Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: March 21, 2016
Boxy crossovers used to be a thing, apparently. Think Scion xB, Nissan Cube, and the Honda Element: rectangular and conventional. They made sense in a way – their cubic dimensions made it easy to maximize interior volume. Even if they just looked like cartoon bricks on wheels, there were so many of these examples on the road that it started an econobox craze.
However, since the rinse of the more popular and sleeker proportioned subcompact crossovers like the Mazda CX-3, Honda HR-V, and Jeep Renegade, these rectangular containers have seemingly become extinct. The world of tall boxy hatchbacks came tumbling down in the wake of these prettier mini-SUVs that sacrificed utility for beauty, but there was one example left standing – the Kia Soul.
Make no mistake, the Soul isn’t a pretty car but it is charming. The energetic front nose and upright stature keep it out of the Guinness World Records as the best looking hatch, but you have to applaud the designers for keeping it mildly conservative. They managed to maintain the Soul’s underlying mandate of function over form.
The Kia Soul carries over to 2016 unchanged with the exception of two new trim levels. The Soul’s top trim (SX Luxury $27,495) stands a bit pricey in its segment, so the Korean automaker has decided to add two new Special Editions that slot right below it, offering more tailored options – mainly aesthetic tweaks – to fit particular types of customers: SE Urban and SE Sport.
SE Urban ($26,395) builds on the SX trim and offers a more luxurious and comfort-oriented package with gloss black side skirts, chrome accents around the car, and a panoramic glass roof. SE Sport on the other hand ($25,995) is the sportier twin, equipped with two tone paint on the roof and mirrors, more aggressive side skirts, grill, and rear spoiler, special 18-inch wheels, and interior colour accents such as the red surround on the dashboard speakers.
We spent a week with the SE Sport variant and we’ve got to say, the two-tone paint consisting of an Inferno Red body and Onyx Black roof really makes a difference in terms of attraction and desirability. The Soul is transformed into an assertive looking hatchback, and not one that people would just point at and make fun of for being “cute”.
Practicality and value was always at the forefront of the Soul’s mission. You can call it a tall hatchback or a small crossover, but it doesn’t matter because the Soul combines the best of both worlds and offers impressive headroom and legroom. Cargo space is also more than generous thanks to its boxy dimensions.
In fact, most Soul owners I know have pets, and they constantly praise the Kia as being the perfect carrier for their felines or canines. The 60/40 split folding seats can fold down flat and the rear hatch with its incredibly high ceilings lets even the tallest of dogs stand upright on their way to the park.
We also loved the concealed storage area underneath the trunk mat – a hidden cubby bin with divided sections so that your pet doesn’t stomp all over your delicate groceries. In all, the Kia Soul offers 532 L of space with the seats upright, and 1,402 L with the rear seats down.
Another worthy mention is the elevated driving position that will surely please beginner drivers. Along with impressive visibility all around, a rear view camera for backing up, and available blind spot safety systems, drivers will have nothing to fear on their upcoming license tests.
The Soul is not only a well-thought out piece of machinery, but it also offers great value at its price point. The SX trim ($23,995) is already equipped with leather seats, power folding mirrors, keyless start, a rear view camera, and a heated steering wheel that looks like Mickey Mouse.
Sadly, the signature speakers that glow to the beat of your music is unavailable on lower trims. Only if you opt for the Infinity audio system on the SX Luxury trim will you get this neat little feature. Some people criticized it for being tacky, but I thought the glowing beats gave it a lot of character.
Base Soul models (LX) receive a 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine pushing out 130 hp and 118 lb-ft through a choice of a manual or automatic transmission. Trims above LX receive a more potent 2.0-litre four-cylinder that produces a more respectable 164 hp and 151 lb-ft. There is no manual option available for the 2.0-litre, however it does receive a proper six-speed automatic rather than those dreaded rubberband CVTs. It makes the Soul more engaging to drive, even if it isn’t the most dynamic in its segment.
As we have said before, the Soul is a great beginner’s car not only due to its elevated driving position and commanding view over the road, but also in terms of engine response and linearity. The Soul has no turbocharger, no lag, nothing – just two proper pedals that send power directly to six gears. There are no sudden jolts to the back of the seat, just predictable throttle response with predictable power.
The Soul provides an enjoyable ride and can be easily maneuvered and caressed through town. Considering the fact that there is no option for all-wheel drive, don’t expect it to match up to the performance of more dedicated crossovers like the venerable Mazda CX-3. The Soul is more purpose built as a cargo hauler rather than a corner carver.
With that being said, the suspension is a bit firm, wind noise is excessive at high speeds (due to the cubic shape), and the engine gets raspy at higher rpms. However, these are attributes that likely will not bother any Soul owner that just wants to get from A to B with a backpack full of items.
The Kia Soul is the last man standing in a world where square-shaped hatchbacks reigned supreme, and there’s a clear reason why. Offering relatively conservative looks, great value, a respectable powertrain, and an impressive amount of cargo room, you can see why the Soul has sold as well as it has. Pet owners, baby haulers, grocery getters rejoice, Kia’s kindred Soul is here to stay.
型号 Model: 2016 Kia Soul SE Sport
顏色 Paint Type: Inferno Red / Onyx ($200)
廠方建議售價 Base Price: $25,995
試車售價 Price as Tested: $26,195
軸距 Wheelbase(mm): 2,570
長闊 Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,140 / 1,800 / 1,600
車重 Curb weight (kg): 1,287 - 1,406
引擎 Engine: 2.0L four-cylinder GDI
最大馬力 Horsepower: 164 hp @ 6,200 rpm
最高扭力 Torque: 151 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm
波箱 Transmission: 6-speed automatic
擺佈 Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, FWD
油耗 Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway ) L/100km: 9.8 / 7.5
油耗 Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 9.7