Kia Soul 2009 Review

June 19th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Korean manufacturer Kia has built a reputation for making sensibly styled budget cars and for making concessions in quality to maintain an affordable price point. Recently there has been a change in ethos at Kia and its vehicle styling has become far more daring. Kia has become the Skoda of Asia because like Skoda it’s engaged in a heated battle against badge snobbery. Kia’s latest weapon and metal manifestation of its revised thinking is the Kia Soul. So is this unique new ‘urban crossover’ hot property? We spent a week kicking the tyres and lighting the fires to find out.

It’s impossible not to stare when you first lay eyes on the Soul’s extroverted exterior aesthetic. It’s bold and refreshingly risky in how much styling has been retained from it’s original concept car form.  The Soul is covered in distinctive styling cues and marks a significant departure from Kia styling of old. A wrap-around glasshouse and a rear pillar that pushes from back to front recreates a motorcycle helmet look desired by the designers. A new corporate Tiger grille sits up front and is set to be a feature of other Kia vehicles in the future.  The radical style is finished off by high vertical taillights and on the Soul Burner 18-inch alloy wheels. If you still think the Soul is too plain, many customisation options are available including roof rails, interior trim options, body kits and various decals to make it all your own. Overall the styling is polarizing and although it’s targeted at a youngish market you get the feeling it may equally appeal to female baby boomers.

Jump inside the Soul Burner and you’re greeted with a scorching red and black interior.  Once adjusted to the dominating colour scheme the Soul’s controls are sensible and well laid out with stereo controls repeated on the steering wheel. The three-dial instrument cluster is basic but easy to read and strongly illuminated at night. There is an interesting array of interior equipment that ranges from gimmicky like the stereo speaker mood lighting system that pulses to the stereo’s bass beat, through to highly useful like the reversing camera that screens within the rear-view mirror. The stereo itself is an excellent unit with an additional centre speaker and sub-woofer in the Burner model, but what’s most impressive is the full integration when connecting an iPod using a seamless interface.

The front seats are wide, comfortable and offer three-way adjustment for the driver along with a fold-down armrest. The steering wheel only has tilt adjustment, which results in a driving position that is quite upright but makes the most of the Soul’s excellent forward visibility.

Unfortunately wide rear pillars and a small rear windscreen compromise rear visibility, but that’s the price of the unique exterior styling. Cabin space is excellent and the Soul mixes a reasonably low seat-line (good for getting in and out) with a high roof that makes for generous headroom. Luggage space is ample in standard configuration at 340 litres drop down the 60:40 split back seat and it grows to a cavernous 671 litres.

Packed in under the Soul’s short bonnet is a 1.6-litre turbocharged diesel engine developing 94kW of power and 260Nm of torque. It’s no fire-breathing monster but is capable of sprightly acceleration and motorway cruises comfortably. The diesel unit is impressively economical and can achieve a frugal 5.9l/100km combined. It’s matched up to a four-speed automatic transmission, which is one gear shy of many new-car autos. To make up for this shortcoming it’s quite a smart auto box that holds lower gears well when accelerating and high gears when braking. It also offers fairly smooth changes and combined with the torquey diesel motor it’s very functional.

Get out of the city to steam along some windy roads and it quickly becomes obvious that steering and suspension aren’t the Soul’s strong points. For all its SUV styling the Soul is a conventional front-wheel-drive vehicle quite capable of torque steering particularly in the wet. That said, the overall handling and general grip in the Soul is passable but the suspension is set quite firmly which does result in a fairly harsh ride. The Soul at times jumped and skipped over bumps during cornering which was an issue probably compounded by the 18-inch wheels. Likewise general ride quality is affected by intrusive tyre noise on rougher road surfaces. However, little wind or engine noise makes it into the cabin.

The electronically assisted steering is responsive and light making the Soul easy to spin around at low speeds but there is a distinct lack of any real feedback. This makes for a one-sided driving experience and is a telling example that driving dynamics were not the main focus for Kia in the Soul’s creation.

In terms of safety the Soul is well endowed with dual front, side and full-length curtain airbags and ABS with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution and Brake Assist. An Electronic Stability Program is standard on all models and the Soul boasts a five-star NCAP safety rating.

