Day one: Earlier this year there was an ad campaign for this car which appeared to feature a lion in a dinner suit. I was so baffled by this I emailed the Kia PR man to ask what the ruddy blimey was going on. It’s not a lion, he replied, and it’s a long story. Turns out the old Soul was advertised in the US using some fat CGI hamsters and when the new one came along the American ad agency decided that the hamsters had now got into shape and were wearing dinner suits. Also, they’d found some hamster sunglasses from somewhere. The British importer elected to adopt these new ads without the context of the old ones, presumably hoping there are enough people in this country who can be swayed into buying a new family car by a hamster in a dinner suit. Ironically, the Soul’s warranty lasts for seven years whereas hamsters tend to die after three.
Anyway, here’s the new Soul looking quite jaunty in red paintwork. It does not contain any hamsters. That would be a poor promotional idea. Although when they died you could probably get at least two replacements under warranty.
Day two: A bit of trundling around town in the Soul. Everything seems to be in order. It goes and stops and generally feels quite sorted out. The new Soul is based on the same box of bits as the latest Cee’d, although it has a torsion beam back axle rather than the Cee’d’s swankier and more expensive independent multi-link. Like the Cee’d and other modern Kias, the Soul’s ride is firm but not terrible. If you’ve ever driven a mk1 Focus Zetec, you’ll know what I mean. If you haven’t driven a mk1 Focus Zetec, pop over to Kia’s R&D benchmarking centre. I bet they’ve got loads.
Day three: This particular Soul is a diesel. The old Hyundai/Kia 1.7-litre diesel engine was a moderately horrible thing with a power band that lasted for all of 100rpm. This 1.6-litre is better. You still need to change gear a lot to keep things clipping along but that’s diesels for you. The gearchange is quite decent. Back when Kia was trying to be taken more seriously, they cheerily admitted that some of their cars were tuned by Lotus. These days they don’t mention it. Maybe they don’t need Norfolkian help any more. Either way, the cars drive quite nicely.
Day four: The Soul has a rotary knob to the right of the steering column with three settings. One of them is ‘mood’. I’m not sure why you’d want your car to be in a mood, unless perhaps you’ve upgraded to the Soul from, say, a Triumph Dolomite and you miss not knowing if it’s going to start today. It turns out the control is for the illuminated rings around the front speakers. Set them to ‘music’ and they pulse slightly in time to whatever you’re listening to. Put them in ‘mood’ and they gently fade between a range of different colours. I’ve decided I like them most in the third setting, which is ‘off’. The rest of the interior is better. Some of the plastics aren’t the finest but the design is interesting and everything is broadly in the right place.
Day five: I hear rumours that Kia is about to launch a hardcore performance sub-badge, Kia R. There will be a Kia R Cee’d and a Kia R Rio. No word on whether this treatment will be applied to the Soul.
Day six: This Soul press demonstrator is bright red. You don’t see a lot of red cars these days, do you? As a result, this is a cheery and refreshing change. I like the look of the whole thing, come to that. It’s like the old car, but neater and sharper and without that awkward lumpy bit on the tailgate that looked like they’d left a camouflage panel on after testing and then accidentally painted over it. It’s only today while cruising through London that I spot the vividly painted Soul reflected in a window and realise I look a bit like Postman Pat. Other colours are available.
Goodbye: Bye bye brightly coloured Kia. It’s not the most exciting car in the world but then what five door hatchback is? At least this one is a bit different. If you like the way it looks and you need a spacious, slightly unusual family car I can’t think of much reason not to buy one. Especially if you like light-up speakers and hamsters.
The car talked about here is a Kia Soul ‘Mixx’ 1.6 CRDi. It has a 1.6-litre turbocharged diesel engine making 126 horsepower. Kia says it can go from 0-62 in an unusually specific 10.81 seconds and on to a top speed of 112mph. It costs £19,750.
UPDATE: I asked Kia about the Lotus thing mentioned above and they said that, whilst the Norfolkers ‘helped out with the original Soul, they haven’t had any input on the new one’. So there you go.