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...

Stockport Times East - - MOTORING -

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.

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