The bottom line is that it’s hard to be scolding of the Soul because it’s a very capable city car that has generous interior space, some cool tricks, is easy to drive and has a modern diesel motor that offers solid power and even better fuel economy. However, the below average ride and steering quickly extinguishes any ideas that the Soul is a true drivers’ car and with Kia’s new styling language comes a new price point that may deter purchasers on a budget.

Will the Kia sell its soul? It will, but not to buyers looking for either a sporting drive or an entry-level bargain. It will sell to those that are hot for its quirky concept car looks and appreciate the accompanying practicality.

Click through to the next page for a full list of specifications.

Price: from $29,990, tested model (Soul Burner) $36,990

What we like:

  • Distinctive exterior and interior styling
  • Spacious cabin
  • Customisation options
  • Useful diesel motor

What we don’t like:

  • Ride quality
  • Vague power-steering
  • Compromised rear visibility

Words and Photos: Adam Mamo

Kia Soul (2009) – Specifications

MECHANICAL
Engine type 1.6 DOHC CRDI Turbo Diesel
Displacement (cc) 1582 cc
Compression ratio 17.3
Max. power 94 kW @ 4000 rpm
Max. torque 260 Nm @ 1900 rpm
Fuel economy (combined cycle) 5.9L / 100 km
Co2 emissions (g/km) 156
Diesel Particulate Filter

TRANSMISSION
Gear box 4 speed Automatic

SUSPENSION
Front suspension McPherson Strut
Rear suspension CTBA (Coupled Torsion Beam Axle)

WHEELS
Tyres 225/45/R18
Braking system Ventilated front discs, solid rear discs
Wheels 18″ Alloy
Space saver spare wheel and tyre

STEERING
Steering system MDPS power assisted rack & pinion
Minimum turning radius kerb to kerb (m)     5.25

DIMENSIONS
Overall length 4105 mm
Overall width 1785 mm
Overall height 1610 mm
Wheelbase 2550 mm
Kerb weight min. / max 1210 kg / 1289 kg
Luggage capacity (seats up / seats down) 340 / 671 litres
Fuel tank capacity 48 litres
Towing capacity – unbraked (kg) 550
Towing capacity – braked (kg) 1100

Kia Soul pulls some stunts at the docks (+video)

June 16th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Kia Soul stunt video

Kia has worked hard to keep its Soul in the spotlight both here in NZ and overseas since it’s launch earlier this year. The latest from the creative types at Kia is a video that’s pretty damn cool.

The clip below is called “Kia Soul Rock!” It’s a 1:29 video filled with nifty car stunts and power slides, and some surprising scenes that see nearly 100 Souls working together to make a rolling self effigy. Talk about a high-effort productions. At the end, the Soul models all head into the cargo ship for transport. Kia wants to stress that the vehicles used for stunts will not be shipped to customers, and to not try these stunts in your own Kia Soul.

Check out the clip below

New Kia Cerato goes on sale in NZ

April 27th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Kia Cerato fq

The new Kia Cerato has arrived in New Zealand recently and it’s on a special mission to leave other small-medium sedans behind.

Starting at $28,990 and featuring a strong 2-litre engine, tiptronic transmission, stability control and a 5-star safety package, Cerato undercuts the Mitsuibishi Lancer 2.0 auto sedan (rrp from $32,500), Toyota’s 1.8 Corolla auto sedans (at $35,090 and $39,990 respectively for the GX and GLX models) and is more than $12,000 better than Honda’s Civic 2.0 auto sedans (rrp from $41,200).

According to Kia Motors NZ General Manager Todd McDonald, new Cerato pricing takes into account the NZ dollar changes, whereas many others have yet to see the full impact of the lower exchange rate.

“We’ve got one of the best looking sedans in this segment of the market, combined with highly competitive pricing — and the new Cerato will look even better as time goes by,” adds Mr McDonald.

The new Cerato is the first Kia to feature a new styling look that will be adopted across the board by the Korean manufacturer — it’s known as the ‘Schreyer Line’. Named after German designer Peter Schreyer, who left Audi/VW to lead the design team at Kia Motors, the ‘Schreyer line’ is based on his philosophy of “the simplicity of a straight line”. Schreyer says that for too long cars in the C-segment, especially sedans, have been too conservative and his task is to create designs for Kia that raise the bar.

Cerato also features the new Tiger-nose front grille that is being adopted on all Kia models to distinguish its cars on the road.

