2015 Kia Soul | Road Test
* Entertaining once up to speed.
* Comfortable and easy to drive over long periods of time, or distances.
* Boot is on the smaller side, restricting its practicality.
* Its approach to safety is pitiful.
Introduction & Summary
If you’ve got a palatial home at Emirates Hills and have a bank account which stores anything in excess of a million Euros, then the options when buying a car to stand out from the crowd, are near limitless. Right from super and exotic cars, to virtually any car under the sun with an aftermarket kit, is an assured way to turn heads as you drive around your uppity neighbourhood.
But what if you’re a part of that larger chunk of the population, who don’t have more money than strands of hair on their head and still want a vehicle that challenges the status quo as far as automotive designs go? Unfortunately, the choices aren’t as many, but the quirky Korean Kia Soul is definitely one to look out for.
Styling & Design
Having paid a visit to the surgeons, with Peter Schreyer at the knife, the second generation Kia Soul emerged in 2013 looking sharper, smarter, and dare I say, sexier than ever. Two years on, the 2015 model hasn’t undergone too many alterations and still retains the narrow tiger nose grille, taut headlamps, and prominent boot decklid divider. With flared wheel arches, DRL’s integrated into the headlamp clusters, and a protruding lower mesh grille, the Soul has bid farewell to its bodacious curves for linear contours, which surprisingly, work well in its favour.
Inside, it’s a combination of contrast stitching, piano black trim, and a measly portion of hard plastics. Coupled with sufficient space for all occupants within the vehicle, there isn’t really anything to complain about, though, illuminating rings around the speakers to add to its youth-y vibe, is definitely something the Koreans could consider.
Following the norm of a Korean automobile, the 2015 Kia Soul delivers with an abundance of comfort and entertainment features. Equipped with a panoramic roof which runs the length of the vehicle and gives the impression of a roomier cabin, the Kia Soul is a nice place to be, with a cooled glovebox, Bluetooth connectivity, and a touch screen entertainment system with USB ports, AUX jacks, and a decent set of speakers to match.
Sadly, its approach to safety is a little too laid back for me to fathom. Sure, it’s got seatbelt pretensioners (so you can say it’s a step above the Mitsubishi Attrage we drove last week), but it’s still utterly shameful to find a vehicle in this day and age being sold with just two airbags! Keep in mind, the Soul can very well accommodate more, as it comes with 8 airbags as standard for other markets, but I guess you could say the UAE didn’t make it to the list of privileged countries, while manufacturers and dealers were busy undercutting prices to cater to the price conscious buyers. Not the best of ideas I reckon, when the roads of the UAE have been compared to race tracks by numerous people time and again…
Performance, Ride & Handling
Powering the hatchback on stilts, is a 2.0 litre 4-cylinder engine which generates 152 horsepower at 6,200 RPM and 191 Nm of torque at 4,700 RPM. Mated to a six speed automatic transmission, the 1.3 tonne 2015 Kia Soul strangely doesn’t ever feel underpowered, and is actually quite a lot of fun to be behind the wheel of.
Dimensionally better off than a traditional hatchback for spirited driving, the advantage of its stable stance can further be exploited with the Soul’s steering weighting options, which come in the form of Comfort, Normal, and Sport modes. Truthfully speaking, you’re best leaving it in Sport mode at all times, as Comfort and Normal modes make the steering uncomfortably light, and are bound to have you question if there is any link whatsoever between the leather wrapped ring in your hands and the wheels up front.
For times when you want to take it a little easy, there’s an ECO mode available as well. A simple tap of the switch on the centre console and a green light illuminates in the instrument cluster, indicating the start to sobered throttle responses. Averaging the better half of 10 litres for every 100 kilometres, the Soul is a slightly thirsty one, although, the daily Dubai to Sharjah jaunt could be to blame.
Comfort & Practicality
With a height adjustable seat, lumbar support, and a steering column which offers rake and reach adjustment, getting comfortable in the driver’s seat of the Soul is something that doesn’t take very long. And not like the other occupants have anything to moan about either, as the rear seats offer plenty of headroom and more than enough leg room to accompany.
From a practicality point of view, however, it isn’t all flowery, as the rear seats eat up a significant amount of storage space, leaving only 532 litres to fill. To put that figure into perspective, it’s less than the Peugeot 301’s 640 litre capacity, and less than half of the Honda Accord’s 1183 litre capacity. Knock the second row seats down, however, and the Soul puts all of its 1,401 litre capacity on display.
Price & Verdict
The Kia Soul has always been a rebel in the automotive realm. Hatchback-like styling, MPV-like dimensions, and Coupe-like storage capacity – it clearly isn’t one to follow rules. While the previous generation model designed by Mike Torpey was undeniably feminine, it isn’t the case anymore since Peter Schreyer came into the picture.
A joy to be behind the wheel of and an affordable way to make a statement, I’d say the 2015 Kia Soul is highly recommended, but then that would mean overlooking its miserable performance in the safety department, and that is something which isn’t easy to do.