This Kia’s got the looks – and the Soul power too

The Kia Soul is one of the best-looking cars on the market, practical and spacious, with funky interior styling

Make: Kia

Model: Soul

Year: 2014

Fuel: Diesel

Date Reviewed: June 6, 2014

Wed, Jun 11, 2014, 01:00

   

Car designers should take great succour from Google’s self-driving car, particularly the unending sneers and derision from the engineering set. For all its sophistication, Google has chosen to cloak its world-changing new technology in a car that looks like it has escaped from the set of a Pixar movie.

So why not express the revolution in the design? Why anthropomorphise it into the motoring offshoot of a ladybird? Well, it needed to win hearts.

The same applies on every forecourt in the world. You can engineer the world’s greatest supercar, but if it looks like a crossbred warthog it’s simply not going to sell. Just ask Subaru. On the other hand, if you build a car with looks that make you just want to cuddle it, then you can probably get away with giving it the underpinnings of a shopping trolley.

At least that’s my theory, although it doesn’t hold up when you consider the vast array of nondescript cars that have topped the sales tables in Ireland over the last 20 years.

Some car firms are determined to put good looks at the heart of their message, and thankfully one of them is from a mainstream brand trying to make its mark. Kia may not have shot up the sales tables in the same way that Hyundai has done in Ireland, but model for model, it’s the best-looking mainstream car brand on the market.

Everyone following the motor industry is aware that the Koreans are now a force to be reckoned with. Kia’s sister brand Hyundai is now an established player on European markets, and in Ireland it’s up there with older brands such as Opel, Toyota and Nissan. Ultimately, Hyundai is meant to challenge the dominance of brands such as Volkswagen and Ford, while Kia is the brand with younger, more funky appeal.

For years that was hard to understand, particularly when you looked at its rather lacklustre model range. Asian brands were long criticised for relatively poor design, even while being praised for reliability and build quality. Kia has turned this on its head, and now boasts some of the best-looking cars around. Take the Optima saloon, a stunning looking family car that should sell much better than it does on the Irish market. Or the Sportage, a great-looking SUV crossover. Even the C’eed is better-looking than its Hyundai equivalent, the i30.

Breaking the mould
For me, the Soul is very much one of these, breaking out of the mould and offering a quality proposition at an attractive price.

The first Soul was such a revolution in looks that it’s understandable if this time the styling is more of an evolution. What they have done is smartened up its look to keep it current while retaining all the funky elements that won us over the first time.

It’s not just good looks: the Soul is remarkably practical as well. There’s a real spaciousness to the cabin, with a good distance between the two front seats and easy access to the rear, with plenty of legroom and good visibility from the back seats. The last point is important when travelling with children. Boot space has been slightly increased, but again it’s impressive and well able to cope with family life. The rear seats pop down with ease as well, so Ikea shouldn’t prove too much of a challenge.

The most impressive feature of all is the interior trim. We had the high-end version – still a good value deal – and it came with a stitched leather dashboard and protruding speakers that you would expect in an Audi, not some funky Korean family car.