New Cerato is more than just a grand design. It’s built on an all-new platform created for the Kia cee’d in Europe, which has been further refined for Cerato, then equipped with a dynamic independent suspension and steering package.

Equipment levels are among the best in class, with ESP stability control (incorporating ABS braking and traction control) and six airbags (front side and curtain) standard on all models. Also included is a 6-speaker MP3/USB/iPod entertainment system.

The driving force comes from the new Theta II CVVT 2-litre petrol engine, delivering 116kW @ 6200rp and an impressive torque force of 194Nm @ 4300rpm — that’s 15% more power and 7% more torque than the previous Cerato.

A tiptronic-type automatic suspension is standard on the new Cerato range, featuring a new gate shift pattern and a sports mode that enables the driver to select gear changes manually.

Even with the roof height lowered, the new Cerato boasts more room for its occupants than the previous model. Overall legroom is up 5% and shoulder room is up by an average of 17.5%.

New Cerato is available in two models. The LX comes with fabric seating materials, air conditioning, power windows, power/heated door mirror, remote central locking, 16-inch alloy wheels (including full spare), tinted glass and so on, at $28,990.

The upscale Kia Cerato SX model has full leather upholstery (including leather steering wheel and gear knob), trip computer, automatic climate control, 6-cd changer and audio controls on steering wheel, cruise control, rear park assist (which also has a dashboard object indicator to its direction), 17-inch allow wheels with 45 profile tyres (including full spare) and front fog lamps among its equipment level, priced at $33,990.

New Kia Soul launches in NZ

April 8th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Kia Soul viaduct fq

The new Kia Soul has arrived in New Zealand and was turning heads at it’s launch in Auckland’s viaduct yesterday.

Described by Kia Motors’ design chief Peter Schreyer as a “new kind of urban crossover”, the Soul is a modern styled five-seat, five-door car that marks a new design-led direction for the Korean auto company.

“Soul is very much a ‘watershed’ vehicle for Kia Motors, both in a local, as well as global sense,” says Todd McDonald, General Manager of Kia Motors New Zealand Ltd. “It’s the first of a new generation of vehicles that clearly identifies the route that Kia Motors will be taking in the future, as a creator of distinctive cars that consumers aspire to own. Kia is re-inventing itself as a fun, youthful and bold brand that doesn’t intend to be bound by the rulebook. Soul is very much an embodiment of that new thinking. It’s different — a breakthrough design – and we believe it is going to inject some real pizzazz into the marketplace at a time when we could really do with some cheering up.”

The new Kia Soul doesn’t fit into any particular market segment, which is why it has been termed an “urban crossover”. The styling has a hint of SUV but without a four-wheel-drive system there’s a touch of hatchback, and while it’s  practical the Soul is not a shopping basket on wheels but is a good size for city duties.

The Soul is being pushed to win over a whole new group of consumers who may not even have considered a Kia before.

“Soul crosses age and social barriers,” adds Mr McDonald. “It’s not unlike the original Mini, bringing a smile to faces just because it doesn’t conform to any particular rule or classification — it’s a car that challenges people to rethink everything they might have known about Kia.”

The Soul has options to personalise individual vehicles. These include interior mood lighting that flashes to the pulse of the multi-media entertainment centre, eye shadows for the front lights, designer body decals and more.

The Kia Soul announced its arrival as a design concept at the Detroit Motor Show of 2006, but few thought the unusual ‘full face helmet’ design would make it into production. It coincided with the arrival at Kia Motors of former Audi/VW design head Peter Schreyer, who took the concept and made it work as practical vehicle..

Last year, Schreyer added a touch of his own design when he added the new corporate Tiger grille to a further development of the concept and the growling face is now one of the defining points of the Soul. Various versions of the Tiger grille will be seen on other Kia models in the future.

What Schreyer and his team have done is to take a five-door hatchback and turn it into a completely new genre. Created on an all-new platform, featuring a compact 4104mm overall length with an unusually long wheelbase of 2550mm, the designers matched that with a high roofline, tapering to the rear. The result is that Soul offers cavernous passenger space that outperforms many vehicles with much larger exterior dimensions and provides the luggage capacity of a small wagon.

