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KIA Soul 2009 Road Test

Tue, 24 Feb 2009

My fault, I know. I video tested the KIA Soul without knowing exactly which model it was. So, though a phone call to KIA elicited the information it was a Soul 2 diesel at £12,495, in fact it turned out to be a Soul Shaker diesel at a slightly stiffer £13,495.

Still good value for money though. Especially compared with what that will buy from Ford or Honda, assuming no discounts.

You might regard the KIA Soul as being perversely styled. It’s as if it’s different for the sake of being different. A bit like the peculiar box-like Far East Market Hondas, the Nissan Cube and the Daihatsu Materia. There’s no logical justification for the way it looks or why you should buy it.

Yet that’s in its favour. Prepare to be pleasantly surprised. I was.

For a start I loved the colour, ‘Vanilla Shake’. To driven in a car that shade in Thailand you have to be a member of the Thai royal family.

Inside, the seats and the dash complement it perfectly by mixing a chocolately brown into the décor, like in inverted choc-ice.

The luggage area looks a bit stingy, until you lift the floor and find what amounts to a basement underneath, and a space saver spare under that, so no forlorn inflation kits with as much chance of repairing a shredded tyre as a tube of Evo-Stick.

The (correction) KIA Soul Shaker comes on monstrously blingy 18” wheels with thinly spread 45 section rubber round the rims. So it should ride like a cart. (I mean ‘cart’, not ‘kart’.)

But it doesn’t. It’s quite softly sprung and the seats are very comfortable so you are only ware of the lack of tyre when riding ridges or potholes. (You still have to watch out for potholes.) Though, of course, that deficiency can be corrected by ordering a Soul 2 on 205/55 R16s. Or, if you really want shock-proof, a Soul 1 on 195/65 R15s (my favourite size tyres).

This is not a car for weekend track-day fun. You sit high so it has a high centre of gravity and does roll understeer. Not as badly as some MPVs and, with the excellent 126PS 1.6 diesel engine it can be hustled along quite briskly. Just don’t try racing an Abarth 500, a MINI Cooper S or an MX5.

The only engines are a smooth, chain-cam 1.6 petrol or the quite punchy chain cam 1.6 diesel. A 4-speed autobox is an option with the diesel, keeping CO2 down to the same Band as the petrol manual.

Check the specs below for more details. As well as the KIA Soul 1 and Soul 2 and Soul Samba and Shaker versions, there’s a mad ‘Burner’ with 315-watt stereo power amplifier and powerbass sub-woofer to really annoy elderly pedestrians as you cruise down the local high street.

And there are all kinds of bits and pieces to add to personalise your KIA Soul.

So though it starts at an extremely reasonable £10,500, about the same as a Honda Jazz 1.2 or a Mazda 2 1.3TS2, you can spend way over £15,000 if you want to. And KIA will be constantly introducing new special editions, so might turn the Soul into a bit of a cult. It’s certainly trying, with a graffiti style advertising campaign.

But you don’t have to go all the way. And for reasonable money you can have an interesting looking car that’s not only an alternative to a Jazz or a Fiesta, but also an alternative to the alternatives, like a Skoda Roomster, a Suzuki SX4 or FIAT Sedici, a Daihatsu Materia, a FIAT 500, a MINI, and the forthcoming Toyota Urban Cruiser.

No reason not to check one out.

For prices, specifications, engines, transmissions, dimensions and performance figures please click the tabs.

More at www.kia.co.uk

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