Meett your Soull matte

The Star Early Edition - - FRONT PAGE - JA­SON WOOSEY

THOSE with a “hip to be square” out­look will be pleased to see that Kia did not sell its Soul to con­for­mity when re­design­ing its small­est crossover ve­hi­cle.

Tak­ing a de­sign quantum leap from the al­ready-dar­ing first­gen­er­a­tion Soul might have proved a bit OTT though, which ex­plains why Kia has taken some­thing of an evo­lu­tion­ary stroll with the new one, now on sale lo­cally. Yet don’t be de­ceived by its fa­mil­iar­ity – the Soul you see here has been com­pletely redesigned and now shares a plat­form with the Euro­pean Cee’d hatch­back, mak­ing it more re­fined be­neath the skin.

That outer sur­face, on the other hand, has a de­cid­edly Amer­i­can west coast flavour as it was penned, likely be­tween surf breaks, by Kia’s de­sign team in Cal­i­for­nia. The fin­ished prod­uct puts a smoother spin on the orig­i­nal Soul’s boxy de­sign, while also tak­ing in­spi­ra­tion from the Track’ster con­cept.

Step­ping inside a new Soul after the ini­tial tyre-kick­ing ses­sion on the Gaut­eng launch re­vealed a sur­pris­ingly snazzy in­te­rior, com­plete with soft­touch sur­faces, con­trast-stitch­ing and pi­ano-black gar­nishes in var­i­ous places. There’s no short­age of off­beat touches, such as tweet­ers that ap­pear to float above the dash top and cir­cu­lar sculpt­ing in the door pan­els.

The new Soul is even more prac­ti­cal than be­fore, hav­ing grown 20mm in length and 15mm in width. Those in the back have am­ple stretch­ing space and the car’s tall stature means there’s plenty of head­bang­ing room. The 354 litre boot is hardly gi­gan­tic, but should meet most buyer’s needs.

The new range of­fers a choice of three en­gines, with nor­mally as­pi­rated petrol op­tions in the form of a 91kW/152Nm 1.6-litre, 113kW/191Nm 2.0 and a sole tur­bod­iesel dis­plac­ing 1.6-litres and push­ing out 94kW and 260Nm. All three en­gines can be had with ei­ther man­ual or au­to­matic trans­mis­sions, with six for­ward ra­tios in both cases, send­ing power to the front wheels.

I spent some time with the two most pow­er­ful ver­sions on a route just north of Joburg and it

There’s a mas­sive ar­ray of colour choices and con­trast­ing roof with cer­tain base colours

was the diesel that felt a bit less brawny than ex­pected, although the au­to­box could be a fac­tor here. Sure, it’ll climb a hill well enough or over­take at a rea­son­able pace if you work it, but it’s not ex­actly ef­fort­less. The 2-litre petrol, on the other hand, feels

quite sprightly de­spite its breath­ing dis­ad­van­tage at al­ti­tude and the man­ual gear­box fit­ted to this car had a smooth and solid ac­tion. Both ver­sions proved to be quiet and agree­able on the open road, but harsher road sur­faces showed up a slightly firm sus­pen­sion, although the ride is by no means un­com­fort­able.

There’s a mas­sive ar­ray of ex­te­rior colours on of­fer and you can also or­der a con­trast­ing roof with cer­tain base colour op­tions.

De­pend­ing on the en­gine and gear­box com­bi­na­tion, there are three trim grades on the menu, all sold with a four-year/90 000km ser­vice plan and fiveyear/150 000km war­ranty.

The en­try-level Start kicks things off nicely enough with a stan­dard ameni­ties list stretch­ing as far as Blue­tooth con­nec­tiv­ity, a six-speaker audio sys­tem linked to a touch­screen with re­verse cam­era, elec­tric heated and fold­ing door mir­rors, air con­di­tion­ing, six airbags and 17-

inch al­loy wheels. The mid-spec Street hits the road with 18-inch al­loys as well as leather seats, key­less en­try and start, cruise con­trol, cli­mate con­trol, rear park­ing sen­sors and ESC sta­bil­ity con­trol. The range-top­ping Smart mod­els are only avail­able with au­to­matic trans­mis­sions and over and above all the afore­men­tioned fea­tures, th­ese ba­bies come with cruise con­trol, elec­tric driver’s seat and in­te­rior mood light­ing with “mu­sic mode”. On the out­side, it stands apart with HID head­lights as well as LED day­time run­ning lights and rear light clus­ters.

It just gets rather ex­pen­sive at the up­per end of the range, as you’ll see be­low.

PRICES 1.6 Start - R239 995 1.6 Start AT - R251 995 2.0 Street - R274 995 2.0 Smart AT - R315 995 1.6D Street - R299 995 1.6D Smart AT - R340 995

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