Boxy looking cars have an aura….well, a stigma about them, with the shape engendering a feeling of “How bad does that crap thing drive?” Kia’s Soul takes that argument and grinds it to paste. Yup, it’s not the greatest ride but it’s better than you think. Nor is it the greatest looker but it certainly won’t make your eyes bleed. Bottom line is; it’s way better than you’d think.
Backing up after spending a week with in Rio, the most noticeable thing about the ride is it’s immediately softer. No, not to the point that it’s a roly poly, but enough to take the edge off bumps and thumps. It will still crash through on speed bumps with its short travel and rebound but not to the extent of jarring you off your seat. The handling and steering is direct enough, via the McPherson strut front and torsion beam rear, with minimal understeer and a reasonable amount of feedback through the tiller. Bumpsteer is noticeable and in this Soul, the engine was the diesel, with torque steer minimal. Surprising that, given how much torque this sweet and quiet little engine that could (and does)…..does. It’s a shade under 1.6L and produces a substantial 260 metres of Mr Newton’s finest torques between1900 rpm to 2750 rpm. Power peaks at a seemingly miniscule 94 kilo Watts with the engine revolving 4000 times per minute, but it’s enough. The seamless delivery of torque through the six speed auto is smooth and stresslessly delivered, although feeling as if urgency isn’t a priority. It’s deceiving, as the speedo spins through to legal limits quickly when required.
Being a box with one corner kicked out, room is ample all round….except for the normal, day to day cargo space. Seats up, it’s just 340 litres of space; enough for some shopping and suchlike. Folded there’s a reasonable 818 litres. The seats themselves are comfortable, supportive without being too flat or sporty and have the Soul logo colourfully splashed across them. The driver has a captain’s chair armrest and pump action ride whilst the (nominally a three seater) rear seats are easy enough to fold, just ahead of the super light touch tailgate. Legroom is good for all pews, with the four wheels being pushed out to each corner. The cockpit isn’t unpleasant either, with the familial resemblance to the Rio quite clear. There’s enough splashing of faux chrome/brushed aluminuim to add some brightness whilst red highlights the displays, adding an eye-friendly allure at night, whilst forward vision is not an issue either day or night. Safety in the smooth box car is high, with airbags aplenty including pelvis and thorax side ‘bags and curtain airbags above. PLus there’s the now ever present steering wheel controls for audio and bluetooth….one hopes when the model is renewed a rear vision camera is included.
With just over 4 metres of length to play with, 1.7m width and 1.6m height, Kia have managed to build a box that isn’t. It rides and drives well enough on its (this car had) 18 inch alloys, has enough external design to make it not look purely boxy and is a great example of showing that it’s what’s on the inside that counts. You could say that Kia has Soul………