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Kia Soul Plus


The Kia Soul diesel has flashy good looks hiding practical performance

Presumably Kia NZ was forced to follow some overseas marketing campaign when it launched Soul as a car for the young and funky buyer. Because here, few will drop 30 grand on a car. But they can afford a used import with image - a Mazda MX-5 for 12 grand, current model Toyota Celicas from 15 or a new Mini for 20. So why buy a boxy Kia Soul for $33,990, however funky its detailing?

What Kia clearly missed is today's oldsters are just as funky. Today's grandmas were young in the 1960s; they may need functional, they may like a warranty, but they don't want boring.

So I borrowed a Kia Soul Plus - complete with sensible 91kW/260Nm 1.6-litre diesel engine in four-speed auto format - for a recent weekend spent running a pair of 70-plus ladies around Auckland. Ladies with plenty of cheek and mental energy, but no longer limber.

Getting in and out of an ordinary car can be a mission for anyone with arthritic hips - but Soul's got a high seat height. You almost literally slide across to get in, and out, with no need for help from the whippersnappers.

Both ladies approved the car's ride - though I thought it could be a tad more compliant over the small hits. And the driver of the pair liked how roomy the cabin felt considering its relatively compact footprint; liked, too, the good all-round vision.

Both approved seatbelt height adjust to ensure a comfy fit, and the car's quiet on-road performance that let all four of us converse. My 1.8-metre passenger was especially impressed at the leg room front and rear, and they all liked how strongly the diesel powerplant performed off the line.

Where the two generations diverged was in their opinion of the Soul's looks. Both ladies thought it funky; they liked the jewellery-like detailing and especially the bright red lining for glovebox and cubby, a detail their son/ nephew took an instant dislike to. Both the fun factor of that unexpected colour hit and the ease with which bits and bobs could be spotted in the shadows appealed. Their only criticism was the glovebox is if anything too deep to easily reach into.

As for extras, there are rear parking sensors, stability control and ABS brakes, plus six airbags. Storage compartments under the boot floor, steering wheel audio controls, 16-inch alloy wheels, air con, USB and iPod ports.

This Soul boasts a claimed 5.9l/100km thirst, handles reasonably well, and scampers along just fine once you get the hang of its high-riding boxy feel.

It's a car that suit seniors seeking a safe-n-sensible drive which doesn't look it. Me? I'd spend my money on a more dynamic drive. Perhaps that's the last gasp of my youth, and I suspect that given a few years, or a dodgy hip, I'll be looking for a vehicle just like this - with flashy good looks ably hiding practical performance.

See the Kia Soul for sale.

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