- FIRST DRIVE – KIA SOUL
THE college kids of California were the first to show they really have soul.
The sound of young America came blasting out of boom boxes and speakers that throbbed and pulsed, changing colour to the beat of the music.
And it marked something of a watershed for a pioneering brand from Korea whose image took on a fresh dimension – already lauded for affordable quality, it was also becoming cool to own a Kia.
That was back in 2008 when the original Soul compact SUV hit the streets, to be quickly embraced by the student fraternity – thousands, it seems, were bought by parents for using at college – due to its street-smart style and value for money.
Now comes the second generation Soul. Bigger, roomier and even more eye-catching, it’s a car that really stands out from the crowd.
Less boxy than before, the new Soul is based closely on the Track’ster concept of 2012, lending the car a more square shouldered SUV appearance.
If its predecessor was inspired by the muscular movement of a wild boar then the newcomer owes more to the stance of a British bulldog.
And while it boasts the slick design to attract an army of young admirers there are also practical touches to ensure this model will span the generations.
As a longer and fractionally wider vehicle, there’s more luggage capacity including extra storage space under the floor.
But it’s the overall quality of the car’s fit and fittings that marks the new Soul down as a more upmarket offering, right back to the entry grade 1.6-litre GDi petrol Start model at £12,600.
Technically the biggest change is a new platform for the newcomer, based on the latest Kia cee’d, the result being improved ride and handling, plus greater refinement thanks to an upgraded suspension, stiffer bodyshell and more efficient soundproofing.
For the UK press launch Kia resisted the lure of LA in favour of the northern playground known as Leeds, offering a picturesque route out into the Yorkshire Dales and a shorter urban trek punctuated by 22 speed cameras in 18 miles.
Of the two engines available in the Soul – both carried over from the previous model but with lower emissions – the 1.6 CRDi diesel driven on the longer section proved the more enjoyable.
It develops 126bhp and while 0-60mph acceleration in 10.8 seconds won’t place it in the performance category, it’s nonetheless strong, willing and can return 56.5mpg and 132g/km of CO2 using the six-speed manual gearbox.
The 130bhp petrol engine can complete the sprint in 10.6 seconds, but is thirstier and produces more CO2 at 41.5mpg and 158g/km. Urban driving is its forte though and it felt at home in the city and suburban streets.
All versions are front-wheel drive and five-door, the trim grades from launch being Soul Start, Connect and Connect Plus. Two more snazzy models called Mixx and Maxx will join the party in September.
Stuff like painted bumpers, keyless entry, electric windows, air-con, DAB radio and USB/AUX ports come with every car while the M twins get the full hit of styling pack, 18-inch alloys, premium sound system and contrasting colour roof.
Petrol model prices are from £12,600 for the 1.6 GDi Soul Start to £19,950 for the Maxx, while diesels go from £16,400 for a 1.6 CRDi Soul Connect to £21,550 for the Maxx version.