There is only one body style, but the Soul will be available in three distinctly different models; the Soul entry level model, priced from $29,990; the mid-range Soul Plus, priced from $33,990 and the eye-catching Soul Burner priced from $39,990.

There are two engine options available, with the entry-level Soul gaining the 1.6-litre Gamma Euro 4, CVVT petrol engine designed for the  European Kia cee’d, along with a 5-speed manual transmission as standard. The two other Soul models both feature a second generation CRDi diesel engine, which is matched to a 4-stage intelligent adaptive technology automatic transmission as standard.

The CRDi engine is a product of Kia’s centre in Russelsheim, Germany and has been enhanced for the Soul. This 16-valve DOHC unit is fitted with an electronically actuated variable geometry turbocharger that delivers an 11% increase in power, now up to 94kW @ 4000rpm and a 3% increase in torque, rising to 260Nm between 1900-2700rpm.

The Soul CRDi automatic returns a 5.9L/100km combined fuel economy and low 156g/m CO2 emission levels, thanks in part to the particulate filter, which is standard equipment on the diesel models.

The new Soul doesn’t compromise on safety, either, with electronic stability programme (ESP) to help the driver avoid an accident and a full complement of six airbags (including side curtain and front side airbags) standard on every model. The Soul Burner features a rear-facing camera image displayed in the rear-view mirror when reverse is selected — other models have rear parking assist.

At the heart is the ‘floating ‘centre stack designed around the multi-media entertainment system. All Soul models come with a CD player/radio, with MP3 compatibility, plus USB, AUX and iPOD connections, speed-rated volume control and an innovative Power Base technology that turns the car in a concert hall on wheels. The Soul Burner system has the uprated 315W 8-speaker system incorporating a large diameter dash-top centre speaker, external amplifier and sub-woofer. All models have manual audio controls integrated into the steering wheel.

Kia Motors NZ says the first shipments have already sold out and orders are now starting to be placed on subsequent Soul arrivals. Expect to see more of the new Kia Soul around town shortly.

Kia Soul – NZ pricing announced

March 25th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Kia Soul

Kia has announced the New Zealand pricing for its soon-to-be-released ‘urban crossover’ model, the Soul, ahead of the official launch in early April.

The starting price for the much anticipated 1.6-litre Kia Soul will be $29,990. Full details will be announced at the national launch.

That price, says Kia Motors NZ General Manager Todd McDonald, includes the full effects of the lower value of the Kiwi dollar. He expects Soul to be very competitive as other manufacturers are forced to continue raising their prices to reflect the lower dollar. “Most new cars have yet to see the full effect of the increase in their prices and because the Soul is a totally new vehicle for us, we are starting from a fresh base,” adds Mr McDonald. “We’ll be offering a unique and very well equipped vehicle with very high standards of safety, including ESP stability control and 6 airbags for under $30,000.”

New Zealand is launching the Soul in synch with a number of other markets around the world, including the US, UK, Europe, Canada and Australia.

Kia unveils new design for Geneva Auto Show

February 19th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Kia MPV

The first full design from the hands of Kia Motors design guru Peter Schreyer will be unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show in March.

The Kia YN is a concept based on a compact people mover that is tipped to go into production later this year and its takes Kia’s new design-led prowess to the next level, following its recent success with the European cee’d, pro_cee’d and the upcoming Soul.

Schreyer, who left Audi and Volkswagen to take up the Chief Designer role at Kia Motors, says the concept will be unlike any other Kia to date. Although he has been with Kia Motors for more than two years, the YN is the first vehicle that has been completely developed under his guidance.

Schreyer has been provided with all the resources he requires to put Kia at the forefront in automotive design and the company has vowed not just to maintain its R&D spend into 2009 but to slightly increase its investment and maintain the momentum it has built up.

A three-quarter rear view of the YN has been released by Kia to give an idea of what the car will look like.

Although not seen in this photo, the Kia YN will sport the latest rendition of the new corporate “tiger” grille, which has been designed by Schreyer to help give Kia a more recognisable personality. Among the interesting design features to look out for at Geneva is the glass roof, which will help make the interior look much brighter and bigger.

The Kia YN is based on the same platform as the Kia Soul, which is due to arrive shortly in New Zealand and like that model it will showcase advanced design techniques that provide “astounding spaciousness in a compact package”.

