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It’s got soul: Kia Soul 1.6 CRDi DCT


A familiar clarion call when it comes to modern vehicles is "all cars look the same." And as with most maxims there might be a smidgen of truth in it, with the likes of safety regulations and the optimising of aerodynamics leading to a certain degree of automotive homogeneity.

But not the Kia Soul. Oh no. This B-segment car, really crossover, is decidedly different from most machines on the road, and certainly most machines in its price bracket. Gone, gone, gone are the days when Korean cars had photocopy styling. Just as are the days when you bought a Korean car because you couldn't afford the Japanese or European equivalent (but probably wouldn't admit it to yourself or anyone else).

Anyway, I recently spent a week with the range-topping Soul, which uses Kia's first seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, and takes over from the old six-speed torque converter automatic. It did two things.

One, it once more reinforced why manual gearboxes make very little sense - unless you're buying at the bottom-end of the market where cost restraints mean you need to change gears yourself, or unless you crave the slightly archaic tactility of manual cog-swapping.

Two, it yet again proved that the Soul is no cute, novelty-infused styling exercise, but rather a highly competent, polished, real-world car. I've written about the Soul before, however, so I'll concentrate on the transmission, which consists of two dry clutches, both fitted with electric motor-driven clutch actuators. Without getting too technical, this translates into snappy, seamless shifts, and the Soul has a vaguely, but not intrusively, sporty edge to it.

Power comes, of course, from a 1.6-litre turbodiesel powerplant banging out a healthy enough 100kW at 4 000rpm, plus 300Nm between 1 900 and 2 750rpm. This gives a zero-to-100km/h run of 11.1 seconds - and I was a little surprised at that figure, as the Soul seems nippier in practice. Top speed? A respectable 188km/h, although of course the speed limit is 120km/h, isn't it?

The whole package is well screwed together, well equipped and a little extroverted. You wouldn't want one if you're the shy and retiring sort.

For this you'll pay R408 995. Yes, I know. The days when Korean cars substantially undercut just about everything else on price are but a memory. But you do get Kia's new five-year/unlimited mileage warranty, five-year/unlimited mileage roadside assistance, and four-year/90 000km service plan.

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