A re­fined all-rounder

BRIAN BAS­SETT gets hip in the KIA Soul Man­ual 1.6 l petrol Start

The Witness - Wheels - - MOTORING -

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.

Styling

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.

In­te­rior

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.

PHOTO: WWW.THETRUTHABOUTCARS.COM

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.

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