No word on when the Kia YN might go into production and whether it would be available for sale in New Zealand, though Todd McDonald, General Manager of Kia Motors New Zealand, says it would fit very comfortably into the model line-up if it did.

Kia brightens up Detroit show with Soul’ster concept

January 14th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Kia Soulster fq

Kia brought a ray of sunshine to the depressed Detroit Motor Show when it unveiled its new concept car called the Soul’ster. Based on the all-new urban crossover Kia Soul, which will be launched in New Zealand this year, the concept is a fusion of sporty convertible roadster and practical pick-up truck styling.

“It’s brilliant,” says Todd McDonald, General Manager of Kia Motors New Zealand. “The Soul’ster sums up the new Soul range in two words ‘fun’ and ‘funky’. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect, coming just ahead of the New Zealand launch of the Soul.”

The Soul’ster provided a bright spot to lighten the serious atmosphere at the 2009 Detroit Motor Show with parts of the industry suffering heavily from the downturn. It’s a prime example of Kia thinking outside the square by taking a simple idea and creating a new statement. Soul’ster contains various elements and styling cues that may be integrated into the company’s future products.

Using the 5-door Soul production vehicle as its base, the Soul’ster has been re-engineered with two doors and the rear passengers appear to be sitting in the pick-up tray. Two large side struts stiffen the body and reinforce the mini-truck look. But unlike any other pick-up, the Soul’ster provides fresh-air motoring with its two-piece top enabling passengers to expose front and back seating areas independently.

The windshield is shortened for a sportier and hunkered down appearance and Soul’ster’s lighting features an amber glow under the headlamps that give it a ‘devilish’ look at night. The side vents, side-mirror turn signals, unique LED headlamps, fog and tail lamps incorporate blue shades.

Inside, the layout echoes some of the fun themes that will be seen in the production Soul, such as the LED lighting around the sound system. Adding to the edgy design scheme, the non-floor-mounted cantilevered seats project the illusion of being suspended in space when viewed from the side allowing for increased rear legroom. Storage compartments below each of the fold-flat rear seats, offer room for cargo. When the rear seats are folded the cargo space resembles that of a pick-up.

According to Tom Kearns, Kia Motors America chief designer: “Soul’ster delivers something new, intriguing and relevant to today’s buyers — a fun, affordable convertible for active people who like to share good times with friends.”

The Soul’ster concept could be powered by any of the three engine options that will be available in the Soul production model — a choice of 1.6-litre and 2.0 petrol engines and a 1.6-litre common rail diesel, mated to either a manual or automatic transmission.

Kia kaha- Kia maintains strong sales figures

November 21st, 2008 by Darren Cottingham

kia-

Kia Motors has experienced strong sales growth in 2008, even as some of the world’s biggest motoring names are buffeted by huge losses.

Figures just released show that Kia has increased its global sales for the first ten months of 2008 by 12.7%, to reach a total of 1,172,958 by the end of October. Strong sales in emerging markets like China and also its domestic market in Korea have more than offset dips in crisis-hit US and European countries. Sales in China, where Kia opened its second factory last year, are ahead by 36.8% and at home sales are up 33.9%. In markets outside of the US and Europe the increase is 15.2%.

What’s more, Kia Motors has returned to profitability, moving back into the black this year, following heavy investments in new production facilities around the world recently that had put its finances under pressure.

Kia has ceveloped a range of new models to be introduced onto the international stage soon, including the all-new Soul city car and the new Cerato sedan.

“When you look at what is happening around the world, Kia is in a strong position going forward, which has to be a comforting thought for our customers — even though results are likely to be weaker over the next few months,” says Todd McDonald, General Manager of Kia Motors New Zealand.

Mr McDonald says the success enjoyed by Kia has come at a time of reduced new model activity in 2008, when the company had few new offerings to boost the market. Next year marks the start of a new model blitz.
Currently, Kia’s best selling model in overseas markets to date this year has been the C-segment Cerato with 166,688 units sold. It is followed closely by the B-segment Rio at 133,864 units and the C-segment cee’d at 128,672 units. Kia’s Sportage compact SUV and the A-segment Picanto continue to perform well with 122,330 and 81,136 units sold, respectively. 580,846 passenger cars have been sold so far in 2008, representing a 19.0% year-on-year increase, and representing almost 50% of sales.

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