Crossover has plenty of soul

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Kia’s innovative and hugely successful urban crossover, the Soul, has been refreshed from top to bottom for the 2012 model year.

New or revised 1.6-litre engines and the introduction of a six-speed gearbox on all models improve performance while lowering fuel consumption, emissions and running costs.

The revised model offers a choice of two regular trim grades, badged Soul 1 and Soul 2, and two ‘Soul Originals’, the Hunter and Quantum. ‘Soul Originals’ is a rolling programme of special versions with unique styling and trim, changed at regular intervals.

Soul is an urban crossover – small enough to be ideally suited to the world’s urban jungles, but totally different to conventional, workday small cars. By combining the charm and desirability of the Mini and Fiat 500 with a hint of SUV ruggedness, Soul opened up an entirely new market sub-segment when it first appeared in 2008.

For 2012, Soul’s rugged charm has been given an even sportier twist with changes to the grilles, lights, front bodywork and wheels. A new bumper with a wider, lower air intake changes the proportions of the car and gives it a wider stance, and the grilles are now set off with cubic effect inserts which give it a more premium look. The new front grille is reflected at the rear, where a large tusk-shaped section in the bumper helps to visually stretch the width of the car.

Soul 1 now has body-coloured door handles and mirrors and a top-tinted windscreen, while Soul 2 gains muscular surrounds around its front fog lights, 16-inch alloy wheels and folding electric door mirrors containing stylish indicator repeaters.

Soul is powered by two 1.6-litre engines – a new direct-injection (GDi) petrol unit developing 138bhp – up 14bhp on the previous 1.6-litre – and a modified 126bhp turbodiesel (CRDi).

A six-speed manual gearbox replaces the five-speed unit previously used, while the CRDi engine is optionally available with a six-speed automatic in place of the former four-speed transmission.

The new powertrains bring significant gains in performance, economy and running costs. The diesel manual is now 0.6 seconds quicker from rest to 60mph (10.3 seconds), while more than 3mpg more fuel-efficient (57.6mpg). This is sufficient to bring its CO2 emissions down by 8g/km to 129g/km, which means owners are exempt from Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) in the car’s first year.

The new petrol engine and six-speed gearbox combination, meanwhile, ensures the Soul delivers sparkling performance with impressively sparing use of fuel. It can accelerate from standstill to 62mph in 10 seconds, while its official combined-cycle economy is 44.1mpg. With CO2 emissions of 149g/km, it sits in band F for VED, which saves owners £35 a year compared with the previous model. Both engines deliver the outstanding torque vital to modern UK motoring, with excellent power for motorway use.

Soul has a long wheelbase and wide track, with inherent benefits for stable handling and a comfortable ride.

It has Kia’s motor-driven electronic power-assisted steering, which contributes three per cent to fuel savings compared with a conventional engine-driven hydraulic rack-and-pinion system. Power assistance is provided only when needed, reducing power draw on the engine.

Soul comes as standard with electronic stability control (ESC) and anti-lock brakes (ABS) with electronic brake force distribution (EBD). ESC intervenes to prevent skids by braking one or more wheels, reducing engine power or both if sensors detect the car may be in danger of going out of control. EBD, meanwhile, automatically ensures that stopping power is directed to the four wheels in such a way as to ensure the car is brought to a halt in the shortest possible distance.

To top it off, all versions have Kia’s pioneering seven-year, 100,000 miles warranty.

Prices start from £11,500 on the road.

Experience the Soul at Newbarn Kia, 65 Aldwick Road, Bognor Regis. Telephone 01243 841200.