A refined all-rounder
BRIAN BASSETT gets hip in the KIA Soul Manual 1.6 l petrol Start
WHEN Kia launched their Soul in South Africa in 2009, motoring journalists thought the boxy crossover would appeal to fashion-conscious buyers.
Back then we did not have crossovers in our market, which made the Soul stand out in a niche where most people were buying large, chunky SUVs.
The second generation Soul has several crossover competitors but among them it still stands out as the quirky choice. I am grateful to Peter Hylton, dealer principal of Kia Motors in Hoosen Haffajee Street, for allowing me a few days with this surprising car.
From a stylistic viewpoint the first Soul was brilliant and the new Soul continues the boxy layout, which is no bad thing, as boxy exteriors often allow interior innovation, witness the original Mini. The styling and enjoyable funky paintwork gives the exterior a distinction and sophistication.
A tiger-nosed grill up front gives the car a business-like appearance while at the back, the distinctive rear panel appears to float on the rear hatch.
For better handling and interior space, the 17-inch wheels are situated as far as possible on the corners, which endows the boxy car with a four-square macho feel without detracting from its funky feel.
On opening the solid-sounding driver’s door, I found to my delight that the funkiness had been carried through to the interior.
The seats are among the most comfortable I have experienced in a car and at the front are fully adjustable.
The seat coverings are robust and finished throughout in yellow stitching. The ride height is enjoyable — rather like that of an SUV; and the high ceiling adds to the feeling of interior spaciousness. Luggage capacity is good at 248 litres with the rear seats up and 1 096 litres with the 60:40 rear seats folded down. The passengers also enjoy excellent space. On Sunday afternoon four Fatpack members and I went to a long lunch at Rawdon’s, followed by a drive through the Midlands.
It is difficult to believe that a car which has grown only some 20 mm in each direction can provide such a comfortable ride for five large old men, but the Soul continued to surprise.
The package the Soul offers is impressive. You do not have to add anything. The car has all its essential controls easily visible in front of the driver, while in the centre console there is a touch-screen and aux, iPod, USB and radio controls, with effective air-conditioning controls below.
The gear knob is one of the most tactile and enjoyable I have handled and at times I would change gears just for the pleasure of handling the lever. The three-spoke leather-covered steering wheel operates functions like radio, Bluetooth and cruise control as well as setting the dash display.
The entire interior speaks of quality and craftsmanship and the first generation proved its durability.
Safety and security
The Kia Soul now has discs all round, as well as six driver, passenger, side and curtain airbags. There are seatbelts for all, active headrests and impact-sensing door unlock, as well as ABS. Unfortunately the Soul 1,6 Start does not have Hill Start Assist, Electronic Stability Control or Brake Assist, although these come standard on all other derivatives. The Soul does however have a 4-star Euro NCAP rating making it a safe car for carting your family or collecting the kids from school. There is also the usual remote locking and alarm as well as child locks on the rear doors.
Power and handling
The Kia Soul 1,6 Start is powered by a four-cylinder, naturally-aspirated, transversely mounted engine putting out 91 kW/152 Nm.
The 0-100 km run gets done in about 12 seconds and top speed is a claimed 180 km/h.
In town the car drives smoothly and is composed and sensitive. Parking is easy and the interior, with its many storage places, is ideally suited for family transport.
On the highway the Soul is quite peppy and offers one of the most comfortable and enjoyable rides I have experienced.
With five large adults on board you need to use the gears a little more but, given the smooth click-in changes, this is a pleasure.
The car also performs well on the notorious Midlands D-roads.
I had the Soul for the weekend and drove out see a private art collection in the Curry’s Post area. Coming back after dark I was impressed by the quality of the headlights and the way the car handled on what was quite a bad road with potholes left by recent rains.
There really is no substitute for quality and refinement and all this will give you around 9,5 l/100 km in the combined cycle, depending on driving style and terrain.
Costs and the competition
The Kia Soul Manual 1,6 Start petrol comes in at about R245 000 and the auto at R257 000. The two-litre entry will cost you about R280 000 and the 1,6 Diesel R305 000.
The car comes with a five-year or 150 000 km warranty and a four-year or 90 000 km service plan as well as unlimited three-year roadside assistance.
Also have a look at the Nissan Juke, Mini Countryman and Fiat 500L; all cars that offer a similar flair in design, but not, note, price tags.
Inside the Kia Soul, even the gear knob offers such a tactile reward you will change gears just for the pleasure of handling it. Seen here is the SX model.