Cars - Kia

Road tests and reviews of the latest Kia models available in South Africa

Test driving the new 2016 Kia Soul

2016 Kia Soul Driven

By Franky Johnson

Although slightly more rounded than its predecessor, the second-generation Kia Soul remains something of a design maverick. Approaching the crossover descriptor from an MPV aesthetic rather than an SUV angle, it makes a bold statement. It’s inside that the second generation has really taken a leap forward and even the base model we tested featured more tactile soft plastics and leather-like material on key contact areas of the door trims, steering wheel and gear-lever. Smart trim grade lives up to its moniker by adding leather seats, a powered driver’s chair, cruise control, LED daytime-running lights and rear lamps, xenon headlights, and front-and-rear park-distance-control sensors to an already impressive list of standard features.

An element that does let it down, though, is the antiquated infotainment system. While it offers extensive functionality, the screen is small and remains the Achilles’ heel of the sophisticated interiors of Kia’s new cars. That said, the crux of this test is not the trinkets and baubles, but what lies nestled in that stubby nose and beneath the gear-lever…

Starting with the new dual-clutch transmission, it’s the first of its type from the Korean brand and was developed by its Namyang research and development centre. It has electric motor-driven clutch actuators and a hollow double-gear input shaft that Kia claims make for more responsive and efficient gear changes. It certainly feels very smooth and refined, facilitating continuous power delivery and a decidedly zesty feel when in manual mode. It’s a significant improvement over the previous six-speed torque converter and, as remarked by more than one CAR tester, definitely enhances the Soul’s driving experience.

What’s most impressive about the new transmission, however, is the way it pairs with the revised 1,6-litre turbodiesel unit. In its previous incarnation, the 94 kW/260 N.m oil-burner boasted enough torque for the smaller motor to punch above its weight in the in-gear acceleration stakes. This has now improved further. Taking advantage of the dual-clutch transmission’s ability to handle larger torque outputs, Kia’s engineers have massaged an extra 40 N.m (still available from 1 900 to 2 750 r/min) and 6 kW (at 4 000 r/min) from the engine and the delivery is particularly smooth. Our in-gear acceleration tests confirmed what we could so clearly feel – the vehicle needs just 3,44 seconds to accelerate from 80 to 100 km/h and 4,66 seconds to hit 120 km/h from 100. They’re excellent stats for an engine this size.

The chassis copes very well with both its duties as a people-carrier and the performance the engine offers. Despite riding on 18-inch alloys, the ride remains relatively refined with the MacPherson strut front/torsion-beam rear configuration mostly delivering that sought-after balance of comfort, good damping over bumps at low speed and a modicum of dynamism.

The 1,6 Diesel Smart also carries a full suite of safety features – a crucial element of any family car – with front, side and curtain airbags, ESC and ABS brakes with EBD and EBA. During our 10-stop emergency-braking test, the disc-brakes-all-round setup recorded an average 100-0 km/h stopping time of just 2,82 seconds, which earns it an “excellent” rating.

Recommended retail price as from August 2016 starts at R418,995.

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