Text: Vince Pornelos / Photos: Vince Pornelos | posted October 21, 2009 00:00
Breaking the cycle
Chances are you, just like any of us, have settled into the monotony of showering, getting dressed, having breakfast and racing through traffic in your econo-compact to get to work on time, doing your 9 to 5 then head on home. Day in, day out.
The Kia Soul is set to change all that.
To say the Soul has visual attitude is an understatement. For one, it definitely looks lively and well out of the box. The Soul sports a 5-door, larger-than-a-hatchback-but-smaller-than-an-SUV form factor, featuring a rounded nose, blacked out A-Pillars, an angled window line, and a low, wide stance. There's a chrome fuel tank lid, a set of 18 inch black rims filling in those flared wheel arches and to top it all off, there's a unique set of dragon decals (though there are plenty of other designs to choose from).
Inside, the exuberance of the Soul continues, if not flaunted. There's red everywhere from the dashboard, the steering wheel, the door sidings, the seats, and even the illumination for all the gauges and screens. Kia even installed red LEDs on the front speakers' bezels, ones that can be fully controlled by a knob to either be completely on, switched to fade in and out or even follow the beat and rhythm of whatever is playing (though the lights cant quite keep up).
To be completely honest, I'm not a big fan of ricey, look-fast-look-furious cars. In the case of the Soul, all the extra bits seem to boost the car's character rather than be outlandishly tacky. I'm truly impressed at how the production model's design is strikingly similar to the concept car (unveiled at the 2006 Detroit auto show) and wasn't watered down somewhere along the way by the bean-counting, opera-listening CEOs who sign off on everything.
Sitting in the cockpit for the first time, the first noticeable thing is how well formed the bucket seat is, hugging the body firmly yet comfortably in place. A nicely contoured steering wheel stares you in the face, with a triple cluster gauge just behind. The stereo and airconditioning controls are elevated from the red dash, while the T-bar shifter is on the center console just below.
The Soul's audio system is great thanks to 8 speakers (3 on the dash, 4 on the doors and 1 in the boot), auxiliary input, USB connectivity as well as full iPod integration with the cable as standard equipment. Being an EX model, this particular Soul also has the nicer features like the motorized sunroof and a flip down armrest for the driver. There's also quite a bit of safety kit with dual airbags, 4-wheel disc brakes, ABS and stability control, all contributing to a 5-star Euro NCAP rating, making the Soul one of the safest cars available.
Under the hood is a pretty potent 2 liter four cylinder engine capable of 144 PS of power and 186 Newtons of torque. In the city, there's decent acceleration from the engine and the four speed slushbox automatic. When taken on the highway, however, the engine-transmission combo didn't work as well as I hoped, especially in terms of economy and noise as the Soul did a 100 km/h cruise at a rather high 2500 rpm, begging the question why Kia didn't source a powerplant from their excellent line of CRDI diesel engines.
In the handling department, the electric power steering does dampen the steering feedback a bit, but the Soul is no slouch when cornering. Even though it may weight well over 1300 kilos, the MacPherson struts up front and torsion beam in the back are well sprung to return good handling and roadholding, albeit going over mild potholes or large road cuts is quite unnerving.
The misgivings of the Soul's drive can be forgiven, especially since it is a car that is truly defined by its unique style statement. It is Seoul's (sorry, couldn't resist) answer to the MINI but whereas the Brits harken to the original, classic design from the sixties, the Soul is a bold step forward for Kia and breaks the cycle of conservative, boring daily drivers.
Cheerful as the design may be, being priced at PhP 1.32M for the EX model means that the Soul isn't exactly cheap... in fact, it's quite pricey. But if you're like me -someone who loves to drive with the windows and sunroof open, RayBans on with Livin' On A Prayer cranked all the way up to 11- the smile on your face as you drive the Soul to work will be worth every peso.
With the new Kia Soul, your daily routine just gets a whole lot better.