Monday, 29 September 2014

REVIEW - Kia Soul Connect Plus

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the world around us seems to be getting quirkier. There are now a million and one ways to get in touch with people; from ‘poking’ to ‘mentioning’ #WhatEverHappenedToPickingUpTheTelephone? It seems there are hashtags everywhere and those silly square barcodes on every billboard. Yet there’s no doubting the success of this endless connectivity in the modern world. There are that many ways to get hold of people they have no excuses for avoiding you. So with that in mind I turn to the Kia Soul. The model I got in was the ‘Connect Plus’ so I have no doubt it will be endlessly popular amongst the socialites. But what about summing it up in more than 140 characters? Well read on to see…

Looks – 8/10

The Soul has undergone a few cosmetic changes this year, and they’ve definitely paid off. I’m still not 100% sold on the exterior- I partly blame the Acid Green paint for this- but it did grow on me as the week progressed. There are some rather curved lines to the overall boxy shape. I think the whole car can be referred to as a ‘rounded oblong’. From the unusually shaped grille at the front, to the big square doors and the gloss black trim at the back, there are stylish touches evident. Having said that I think the Soul looks much better with a more striking paint job and different wheels. But then you’re climbing up the price range to get that.

Once I opened the door and unveiled the cabin, I completely fell for the Soul. On the inside it is one of the nicest cars in its price range. The soft leather on the steering wheel, along with the gloss black trim and green stitching look superb. There are a few more rounded features on the interior, from the dashboard speakers, to the sat-nav surround, and even the door trims. The seat fabric has a lovely pattern, and the simple white dials are a quality touch. One of my favourite aspects inside the Kia is the leather trim on the dashboard above the dials. Although it’s a small detail, it goes a long way to the feel of the car. Everyone I showed the Soul to commented on how nice the interior was, so that’s a job well done for sure.

Handling/Performance – 8/10

There are two engine choices in the Soul; one petrol and one diesel. Both are 1.6-litre, and my car came with the diesel. It offers 126PS and 260Nm of torque, which through the 6-speed manual gearbox equates to a 0-62mph time of 10.8 seconds and a top speed of 112mph. It doesn’t really do justice to how the Kia drives. The in-gear acceleration is good, and the Soul pulls well. On the motorway it cruises easily and can overtake with a push of the right pedal. It’s a refined engine too, and is one of the easiest cars I’ve ever had to jump in and drive. The cabin is quiet which makes for a pleasant journey over longer distances.

Another factor over long distances is comfort; something at which the Kia Soul exceeds. It’s soft and soothing without becoming insufferable on a bendy, bumpy A road. It has Kia’s adjustable electric power steering too which means you can select from the weightier Sport mode to the light Comfort mode. I didn’t personally understand the appeal of the latter; I don’t believe in lifeless steering. But in sport mode the weightiness added a nice dynamic.

Economy – 9/10

With the engine being a 1.6-litre, it’s rather frugal too. Average fuel consumption is 56.5mpg which is a rather good return. The 6-speed gearbox helps a lot with that, and cruise control helps on a longer run. The only slight disappointment was the lack of stop-start technology. This is available on the 1.7-litre CRDi models and really go a long way to driving down CO2 emissions; which are 132g/km in the diesel. That puts it in VED band E, with road tax costing £130 for first and subsequent years. That’s not a great expense by any means, but we are spoilt these days with cars being in the £30 or less bracket, so I hoped for more with the Kia.

Practicality – 10/10

One advantage to a rather box-like shape comes in the form of cabin space. The Soul has plenty. It’s a rather tall car too, so those lofties over 6 foot will be more than comfortable in it. Rear legroom is plentiful as well, and the Soul tops this off with a generous boot for all your shopping. It’s also great to see out of, and the reversing camera will help you out in a car park. There’s plenty of technology on the Connect Plus model as well. There’s iPod connectivity, Bluetooth, cruise control, climate control and a satellite navigation system. All that means the Soul is a delightful to live with, and it was great with everything thrown at it.

Fun – 8/10

Because of all the technology the Kia was rather good fun to drive. And the Soul has a little party-piece as well. The Connect Plus and higher trim models have ‘mood lit’ front speakers, which really added a nice touch as they cycled through the various colours. I think the biggest success of the Soul was the ability to surprise and win you over. It performed all duties with ease and tries to put the fun back into driving. The Soul is let down slightly by the exterior styling, but choose the right colour and it will even look great too. You’ll be happy to see your reflection in the shop front windows, sat there playing your iPod and choosing a steering mode. That’s hardly a bad day at the office.

Concluding Remarks

So that just about sums up my week with the Kia Soul. I rather enjoyed having it, and was almost sad to see it go. I rather enjoyed the marmite reaction to the looks; the Soul was always the topic of
conversation over a pub lunch. The Connect Plus model I tested will set you back £17,500 and I think that’s rather good value for the car you get. Backed up by a 7-year, 100,000-mile warranty you can have piece of mind during your ownership. So if you’re in the market for a new family car then why not go and check out a Kia Soul. For more information pop into your local dealership or visit the Kia Website. The Kia Soul Connect Plus; its #brilliant.

Total Score – 43/50 

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