Thursday 22 February 2018

Kia's new SUV is quirky but not Soul-stirring

Funky: The Kia Soul’s unusual design, with its rather tall frame, meant it attracted a lot of attention
Funky: The Kia Soul’s unusual design, with its rather tall frame, meant it attracted a lot of attention
Kia Soul interior
Eddie Cunningham

Eddie Cunningham

It's a good job I wasn't up to anything nefarious or mysterious over the course of my drives in this. It sticks out like a ... well it just sticks out. Call it unique, offbeat or even idiosyncratic, but this new Soul is one unusual looking car.

I've grown more or less used to it now but so many people stopped, strained their necks, pointed and looked again I began to appreciate how different/strange it is. I have to say, though, I have no idea why they call it a compact SUV. It is no more an SUV than a Honda Civic other than the way it is constructed.

It is different, I grant you, and one I found delightful and disappointing in varying measures.

The good bits first: the attention. At my age, you can't get enough, even if it is only by association. You meet nice people. They ask what it is. Some raised eyebrows and nodded; others crinkled noses and shook their heads.

That tall frame and oblong shape (the car's, not mine) gave it deceptive length and provided us a lot of useable room in the cabin (though technically it is only marginally increased).

So easy to get in, and out of, too. I think this is an area we overlook when buying a car. There is nothing worse than a growing youngster with schoolbag in tow whingeing every morning there is no room to get in. There are a few cars out there where, for me, that one element would be the difference between a Yes and a No to people who ask my advice on what to buy.

Anyway, the Soul doesn't have that problem because the doors sling open wide.

They also have these lovely seats inside which, in the test car, had a kind of double stitch but more importantly they had support for the lower back and thigh that made a huge difference.

The inside isn't as radical as the exterior (whew!) and was comfortable with a nifty double-level boot.

Because of its design you can 'see' the corners and I found it quite easy to gauge distances.

My version was well equipped – it had a lot of stuff – but I think there were too many buttons on the dash which made it appear overly fussy. I could choose between three settings on the steering: Comfort, Normal and Sport but I was only happy with Sport.

In the other two guises, the steering (electric motor/rack and pinion) was far too light, though it was grand when I was parking (I could twirl it with my finger). Mostly, it left me looking for much greater feel of contact with the road.

I was disappointed too with the 1.6-litre CRDI diesel; not so much in the driving aspect more in its loudness when I started up and for a while afterwards. It was fine on the road, spritely and with loads of pulling power – but it shouldn't be that noisy.

I'm not sure I'd go for the way they have the suspension set up, however. Tyres play a big part in how well I am insulated from some of the road ramps I have to traverse but I think they could do with a tweaking of the springs too.

That area surprised me because it has a new platform and the suspension is based on the excellent Cee'd family motor while the bodyshell is stiffer.

I couldn't help liking this car a lot despite my obvious reservations. It has a certain feel to it that you most certainly don't get from your ordinary saloon or hatch (or SUV).

It is brand new and fresh and a huge favourite Stateside where the previous version has sold by the hundreds of thousands.

This new one is quirky, funky and can be great fun.

But I'd have to say I found it more eye-catching than Soul-stirring.

Kia Soul

* Compact SUV, 1.6-litre CRDI diesel (128bhp, 5litres/100km, 132g/km, €280 road tax).

* Standard equipment includes climate control, automatic air con, cruise control, Bluetooth and more.

* Platinum spec adds sat nav, leather upholstery, 18in alloys, heated front seats, electric driver's seat and more.

* Prices start from €24,495 for EX trim; Platinum spec costs from €28,495.

* Remember: delivery and related charges are extra. Comes with a seven-year warranty.

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