Has got lots more
Justin Connolley spends a week with the quirky Kia Soul Mixx and is won over by the compact SUV’s chunky good looks...
AND now for something completely different. On the outside, at least.
The new Kia Soul is a head-turner, that’s for sure. Driving down the street you feel people are looking at you. But what are they thinking, that’s the question?
Are they admiring the bulldog-tough looks, the square, boxy rear end? Or are they thinking it’s too quirky? Maybe they’re just thinking: “What’s THAT?” That mixed response is understandable, of course.
If you’re going to make something that looks as unusual as the Soul, you’ve got to expect people will either love it or hate it, and hope there are enough of the former to make it a hit. I suspect there will be.
The exterior design grew on me over the week I drove the Soul Mixx 1.6 CRDi. I wouldn’t have chosen the bright red roof atop the polar white finish of the body, but it certainly made it easier to find in the car park.
Kia launched the Soul in 2008 and it was the first of its cars to introduce the crisp, clean design lines that now run through the rest of the range.
This latest version draws inspiration from the Track’ster concept car the company showed off at the Chicago Auto Show in 2012. Realising the small SUV market was only getting bigger, Kia wanted a piece of the action.
The design isn’t a million miles from its predecessor, but perhaps has a more refined look – from a certain angle that roof that slopes slightly towards the back evokes the Evoque a bit. I suspect that’s the feel, if not the market, this car is going for
At just a shade under £20,000 it’s a lot cheaper than the Range Rover, too. Inside it’s roomier than the first generation Soul, and is built on the Cee’d’s platform.
All round slightly bigger, there’s something about it that screams sturdy reliability – you wouldn’t feel vulnerable getting lost in this car. It looks like it could bully its way home.
Its 1.6-litre diesel engine is powerful enough to make sure your bite is just as fierce as your bark, too.
Kia claim 64mpg on the motorway, and 56mpg combined. I managed around 50mpg over a week that included a mix or diving heavily skewed towards long cruises. Not too shabby, but not quite matching the given stats.
Inside the car is just as sturdy as the outward appearances would suggest. It’s a bit harder to make a splash with the interior of a car these days – pretty much everything has to be in the same place, and bright bold colourways do tend to grate a bit once the initial surprise has worn off.
Sensibly, then, it’s all toned down and understated on the inside. The usual suspects are all present and correct – sat nav, wonderful stereo system, air con, etc.
And they’ve not scrimped on safety measures, too – there are more airbags than I can count.
The leather steering wheel on this model adds a nice touch of luxury and really, once you’ve driven a car with heated seats in a British winter, there’s no going back.
I could easily have done without the coloured circular lights around the in-door speakers which pulsated with different coloured light in time with whatever music was playing. I’m not sure a car is the place for a disco, and thankfully the off switch was easy to find.
The solid utility feel of the Soul extends to the drive – it’s very sturdy on the corners, and that bold front end between you and the rest of the world fills you with confidence (as does the included seven-year warranty).
The compact SUV market is crowded at this price range, but coming in at £12,600 for a Soul base model in a world where bland and safe seems everywhere, something a bit different might just win the day.