You know what the Asian car manufacturers really need, (excluding Honda by the way) is a good kick in the backside. Especially in their design departments. You just need to look around the Asian continent to see some of the most inspired structural designs of the modern era, for example the Jongno Tower or the DLI 63 Building – however one of the more impressive in my opinion has to be the N Seoul Tower.
At 237m heigh this pillar of light stands on top of Mount Namsan in central Seoul, South Korea. Built in 1969, and opened to the public in 1980, the communication and observation tower has been a symbol of Seoul and provides a great attraction to tourists in the area, especially after a renovation in 2005 added a high-tech edge to the experience, alongside its party-trick revolving restaurant.
This clearly shows the people in Asia have the ability to design striking buildings. However this doesn’t seem to have crossed over in their vehicle design departments. One only need look at the likes of the Kia Sedona and Hyundai Matrix to experience the most unbelievably boring and unimaginative design the world has ever seen.
So I say walk in there, paint the walls lumo orange, douse the designers with espresso and kick their backsides – hopefully one or two of them start drawing some decent looking vehicles, and if not decent looking at least they might have some inspiration behind them.
At this point I seem to think Kia might have a secret agent monitoring my thoughts, because based on their new Soul (excuse the pun) I have a sneaky suspicion they implemented my exact orders. I shudder to think I’m about to say this, but the Kia Soul actually looks quite daring and even a bit retro. The high shoulder line, big glass-box like cabin, chunky grille and manga-like headlights break every trend that Kia has ever set and what you end up with is something ground breaking.
Even the interior isn’t half bad. The plastics are softer to the touch, everything has been put together properly by hi-tec machines, as oppose to a three year old with a stick of Pritt, and nothing appears over the top. (Ie there aren’t any fake chrome or wood accents splattered about the place) Dare I say the interior has a Honda-ish feel about it? The level of kit certainly isn’t lacking either – with iPod connections, a cracking little sound system, climate control etc.
The little 1.6 litre four cylinder engine does it’s job adequately, which is a lot more than I can say for the Kia’s of old and the gear change is smooth through the five speed manual transmission. Unfortunately it’s not the most dynamic drive I’ve ever experienced mainly due to the Soul’s elevated stance. It seems a common trend of late that hatch backs sit somewhat higher than they used to, which might be appealing to the fairer sex who want to look more imposing on the road, however the high centre of gravity does no favours in the twisty stuff.
Although that high stance does come with the added benefit of a more spacious cabin. Head room obviously wasn’t a problem for me, it never is given I’m 5’7″ but even my more vertically gifted mates didn’t have any problems. Better still the Soul isn’t only upwardly spacious as there seems to be plenty of room throughout the cabin.
So it’s good looking, practical, goes alright and priced at just under R190,000 it isn’t exorbitantly expensive, especially since it comes with Kia’s million kilometre manufacturer warranty – which means they’re reasonably confident it won’t break any time soon. Not to mention a 5 star Euro N Cap safety rating.
I honestly never believed that in my life time I would come across a decent Kia. Seems I was mistaken, which doesn’t happen too often I might add and even less often that I’ll admit it. I firmly believe that this car might be the beginning of a new generation of Kia’s that people will actually want to buy.
Photo Credit: Quickpic