If you drive a Kia Soul, Nissan Safaris will tailgate you
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There’s nothing in the world that can better inform you of a car’s little foibles than a nice little road trip.
Long after one’s Spotify playlist has gone stale and long after yourself or your passengers have gotten tired of playing I Spy, the act of tearing apart the good bad and ugly of the four-wheeled friend helping you get from A to B will remain a leading time killer.
As such, our cars on test often find themselves getting roped into weekend duty — case in point here being the Kia Soul 1.6-litre Turbo that I’ve been tootling about in since last week.
It just so happened to arrive on the week of round three of the D1NZ National Drifting Championship, which set up the perfect weekend of automobile discovery. Here are five of our thoroughly unscientific findings.
1. You’ll get tailgated
The most contentious element of the whole Soul range are their looks. If you love them, then there’s nothing else on the market that will quench your thirst for the quirky. But plenty don’t, as evidenced by the behaviour of some of my fellow road users.
For the particularly triggered it’s not good enough to simply laugh at these vehicles from afar. Oh no, for those people they have to range right up to your bumper, close enough that you can calculate the thread count of their slightly stained singlet through the rear-view mirror.
The best of them were two Nissan Safaris that decided that my supposed comedy car was worthy enough for them to weld their off-road machines to my rear bumper in a sign of intimidation … I guess.
People like that simply can’t handle sitting behind something as cutesy as a Soul. This makes it fun to play with them when the passing lanes come up, because …
2. It is bloody fast
While its appearance might throw you, the Soul Turbo is a genuinely quick car. Certainly, it's more than quick enough to chop a Nissan Safari when the passing lane appears ...
It’s powered by a turbocharged 1.6-litre T-GDI engine. If that sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the same power plant as that which features in the highly underrated Pro_Cee’d GT hot hatch.
There’s a bit of torque steer and turbo lag, sure, but once you navigate those elements you’ll discover that it’s much faster than its looks might suggest. 100kph comes in less than eight seconds, making this just as fast in a sprint as a fricken Toyota 86.
Yes, OK, the 86 is hardly renowned for its power and speed. Sure. But you have to admit that it’s an amusing and impressive stat.
3. No Satnav is poor form
Not trying to sound like a technology snob or anything, but isn’t it a wee bit stingy to not offer satellite navigation in a car that’s just a few breaths away from a 40 grand retail price?
It forced me to unearth the trusty old TomTom unit from the depths of the proverbial chest of drawers, which — with its four-year old maps — eventually got me there.
Admittedly, no new Kia under 40k comes with Satnav, with only the Optima, Sorento, and Carnival people mover offering it as an option. But still, American-spec Soul Turbos get it — and for the money we probably should too.
4. The amount of room is endless
Even the biggest critic of the Soul’s appearance would have to concede that it does have one massive perk — interior space.
Legroom and headroom is immense and among the best in the segment, with the boot also supplying almost two cubic metres of loading capacity with the rear seats folded down.
This is all made possible by the fact that the Soul is effectively a box on wheels. The squared off edges mean more room for buyers to play with, and also more visibility for the driver. If you know someone with absolutely dreadful spatial awareness, this could well be the car for them.
5. They might be one of the rarest new cars in the country
Guess how many other Kia Souls I’ve spotted over the last two weeks. 30? 20? 12?
It's not like this is an unpopular segment, either. Compact crossovers are very much in vogue these days, as evidenced by every manufacturer and their dog chomping at the bit to create an offering — with brands like Suzuki pushing the imaginary boundaries on how we define the genre.
But while I saw dozens of SsangYong Tivolis, Honda HR-Vs, Nissan Jukes, and so on during my five-day tenure with the little Soul, spotting fellow Soulists proved difficult.
That's most likely bad news for Kia, but on the flipside if you're after a crossover that's weird in the best sense, then it only adds to the lure of the big, square, Korean curiosity.
Keep an eye on Driven.co.nz and Driven magazine for our full review of the Kia Soul 1.6-litre Turbo.