Kia’s boxy hero, the Soul is back with more roundness and more tech. We have always adored this unusual MPV, and have fallen in love with the Kia Soul all over again.
In many ways, the Kia Soul has been a fairytale vehicle – from its excellent 760,000 sales since launch in 2008 – to the boxy design with strong links to Old Mother Hubbard’s Shoe. But it is in this iconic if somewhat quirky design that the Soul’s personality comes to the fore, especially in the newer version that’s just landed locally.
Every exterior body panel is new and dimensions have been expanded. Now 20 mm longer, 15 mm wider and 10 mm lower, even the wheelbase has been extended by 20 mm, resulting in a most noticeable improvement in ride quality.
After undergoing significant, albeit subtle, tweaking at the hands of master designer Peter Schreyer, the 2015 Soul has also been given a mechanical makeover aimed at improving driving dynamics, especially in terms of an improved steering feel and an even quieter cabin. In fact, the Soul’s steering wheel is a design highlight in its own right – housing virtually all controls that the driver usually has to search for when her eyes should be on the road. Furthermore, the steering wheel is fully adjustable for reach and height and, the best is saved for last – three different settings (normal, comfort, sport).
This illustrates attention to detail and a desire to bring a car to market that is so feature-laden that it kicks as much as possible, value-for-money dust in the eyes of the competition.
For instance, six airbags, a five-star safety rating, heated folding door mirrors, six-speaker audio, Bluetooth and hill start assist as some of the goodies that should place the Soul high on your shopping list. The Smart and Street version add even more features such as 18″ wheels, chilled glove box, leather seats, and vehicle stability management (VSM).
Ultimately, the proof of the pudding – in this case the two-litre Smart version with automatic transmission – consisted of a somewhat short (90 km) drive during which the Soul proved that it also has a lot of heart. Gone is the vague steering of the past, replaced by fairly direct (normal) response, great brakes (all disc), and a general aura of user-friendliness that’s a testimonial to the interior designers.
The six-speed automatic transmission initially felt vague, but responded fairly quickly in kick-down (overtaking) mode and seemed to adapt to my driving style without too much fuss.
Front seats are well shaped, comfortable and supportive, instruments are easy to understand and operate, and the audio system – with its stylish tweeter ‘towers’ on either side of the dashboard – delivered good sound quality, locked onto stations and held them with great clarity and, importantly, could be operated without as much as a flick through the operating manual.
Headroom is superb, as one would expect from such a radically tall design, and the Soul was able to accommodate – with great ease – David Sieff, Kia’s 1.95 m tall marketing director. The Soul swallowed his lanky frame without a hiccup, while still leaving enough legroom for rear passengers.
The Kia Soul may not be everyone’s cup-o-java, but its radical design is trend-setting and certainly turns heads. It also successfully eliminates that sense of boredom; remaining fresh and avant garde as a unique styling venture into hitherto unknown territory. With Kia SA selling more than 2,000 cars every month (all models) the Soul has what is required to make a big impact on the market. It’s a solid, highly-specced and luxurious vehicle that should be high – if not at the top – of your Christmas wish list.
Report by BERNARD K HELLBERG SR | Images © QUICKPIC