The latest Kia Soul is more of the same and yet totally different. Check it out here.
Base price: $33,490.
Powertrain and performance: 1.6-litre petrol four, 95kW/157Nm, 6-speed automatic, front-drive, Combined economy 8.2 litres per 100km.
Vital statistics: 4140mm long, 1618mm high, wheelbase 2570mm, luggage capacity 354 litres, fuel tank 54 litres, 18-inch alloy wheels on 235/45 tyres.
We like: More coherent design, eager chassis, quality interior.
We don’t like: Breathless engine, no sat-nav.
How it rates: 7/10
WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW? The latest Kia Soul is more of the same and yet totally different.
You could easily mistake the new second-generation model for the original, yet there’s nothing carried over: new body, new interior, new platform.
Kia is also engaging in some subtle market-repositioning of Soul. The original was launched at the height of the “box car” craze (think Toyota Bb and Nissan Cube), so Kia pitched it as a kind of mini-people mover.
Circa-2014, everybody’s mad about sports utility vehicles (SUVs). So that’s how Kia would like you to think of the new Soul: hence some of the bold exterior shapes and chunky styling detail. Like we said: the same, but different.
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE? The flagship Soul SX comes with a choice of 1.6 or 2.0-litre engines. Our test car was powered by the smaller unit. We kind of wish it had been the larger one.
It’s a lively enough mill and matched to a six-speed gearbox, but the Soul definitely feels underpowered with this engine. Ask the question with the throttle and there’s an inescapable feeling that the powertrain is struggling to provide the required performance.
It’s not as if Soul is especially heavy: even in SX trim it’s only 1259kg at the kerb. But the 1.6-litre is not over-endowed with torque and it doesn’t peak until 485rpm. So low-speed verve is a lacking.
The chassis is good, though: as it should be, given that the Soul rides on a new platform (shared with the current Cerato). The steering has Hyundai/Kia’s latest gimmick, FlexSteer, which allows you to choose from three different levels of power assistance. Frankly, it would be better without, as FlexSteer does nothing to add more feel (only more weight).
But even with that distraction, the Soul has plenty of energy in corners, responding eagerly to inputs from the wheel and holding firm on its low-profile 18-inch rubber.
Firm being the operative word for the ride, which might be a little too stiff for some of the urban customers that this car is aimed at.
IS IT EASY TO LIVE WITH? One of the great things about box cars is that their wacky style is synonymous with a spacious and practical cabin. The Soul’s squared-off shape and high seating position do make it an easy car to get in and out of and one with an airy feel inside.
One of the great failings of the previous Soul was its low-rent cabin: it looked good but the materials and build quality were pretty average. The new car is less avant garde in terms of design but generations ahead in terms of quality.
There is very little shared with other Kia models, save switchgear and the main electronic systems – even the steering wheel is unique to Soul.
You might wonder how Kia can justify such expense for a niche model, but the reality is that Soul has always been a big seller in some important markets. How does 10,000 per month in the United States sound? So the company has spent up large on making Soul feel a bit special inside, because the global volume potential demands it.
There’s a definite SUV theme inside, with stacked shapes and chunky controls. The SX comes well-equipped, too: leather upholstery, eight-way power-adjustable front seats that are also heated and ventilated, colour 4.3-inch information screen (okay, that might be a bit small) and keyless entry/start.
Not bad for a $34k runabout, although the omission of satellite navigation is disappointing given that this is likely to be an urban car. Kia New Zealand says it eschewed sat-nav for cost reasons, in favour of some other equipment.
Shame, as the Kia system is particularly good and comes with real-time Suna traffic information technology.
SHOULD I BUY ONE? The Soul pretty much does what it says on the box: it’s primarily a styling statement which people will love or hate. The performance is underwhelming from the 1.6-litre engine, but the chassis is good and there’s a pleasing sense of attention to detail in the cabin that will wow anybody who’s familiar with the old car.
- Air conditioning: Climate
- Audio: CD, iPod compatible
- Automatic lights/wipers: Yes/yes
- Blind spot warning: No
- Bluetooth: Yes
- Cruise control: Yes
- Driver footrest: Yes
- Head-up display: No
- Heated/ventilated seats: Yes/Yes
- Keyless entry/start: Yes/Yes
- Lane guidance: No
- Leather upholstery: Yes
- Parking radar: Front and rear/camera
- Power boot or tailgate: No
- Power seat adjustment/memory: No
- Remote audio controls: Yes
- Satellite navigation: No
- Seat height adjustment: Yes
- Self-parking technology: No
- Split/folding rear seats: 60/40
- Steering reach adjustment: Yes
- Trip computer: Yes
Browse Kia Souls for sale HERE.