Korean Motor manufacturer KIA has been in the market long enough to be considered a major player when it comes to contributing to vehicle sales in South Africa. They offer a wide range of vehicles, from compact hatch-backs, small sedans to large SUV and small trucks. While I always felt KIA did have the edge in terms of design and quality from the other Korean brands, as most models of theirs were straight cut and formal, but they had something quirky up their sleeves when they made today's reviewed car, the Soul. When it comes to the Soul, there's generally two reactions you get from people when they see it, either they wonder what the hell is that thing or they love it, for my I fall in the latter half as I do quite like the design. As I said, KIA had it's aim on attacking the market that most luxury German manufacturers have and with this car, it shows they're also have a playful side to them as it incorporates a lot of fun elements which makes the car pretty cool and trendy.
The big thing about the the Soul is how it looks, as the interior apart from one or two rad designs is pretty much stock standard to any other KIA out there. The design of the Soul is big and bold which not only makes the car look great but in tern transpires into a very spacious and roomy cabin for its passengers. The design while bold is also quite clever with acute angles and bulges in the right place to enhance the cars aesthetics which gives it a mixture between a city car and a sport hatch. Yes, I know you probably looking at the car and saying "there's nothing sporty about it" but you would be wrong, while the car sits rather high, the roof has a slant to it which is matched with the window line giving it that sleek finish and the rear wheel arches protrude the body almost giving it that rally car feel, The rear lights are quite funky as well with it being quite large and trying into the rear with thick black outlines. Some might consider the Soul to be something funky but it's more of a modern day city car/ MPV.
I honestly thought the Soul just came in one engine type but soon did I realise there was actually 7 derivatives available! Starting off from the 1.6 DCT DSL Smart, right up to the range topping 1.6 MT Start. I had the only diesel engine in the line up, the 1.6 Diesel MT Start, it is an in-line 4 cylinder, 16 valve power plant which produces, 94kW and 260Nm of torque. Not bad for a 1.6 litre engine. It features a Common Rail Direct Injection system, better know as CRDi, which really helps performance and keeps the fuel economy at a minimum. The engine is also damn silent compared to most other Diesel engines. Apart from the noise on start-up, the only other way I would have known it was a diesel is when I went to fill up and saw the diesel stickers on the inside of the fuel cap. Suffice to say with the brilliant economy I was getting, I didn't need to fill the car up during my week with it. The car although big, is pretty light so on take-off it is pretty nippy and with it being a manual transmission, this helped me test the peaks of the acceleration but mind you, this is a city car so it won't be competing with any hot hatches. I love the manual gearboxes on the KIA's, they're so smooth and accurate combined with that soft clutch, the gears just flow like a hot knife through butter.
With its big shell, the Soul does had a lot of interior space, it is extremely spacious in the cabin for all passengers. As mentioned with the sloping roof line, the rear passengers do sit a bit lower than the front to avoid any nasty head bashes but they still have enough leg room in the back. Not quite sure how they managed that but props to the design team! The ride quality is something that I admired on the Soul, with its box like nature I would have imagine it to be a bit difficult to steer on the road but had none such trouble. Even it's maneuverability quite astonishing with it managing to turn the tightest angles and where in some case most cars require a three-point-turn, the Soul does it in one swing!
With there being so much space in the car, you'd expect lots of storage space as well. While the trunk is pretty decent and can load enough luggage for a small getaway, the rest of the car does have it's fare share of compartments to store things in. The glove box is fairly adequate and there are many small storage areas to keep small items safely and securely. Also the sunglasses compartment could actually fit my sunglasses in! Which made me very happy as I normally end up storing them in the side of the door or in the center with keys and other items that might scratch the lens.
Overall the KIA Soul is a very underrated MPV, it's a City Car that works well in the city and doesn't do that badly when doing long distances, obviously this is helped by it's spacious cabin and the very economical diesel engine. The car is perfect for those small but growing families, and can serve many purposes, from being a car for dropping off and picking up the kids from school or sports to going to work in the highly conjested CBD. It's funky, looks cool and you can spec this car up to your personality with a variety of colours and options, with even some two tone options to really bring out the design of the car. A major plus for the car is that it is very practical which in the end of the has me giving it two thumbs up.
1.6 liter Diesel 4 cylinder CRDi
6 speed manual