Ah, the Kia Soul. This car has always struck me as an oddball thanks to its boxy proportions and quirky looks—a "refrigerator on wheels," I'd call it whenever it passed on the road.
I wondered whether it'd be as interesting to drive as it was interesting to look at, and I finally had the opportunity to find out when a test unit of the...uhm, MPV? Crossover? Let's just call it the Soul...finally showed up at the office.
So, after a couple of days with the vehicle, what are our takeaways? Well…
1. It's a very funky-looking thing, in a good way. The test unit's two-tone paint job—white roof and mirrors, gray body—immediately had my attention. It goes really well with the car's square-ish design, and is actually reminiscent of a Mini. Modern headlights look right at home on that bullish front end, too. The large fenders provide an extra bit of macho, and the rear end has a bit too much going on.
2. The wheels look absolutely massive. The Soul runs on 18-inchers, and the simple yet elegant wheel design really goes well with its size. These things look even more gigantic on account of the vehicle's boxy shape, modest ground clearance, and muscular fenders.
3. Visibility is top-notch. Large windows everywhere make scanning your immediate vicinity while parking or squeezing in and out of traffic a breeze. Even the side-mirrors are large. Backing-up camera? Who needs it?
4. The cabin is one of the roomiest I've been in. Again, thank the Soul's boxy (how many times am I going to call it that?) proportions, because space is utilized to the max. Headroom is excellent, and there's more than enough room in there for stretching in traffic. The downside? I actually had a bit of trouble reaching for things, including the rearview mirror, on account of how vast the interior is.
5. The head unit is archaic. No touchscreen, no Bluetooth. You're stuck with AUX and the same tiny red screen found in other Kia models, too. At P1.140 million? Shame.
6. The engine does its job admirably. The 1.6-liter diesel engine puts out a decent 126hp and 260Nm—not bad at all, and it proved itself to be pretty lively on the highway, too. Getting up to speed or performing overtakes didn't prove an issue at all on SCTEX and NLEX. We averaged around 18km/L on the highway and around 12km/L overall. We do wish they'd bring in the turbocharged model, though.
7. The transmission is clumsy. This is the only real gripe I have with the car. The six-speed automatic transmission can be annoyingly sluggish, and dealing with it can be a real chore when traffic comes to a crawl. There was quite a bit of jerking going on at low speeds, so getting out on the highway was a major relief.
8. The ride is quiet and composed. NVH levels impress, and the Soul takes in most road surfaces without too much issue. It still does bottom out over the worst of potholes, though. As for handling? Some drivers may complain it's overly-assisted at low speeds, but I found that this complements its great visibility and compact size in city driving. But steering does tend to get heavier at speed.