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KIA Soul: The Koreans get funky

By Roger St, Pierre with Hazel Kempster

In this age of copycat computer design, there are very few cars that really do turn heads. Enter the Kia Soul.

I’ve seen them in black, in silver and blue and they are pug ugly, resembling nothing more than a bread van with windows. They are of the bulldog breed, so they do, at least, have a certain air of character going for them.

But take my advice, order one instead in deep, bright red, with black roof, wheel arches and alloy wheels detailing and you’ll witness a truly Ugly Duckling transformation.

As we backed into a supermarket car park slot, a top of the list Range Rover glided past, stopped and five people decamped purely to come over and admire the Kia, with the ultra modern, trendy but thoroughly practical instrumentation and switchgear layout inside evoking even more nods of approval.

Nor is beauty only skin deep for the Soul has a whisper like smooth diesel engine and an exhaust note that Smokey Robinson himself would be pleased to hit.

This bigger, roomier, all-new, second generation compact SUV crossover is demonstration that the Koreans can design and engineer cars that are out of the ordinary without losing their focus on practicality and value for money.

The company’s research has shown that many buyers crave the appearance, comfortable semi-upright driving position and perceived safety advantages of an SUV but do not want the increased fuel consumption and tax levels that four-wheel drive entails. That’s why all the Soul models on offer here are two-wheel drive and have a five-door configuration.

Based on the Kia Track’ster concept car and the Kia ce’ed floor pan, the car’s dynamic ride qualities are spot-on. It’s not a sports car per se but you can confidently press on while, around town, comfort and parkability are excellent.

There are five available trim lines and a choice of efficient and low emission 1.6-litre direct injection petrol and diesel models. There’s also a 100 per cent electric version, the Soul EV, with, of course, no emissions at all.

Performance is fine, with a 112 mph top speed, 62 mph flashing up in a tad over 10 seconds and 45-50 mpg attainable with a gentle right foot.

Superior trim materials, soft-touch facings and a leather-clad multi-function steering wheel combine with high-gloss black finishings to give the interior a feel that is, at the same time, upmarket and get-down funky.

Truth to tell, with this one, Kia really does have soul – and then some. You can buy your piece of the action from £12,800, with the range reaching the top of its chart with £29,995 for the electric version – the most expensive conventional package being the Maxx CRDI six-speed auto at £23,250.

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