‘All things to all men’... an oft-misused statement when talking cars. Yet, after spending a couple of days with Kia’s all-new Soul mini-SUV, I believe this vehicle might really be something rather special.
MORE REFINED THAN EVER: Kia’s 2015 Soul is the Korean company’s best export model to date. Image: DAVE FALL
It is really an adaptable piece of kit.
Compared with its predecessor, this the second-generation Soul is 20mm longer (4140mm), 15mm wider (1800mm) and 10mm lower.
NO MORE GRUBBY CORNERS
With carefully considered design elements to highlight that upright stance - squared shoulders, wraparound greenhouse, high-mounted tail lights and confidence-inspiring ride height - all courtesy of chief designer Peter Schreyer (headhunted from the VW-Audi Group but now relocated to Kia’s R&D headquarters in Korea).
There’s a choice of three engines: two-litre or 1.6 petrol and a 1.6 turbodiesel (94kW/260Nm), the model tested this week.
You’ve never considered diesel? Well, you’d do well to take a diesel Soul for a test drive soonest: generally, today’s oil-burners are powerful, clean-burning and outstandingly fuel-efficient. And no longer do you have to fill up in the grubbiest corner of a fuel station – 50ppm diesel (sulphur parts per million) is available just about everywhere these days right there among the other pumps.
That in the Soul is arguably the quietest turbodiesel from any manufacturer right now; real punch mated to a light ‘n easy six-speed manual ’box.
GENERAL GALLERY: Kia's 2015 Soul
The high-quality cabin is a great place to be. The instrument cluster has deeply recessed circular gauges; the centre console a circular gearshift surround and engine push-button start (prominent next to the gear shifter).
The steering wheel-mounted controls are grouped along the horizontal spokes: buttons for the audio system and trip data computer falling readily to thumbs to keep the driver’s hands on the wheel at all times.
Naturally there’s auto aircon, cruise control, glass sunroof and front and rear parking sensors.
BAGS OF BAGS
In town or on the open road, this latest version of the Soul never disappointed. On a test route from Cape Town, over Sir Lowry’s Pass, around Theewaterskloof Dam, over Franschhoek Pass and back to the Mother City, a 240km excursion revealed surprisingly miserly fuel consumption - 5.8 litres/100km.
Crash protection items include front seat belts with pre-tensioners and six crash bags – two front, two front side and two curtains promising head protection for front and rear occupants.
The car carries a five-star crash-protection rating from the US NHTSA.
Families are the most likely customers: there’s adequate seating for three children on the back seat (don’t forget to use a baby seat!) plus a sizeable amount of space for the weekly shopping or the annual haul to coast or game park.
It’s a vehicle that doesn’t have an identity crisis.
I’d say the Kia Soul has a lot going for it: fair value for money, perfect for the school run, great for a weekend getaway. And the kids won’t be ashamed when mom drops them off at school!
PRICES (manual boxes only)
Kia Soul 1.6 Start - R244 995
Kia Soul 2.0 Street - R279 995
Kia Soul 1.6 TD Street - R304 995
Each comes with a five-year or 150 000km warranty, a four-year or 90 000km service plan and and a three-year unlimited distance roadside assistance deal.