Long-term test (Update 1): Kia Soul 1,6D Smart AT
When a recent cross-country drive came up, taking the comfortable Kia proved a no-brainer. The reasons were two-fold:, I wanted to experience the Soul across a multi-day open-road drive; and I’d like to get the odo up to a round 20 000 km before it goes back to Kia.
A confession, though: I didn’t drive the Soul to Johannesburg on the first leg of the trip. Photo- and videographer Kian Eriksen was behind the wheels while I was conveniently ensconced in an airplane seat on a two-hour flight from the Mother City. However, I did take on driving duties coming back, and the 1 600 km from the East Rand into Cape Town proved illuminating.
On the N1, the firm suspension tuning in conjunction with the large wheels low-profile and tyres made the ride less supple than it would have been in, say, a Volkswagen Golf, but the flipside was a planted feel at cruising altitudes.
While I’ve found the 1,6-litre turbodiesel’s performance (100 kW/300 N.m) perfectly sufficient in town and on my daily commute, on the N1 there were times when I wished I had access to slightly more power and torque. Overtaking could still be done safely with the throttle pushed to its stop, but the higher the speed, the more the Kia started to struggle.
Not helping the cause was a boot full of heavy luggage and camera equipment, and that also had an impact on the Soul’s fuel consumption. Before the trip, the Kia consumed an average of 6,6 L/100 km of diesel, but that figure soon shot up to between 7,0 and 7,5 L/100 km. Back in Cape Town and into the groove of commuter duties, the Soul’s consumption sunk to close to the original figure.
After 5 months
Current Mileage: 12 686 km
Average fuel consumption: 6,71 L/100 km
We like: planted feel, spacious cabin
We don’t like: ride a touch choppy
Long-term test (Introduction): Kia Soul 1,6D Smart AT
A year in the CAR garage should be plain sailing for the Kia Soul. After all, the Korean crossover was previously crowned a runner-up in our annual Top 12 Best Buys awards programme, and this year topped the podium as our choice for light SUV/crossover. In the process, it beats such cars as Renault’s Captur (also on our fleet) and Mazda’s impressive CX-3.
However, spending two weeks with a road test vehicle is a far different exercise than driving one for 12 months. Will we unearth chinks in its armour?
So far, it looks unlikely. Our Soul is the best model in the range, the 1,6D fitted with Kia’s new (and excellent) seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.
Jumping from my previous long-termer, a Citroën C4 Cactus, into the Soul quickly illustrated the latter’s additional interior space. At the front or at the rear, there is an abundance of leg-, shoulder- and headroom.
Experience with previous long-termers has shown my colleagues love nothing more than to mess with the frugal average fuel consumption I manage to achieve, so I’ve kept the Kia’s keys safe.. The result is an average of only 6,34 L/100 km. It does help that my current return commute spans 100 km along free-flowing, quick sections of highway.
These commutes are made effortless by that dual-clutch transmission. Kia’s manual gearboxes are excellent, too, but this new unit shifts smoothly and quickly, and is a great companion to the refined, punchy turbodiesel engine.
As this model is the top-spec Soul in the range, it is fitted with a number of luxury and convenience features, including LED daytime-running lights coupled with xenon main lamps, headlight washers and LED combination rear lights.
Inside, there’s an electrically adjustable driver’s seat and, more importantly to me, cruise control. Oh, and adding colour to the cabin is bright-green stitching on the seats and steering wheel, as well as mood lamps. The latter are circular light units that surround the two main speakers up front and they change in brightness and colour depending on the sound being emitted from the audio system. I like it, but for those less vibrantly inclined, the feature can be deactivated.
This vehicle’s two-tone paintwork, Newport Blue with a white roof, makes it stand out on the road. Smart models also boast 18-inch wheels wrapped in 235/45 rubber, which look great but render the ride choppy on Stellenbosch’s speed-bump and scar-littered streets. However, once on the highway the ride irons out.
After 1 month
Current Mileage: 2 032 km
Average fuel consumption: 6,34 L/100 km
We like: space; frugal consumption
We don’t like: slightly choppy ride