Kia Soul first drive

Kia Soul





The second generation Kia Soul is no sit-on-the-fence design, it’s a ‘Marmite’ car, and you will either love its styling or not.

The original Soul, launched in 2008, was quite successful with its original target audience in the USA and China but less so in Europe although it reached over 165,000 sales in the emerging B-sector SUV or Crossover market.

Annual sales of this type of compact B-segment Crossover are forecast to increase from the 380,000 sales last year to more than 600,000 next year and just over a quarter of customers will come from the UK. Competitor models include the Skoda Yeti, Peugeot 2008, Ford’s new EcoSport, Renault Captur, Nissan Juke and Vauxhall Mokka.

Last year Kia sold nearly 1,500 units of the first generation Soul in the UK. This year it will be over 2,600 and for 2015 around 3,000 units are expected to find UK homes. Kia has just reported more than 40,000 UK sales for their overall model range for the first six months of this year – an all time record and an increase of 10%. 2013 was another record year for sales in the UK as well with 72,000 sales, a growth of 8%.

Now Soul mark 2 has arrived, slightly larger and still retaining its elevated seating positions, front wheel drive, five door configuration, five seats and a perceived SUV image but without the purchase price and higher running costs of a 4×4. The first, fresh, funky and original design Soul models were aimed at young fun loving singles or couples of the 20 something age group. In my limited experience of this vehicle, I say limited because I haven’t seen many on our roads; the first Soul in the UK seemed to appeal mostly to older empty nesters. So instead of surfboards on the roof its real use seemed to be occasional trips out with the grand children, transport for Fido, carrying golf clubs and visit to the Garden or DIY centres.

Kia Soul Kia Soul Prices for the latest Soul start at an attractive £12,600 but then through a variety of specification and special edition models rise to a less appealing £21,550. Depending on the spec level chosen there is the choice of two 1.6-litre engines, a 130bhp GDI direct injection petrol unit and a 126bhp CRDi turbodiesel. There is a £1,500 automatic transmission option for diesel powered models. The core specification levels are Start, Connect and Connect Plus plus two latest enhanced versions called Soul Mixx and Soul Maxx. An electric powered Soul is also being developed.

I’ve just be ‘Soul-searching’ in the likely best selling 1.6 CRDi Connect Plus version priced at £17,500 and as its spec name suggests its loaded with goodies. But before we get to that point, and certainly the first point any customers will consider is can you live with the design? Unkindly my sharp-tongued wife asked if it came with a wheelchair, another of my colleague said it looked like Postman Pat’s own car, others past no comment and just ignored it.

It really is that type of car, funky yes, retro yes, appealing – not really, roomy yes, well equipped yes, 7-year warranty – yes please, so you end up adding up the plus points against the negatives.

The new Soul has an exaggerated boxy design, vertical front grille, flat clamshell bonnet slightly swept back windscreen, slab sides, high level waistline, low height side windows, flat roof, squared off rear end with a smart designed tailgate flanked by vertical light clusters. The design is completed with front and rear bulbous bumpers, slightly flared wheelarches and a higher stance than conventional MPVs. The Soul uses the same generation platform as Kia’s Cee’d C-segment hatch/estate range. In its bright red body colour the test car sat on smart 17-inch alloy wheels so it’s definitely a design you cannot miss, like it or not.

Inside it is well laid out, elevated comfortable seats, the rear 60/40 ones fold to give more load space going from a reasonable 354 to a very useful 1,367-litres. The finishings are a mix of simulated leather with neat stitching which is matched in the fabric seat trim. The bulky facia continues the bold design but the trim around the turret speakers at either end of the fascia panel reflected in the windscreen. Right in the centre of the fascia on my test Connect Plus version was an 8-inch touchscreen which operated the satellite navigation system and reversing camera. The sound system has eight speakers with an additional sub-woofer with DAB radio and MP3 compatibility being standard. The steering wheel has a multitude of controls for the various control functions. The steering, using the Flex Steer function, can also be switched through various modes to meet the driver’s preference. Air conditioning, electrically operated windows and door mirrors, cruise control, adjustable mood lighting and on-board computer are also fitted as thankfully is a temporary spare wheel. Missing, but there was the fitments for one, was an adjustable height boot load floor. Without it heavy items or the family dog need to be lifted over the high rear sill and down into the deep boot. There are also lots of storage pockets and drinks holders which made the latest Soul an easy package to live and it is roomy.

Kia Soul Kia Soul The new Soul also drives better than its boxy high off the ground exterior styling suggests it should. With a stiffer bodyshell than the previous generation Soul, the handling is relatively composed despite its height and the ride was generally comfortable but it doesn’t set any new standards in the crossover sector. The Soul has a MacPherson struts front suspension and torsion beam rear axle, standard for most vehicles of this type which copes generally well enough for our poor road surfaces and despite the large-ish 17-inch wheels road noise intrusion was mostly acceptable.

The 1.6-litre 126bhp turbodiesel unit develops 192lb ft of torque from 1,900rpm and drive to the front wheels is through a slick-change six-speed gearbox. It is no ball of fire but it is relatively responsive and fuss-free. Top speed 112mph and the zero to 60mph acceleration time is 10.8 seconds. It cruised very happily at legal motorway speeds and my test drive spell covering all types of trips from motorway to country lanes returned 43mpg, well down on the official 56.5mpg. The CO2 emissions are not as low as some of its competitors at 132g/km so VED road tax is £130 a year. Insurance is rated a group 10.

Should diesel power not be a requirement there is the option of a 1.6-litre GDI 130bhp petrol unit but the low torque figure of just 119lb ft available at 4,850 suggests this engine would be less responsive although the zero to 60mph acceleration time is slightly faster at 10.6 seconds. The official fuel consumption is only 41.5mpg so the mid 30s is the likely real-life figure. However with the same specification the 1.6-litre GDI is £1,600 cheaper to buy.

The only issue I had with my diesel powered Soul was the ESP electronic stability programme warning light came on during a motorway journey and despite stopping at the next Services and turning off the ignition the system wouldn’t reset itself. There wasn’t any noticeable change in the car’s behaviour with the light on and once away from the motorway after a few miles the warning light went off again and stayed off until the vehicle was collected from me a few days later. A temperamental sensor perhaps!

MILESTONES: New Kia Soul 5-Door Crossover, Connect Plus, 1.6 CRDi manual. Price: £17,500. Engine/transmission: 1.6-litre, 4-cylinder, direct injection turbodiesel, 126bhp, 192lb ft from 1,900rpm, 6-speed manual, front wheel drive. Performance: 112mph, 0-60mph 10.8 seconds, 56.5mpg Combined Cycle (43mpg on test), CO2 132g/km, VED road tax£130. Insurance group: 10E. Warranty: 7-years/100,000 miles. Dimensions/capacities: L 4,140mm, W 1,800mm, H 1,600mm, boot/load space 354 to 1,367-litres, braked towing weight 1,300kg. For: Roomy, well equipped, long warranty, adequate performance. Against: The styling is too radical for some potential customers, the performance is better than soulless but others in this class are more fun to drive and cheaper to run, rear seat backs do not fold flat or down into the floor.   Miles better news agency

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