First drive: Kia Soul 2010 UAE launch in Dubai
The all-new Kia Soul was launched in the UAE today, at an event held in Dubai. The Soul, a compact hatchback that is bordering on becoming a small crossover SUV, will initially be available only in 1.6-litre form, with the 2.0-litre version being held back to gauge demand.
The Kia Soul is not a small car by any means. It is larger in real life than in photos, and competes in the compact segment, rather than the sub-compact segment that the Honda Jazz and the Toyota Yaris plays in. It is also pretty tall for a car, and all this translates to excellent front and rear cabin space, even if the luggage volume suffers out back.
The interior is simpler than we thought, with hard plastics all over. Not even the door-armrests are padded. And yet our top-spec model came with an iPod-ready stereo that had a sub-woofer on the dashboard, and front door speakers with red lighting that glowed to the beat of the music. The mildly-bolstered cloth seats were imprinted with “SOUL” countless times over, to remind you of the afterlife. Other odd features include a glovebox and another storage cubby that are both bright red on the inside when you open them. Our tester had power-windows, keyless entry, rear parking beepers, manual seat adjustment, sunroof and front airbags, but it looks like side-airbags have been left out.
On the road, the automatic Kia Soul struggles when the throttle is mashed. The 122 hp 1.6-litre engine looks tiny nestled in the huge engine bay. It likes to rev hard, but not much happens when trying to overtake trucks at beyond 100 kph. Carrying three passengers slows everything down even further.
There was an average amount of wind noise on the highway, but the road noise was occasionally loud, thanks to 225-width tyres on the higher-spec 18-inch wheels. The ride was mildly firm, but we didn’t have any complaints other than on sharp speed-bumps.
The Soul handles decently, with moderate body roll. The generously-wide tyres offer fair grip, although that is the only sporting part of the car. The electric power steering lacks feel, and goes from soft to firm abruptly, depending on throttle. Also, the front discs and rear drum brakes offer up a slightly wobbly braking experience.
The driving time was short and largely on the highway, but we still got to play around with it a bit, on a handful of corners before chomping down on the free lunch at the Jebel Ali Shooting Club. The event ended with a round of target practice, with 9mm handguns and real bullets. We’re still trying to figure out how that ended up being on the day’s agenda.
Priced from Dhs 53,900 all the way to Dhs 62,000, the Kia Soul is competitively priced. Various options such as fancier rims, stickers, chrome trim and body kits drive the price higher.
For more information about GCC specs and available options, visit the Kia Soul buyer guide.