JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -The Kia Soul mini MPV, first seen in 2008, has been a success story for the Korean automaker with more than 760 000 assembled since then and more than 5000 sold right here in South Africa.
Now there's Soul Gen 2 with a new floor pan based on Kia Europe’s Cee’d platform that – along with other upgrades such as a significantly stronger shell and upgraded suspension – will be found across the entire for-2015 range.
GALLERY: 2015 Kia Soul mini MPV
There’s is, however, still a choice of two carry-over petrol models (1.6, two-litre) but the new range includes an all-new 1.6 turbodiesel - about which more further down this article.
MOST POPULAR EXPORT
A Kia spokesman at the launch in Johannesburg reckoned: “The Soul has become one of our brand’s most popular exports, attracting customers from a wide range of backgrounds across many countries. It was important that the all-new model remained true to the original.
“This, coupled with its great emotional appeal, offers improved driving dynamics, a higher quality cabin and features which highlight the new Soul’s fresh sophistication.”
There’s little doubt that Kia is a brand going places; through the coming four years (from 2015) almost 100 new models/updates are planned globally. To try to put that in perspective, Kia sells 10 000 units a month in North America alone!
The cars are assembled at Kia's Gwangju facility in Korea, alongside the Carens and Sportage – each features strongly in the SA line-up – the new Soul trilogy encapsulates advanced design cues from ace designer Peter Schreyer (largely responsible in another life for the ultra-successful Audi TT and the new VW Beetle) and head-hunted by Kia in 2006.
While the 2015 Soul’s upright stance, square shoulders, wraparound greenhouse, high tail lights and confidence-inspiring ride height are each a hallmark design element, the new Soul is ‘all-new’: none of the exterior body panels are carried over and the interior has an all-new design.
The new model has slightly larger dimensions than its predecessor (20mm longer at 4140mm), 15mm wider at 1800mm) and 10mm lower. The new dimensions and the extended wheelbase (up by 20mm to 2570mm) have allowed improvements to the vehicle’s practicality, with more space for people and cargo, plus the tailgate opening is now 62mm wider.
Yeah, right, all that the above actually means is each and every passenger (and the driver) now has more elbow/leg room; and it's easier to lug the week’s shopping/kid’s school bags into/out of the spacious boot.
You can choose a Soul from three spec levels:
• Start’(entry-level, from R239 995, optional auto box adds R12 000)
• Street (mid-range, from R274 995 for the two-litre petrol and R299 995 for the 1.6 turbodiesel, manual gearbox only.
• Smart upgrade package (two-litre petrol/1.6 TD) at R349 995 which includes auto transmission..
A brief ride-'n-drive in a Highveld storm showed the 1.6 turbodiesel in mid-range guise to be a winning combination. Unaffected by the altitude and storm, this 91kW/152Nm diesel mill is not only perhaps the quietest diesel around but also has real punch and the six-speed manual box made it fun to drive.
CHILLABLE GLOVE BOX
Some of the standard features of the Start package, and included across the range, are: 17" alloy rims, anti-lock brakes, front fog-lights, a high-mounted brake light, body-coloured door releases, power folding door mirrors, a windscreen auto-defogging system, 60/40 split folding rear-seat backrest, electro-chromatic interior mirror, aircon, audio with six speakers, radio with RDS and MP3/aux connectivity, four power windows, Bluetooth phone link and front and curtain airbags.
Upgrading to the 2.0 or 1.6-litre turbocharged diesel engine also sees an upgrade to Street spec. This mid-specification package includes everything on the Start then adds – among other items - 18" alloy rims, anti-lock brakes, chromed door releases, smart key and start/stop button, "supervision" instruments with 11cm TFT screen, chillable glove box, auto aircon, leather upholstery, rear parking sensors, stability control), gradient start assistance and vehicle stability management.
Six-speed manual transmissions are standard, auto on some models.
Topping the 2015 Soul range and with only the 1.6 turbodiesel or two-litre petrol engine and the auto box is the Smart package which adds more-powerful headlights, daytime running lights, diode rear lights, cruise control, front- and rear parking sensors, headlight washers, powered driving seat and "mood lighting with music mode".
Kia Soul 1.6 manual Start - R239 995
- upgrade to Start a/t: R12 000
Kia Soul 2.0 manual Street - R274 995
Kia Soul 1.6 TD manual Street - R299 995
- upgrade to Smart’ package (including auto transmission) +R41 000
Sunroof (only on Smart models) +R11 000
Two-tone colour scheme (available on all models) +R3 000
• All 2015 Kia Soul models are delivered with a five-year or 150 000km warranty, a four-year or 90 000km service plan and three-years (unlimited distance) roadside support.