Koreans are a little scary. They kind of sneak up on you. It’s like a second ago there was no-one there… next thing there’s a Korean right behind you wearing a white, short-sleeve shirt, buttoned to the top, and a pair of grey slax.
Think about it – not only are they’re sneakily setting off nuclear bombs, but all of a sudden they’re a serious force in world golf. Sure, we knew they had nuclear potential, but who the hell knew they could play golf? And who the hell knew they could make cars…
When they first opened their shop doors here about a decade or so ago, no-one really took Kia seriously. Their cars were either small and funny looking, or medium sized and funny looking. They were suspiciously cheap, and frankly, not exactly the greatest automotive experience. But – and I’d guess that whole no-fly-zone 49th parallel has a lot to do with it – no-one knows how to fly under the radar like a Korean, and gradually they improved their product offering and increased their sales. Models like the Picanto, Rio, and Sportage are all very capable and affordable motor vehicles. They even managed to launch a very impressive (if a tad under-powered) hatch in the Pro Cee’d without anyone really noticing.
Which is all why the Soul is particularly weird. Even for a Korean.
There’s nothing subtle or discreet about this car. This one is out there. It’s a retro modern funkfest with George Clinton in its cd player and a couple of disco biscuits in its pocket. It’s a one-car block party. It’s like you’re not sure whether you want to drive it or dance with it. And, with a whole bunch of body kit accessories, it can bust some pretty fancy moves.
The Soul, you see, is all about the very un-Korean notion of individuality. Not only is the car’s intrinsic styling pretty eye catching, but the accessories mean you can crank it up to whatever level of blingness gets your party started. Reading the press release, Kia’s marketing department is clearly excited about the car. Finally they have something that lends itself to those emotive phrases they so adore. I particularly love “… think inside the box and drive beyond it”. I have no idea what that means, but I love it.
And that basically sums the car for me. I’m a bit taken aback by its appearance, but still I really like it. Ignore most of the frankly silly optional body bits – particularly the decals and the kid’s rattle gear knob – and you have a bloody impressive car.
Look up “crossover vehicle” in the dictionary and you could well find the Soul. It looks like a feisty little SUV ready to punch above it’s weight, it has the interior space of a small MPV with big ambitions and it’s priced like value-for-money hatchback. Which is really what it is. It’s basically a roomy, C-segment, front-wheel drive hatch powered by 1.6-litre petrol engine (diesel on its away in 3 months). Performance-wise, it’s not going to blow you away – you have to make thorough use of all its five gears to access the available 91kW – and while the car has very little body roll given it’s tallish profile, Kia’s whitecoats may have dialed in a little too much stiffness. It is a bit harsh over the bumps.
But that’s all minor stuff really, I only mention because one should when one’s writing a review. The important stuff is this:
So there you have it… the Kia Soul. It’s a little different – it’s what the Koreans think we funky westerners want (actually it’s designed in the USA by Peter Schreyer so technically its what a Westerner thinks a Korean thinks a Westerner wants… but let’s not go there) – but up against it’s rivals, the Suzuki SX4, Nissan Qashqai 1.6, the Daihatsu Materia, the Honda Jazz, and the Golf 1.6, its states a strong value-for-money-plus-individual-looks case.
One last thing, if there was one accessory I would get, it’s the 18-inch wheels – they make a big difference to the car’s overall visual appeal.
Engine: 1.6-litres, 91,2 kW, 156 Nm
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Brakes: front, discs; rear, drums; ABS with EBD
Wheels & tyres: 16 x 6.5-in alloys, 205/55 R16 tyres
Dimensions: length 4 105 mm, width 1785 mm, height 1661 mm
Kerb weight: 1 170kg
Fuel tank48 litres
Performance 0-to-100: 10.4 sec
Top speed: 177 km/h
Fuel Consumption (Combined Cycle)
Litres per 100 km 5.1 5.8 6.6
CO2 g/km 137 156 159