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‘Soul’ purpose to make being functional fun

08:47 20 July 2014

The Kia Soul is a fun and funky multi-purpose vehicle for the young at heart.

The Kia Soul is a fun and funky multi-purpose vehicle for the young at heart.

Kia

Kia has grown the new Soul’s appeal with losing its sense of fun, says motoring editor Andy Russell.

I haven’t driven the Kia Soul since it was first launched and, while there was little to dislike about it, this sport utility vehicle/crossover concept – which also launched Kia’s bolder design ethos – did little to win me over.

Six years later and I’ve just driven the second-generation Soul and throughly enjoyed every mile and minute of the experience. Maybe I’ve grown accustomed to the fun and funky styling, maybe it’s because the B-segment SUV market is blossoming – sales in western Europe are expected to rise from 380,000 last year to 600,000 next year with more than a quarter of them in the UK – or that a host of improvements make the new Soul more appealing.

But my motoring needs have also changed. While I still like driving the fast, sporty little numbers I’m more interested in running costs than rushing about. I want to be able to fill the boot with everything I might need, lug loads about, sit higher up and, with the old joints becoming increasingly creaky, get in and out easily rather than having to pour myself in and drag myself out.

And it’s not just an age thing – a new father got quite excited about the new Soul, rambling on about practicality and pushchairs!

Test Drive: Kia Soul

Price: 1.6 CRDi Connect Plus £17,500 (range from £12,600)

Engine: 1,582cc, 126bhp, four-cylinder turbo diesel

Performance: 0-62mph 10.8 seconds; top speed 112mph

MPG: Urban 46.3; extra urban 64.2; combined 56.6

CO2 emissions: 132g/km

Benefit-in-kind tax rate: 22%

Insurance group: 10 (out of 50)

Warranty: Seven years or 100,000 miles

Will it fit in the garage? Length 4,140mm; width (excluding door mirrors) 1,800mm; height 1,600mm

The new Soul retains what Kia calls its ‘bulldog’ proportions with its upright stance, square shoulders and bumper flares, along with that ‘backpack’ shape tailgate, but is now 20mm longer, 15mm wider and 10mm lower which measures up as more interior space.

While the look is evolutionary, Kia has put a lot of effort into improving the driving dynamics and ownership experience.

For a start the latest Soul gets a new chassis, based on the one used by the cee’d hatchback and Sportswagon, which has really paid dividends.

The ride is generally composed and comfortable and, while you are aware of what is going on beneath the tyres, it is more a case of hearing the ‘pitter-patter’ than feeling the feedback. Despite being taller than a conventional hatchback, the Soul handles twisty country routes confidently with body roll kept in check but it can feel a little floaty at speed over undulating ‘rollercoaster’ roads. The variable assistance Flex Steer offers comfort, normal and sport settings but there isn’t a lot of feel and feedback.

But you’re not going to buy a Soul for driving thrills, more for practical fills.

The bigger body and longer wheelbase mean cabin space has grown too. Despite being lower, headroom is still generous and, given the size of the Soul, there is a surprising amount of legroom in the back so six-footers can sit behind each other and not feel the pinch.

The driving position has all the adjustment needed for tall and short people to tailor it to suit them but I would have liked a little more underthigh support on the seat.

The boot has grown slightly to a useful 354 litres and it is easier to get larger items in and out with a wider opening. Rear seat backs split 60/40 and fold flat for a maximum 1,367-litre load bay but there is a step up from the boot floor which is not ideal for sliding in big, bulky items and it is a shame that a flush-fitting raised floor panel is an option. It would also make life easier if the tonneau cover lifted with the tailgate.

The cabin has a more upmarket feel than before with better sound-proofing and upgraded soft-touch trim where it is seen and you come into contact with it the plastics are hard and designed for durablity lower down the cabin. The fascia has a classy simplicity with big, clear dials, nicely-weighted controls, a large, high-level touchscreen which falls readily to hand and is easy to use and lots of cabin storage. What I can’t get my head round is the gimmicky front speaker mood lights, the colour of which can be changed.

Like the previous generation, two 1.6-litre engines – a 130bhp petrol and 126bhp turbo diesel – are offered with the diesel, also offered with six-speed automatic transmission, expected to be the most popular.

The diesel makes decent progress with its low-down flexibility – so there is little point working the engine hard when it become a little vocal – which aids economy with the test car returning 45mpg running around and 55mpg on a run.

Available in Start, Connect, Connect Plus, Mixx and Maxx grades, mid-spec Connect Plus combines value and Kia’s strong equipment levels to include an upgraded sound system and satellite navigation.

If you are looking for value and versatility it’s hard not to like the Soul which puts the fun into functional.

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Andy Russell

Andy Russell

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EDP motoring editor, journalist who loves wheels and engines but hates cleaning them.

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