch. The USB and aux-in ports are perfectly positioned in the small shelf below the centre console, which is an ideal spot for a smartphone.
For its first service – the intervals are set at 20 000 km – the Kia was booked into the multifranchise dealership in Paarden Eiland, Cape Town. We’ve had issues with this service centre with other long-termers before, but except for an overcrowded parking area, this time the experience was pleasant.
At R431 995, this range-topping Soul finds itself among the segment’s heavy hitters, but it firmly stands its ground (and if the price is hard to swallow, consider the 1,6 CRDI Start at R329 995). It performed faultlessly during its 12-month tenure, but more impressive than that, I found it relaxing to drive, easy to live with, light on my pocket and soft on the eye. After a year and 20 000 km, I can conclusively say the Soul’s spot on our Top 12 Best Buys podium is well deserved.
clockwise from left Large hatch opening lends access to deep luggage area; quality cabin and easy-to-access controls; punchy 100 kw/300 N.m turbodiesel engine; ride quality can be choppy at times, but is generally very good.