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?

Car (South Africa) - - TEST -

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.

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