WHAT you see before you is the second-generation Kia Soul, emphatically filed under Cars You’re Unlikely to Lose in the Car Park.
The original Soul came out in 2009 and, just like it, this new, allegedly beautified version has been variously described as “stylish” or “ghastly” by the motoring press. I was originally firmly in the latter camp, but after a week of enjoyable driving around Scotland, I was won over by the Soul’s inner beauty – its soul, if you will – and now see its bold, boxy stature in a more favourable light, although that garish lime green metallic paint job, at an extra cost of £490, is about £500 too dear.
The second-generation Soul is slightly squatter, longer, sleeker and more stylish than the model it replaces. The front is aggressive, and its keenly angled profile makes black or gray versions of the new Soul look quite menacing. But not lime green ones, alas.
There are five trims to choose from, and two engines – a 1.6-litre petrol and a diesel. We’ve got the 1.6-litre turbo-diesel engine, which generates 126bhp and 192lb ft of torque, helping propel the Soul from 0-62mph in 10.8 seconds, which isn’t too bad for the class.
The Soul offers a great drive. It’s assured on the road, with light, easy steering perfect for town. Out on the country roads of Perthshire, it did feel a little loose at times, however. The diesel engine is a little laggy at lower speeds but offers more than enough oomph to deal with motorway situations. Kia reckons our car can squeeze out more than 50mpg but I only managed an average of 38 on the straightforward motorway blast to Dundee, although I was in a bit of a hurry. The cruise control works, but there’s no display telling you what speed it’s set to, which seems a little rudimentary. However, everything else inside the cabin of our mid-range Connect Plus model, was impressive.
The driving position offers great visibility and the dash is bristling with features. The sat nav on the eight-inch information screen looks great and is easy to use. The upgraded eight-speaker Infinity audio system with Bluetooth, additional amplifier and subwoofer that this trim level offers is absolutely superb. It shames many other in-car entertainment systems we’ve tried and is only really bettered by the optional Meridian systems available in the likes of the much more expensive Range Rover Evoque. The Soul is considered the ideal car for rich American parents to give to their rich American college kids and, as such, the cabin is fitted with mood lighting in the footwells which you can set to react to the music if you are 17 or an idiot.
With the 354-litre boot expanding to 1,367 litres when the seats are folded down, and that nice boxy shape making for a practical stowage space, at first glance it would seem to be an ideal car for lugging stuff around. And if you are the proud owner of the one of the top two trim levels – the Maxx or the Mixx – it surely is, because you get a luggage board which you can slide in to create a false bottom to the boot. Unfortunately, as our Connect Plus test vehicle, despite being third in the trim-level hierarchy, doesn’t have this tray included, making the five-inch drop from the boot lip a pain when loading large items.
At £17,500 – which, don’t forget, includes Kia’s generous seven-year warranty as well as all that technology and practicality – this 1.6 diesel Connect Plus 1.6 CRDi is one of the few Scotsman Motors test cars I could actually afford and would actually buy.
VITAL STATS Price £17,500
Engine 1.6l diesel injection, 4 cyl, producing 126bhp and 192lb ft
Transmission 6 spd manual
Performance Top speed 112mph, 0-60mph 10.8 seconds
Fuel economy 56.6 mpg
CO2 emissions 132g/km