Kia’s Soul has hit the shores of Britain, and early feedback from the last bastion of English-language automotive print journalism credibility is looking promising. The Soul faces stiff competition in Old Blighty, taking on a pallette of available small cars, wagons and CUVs that American buyers can only imagine. And with European expectations for small car quality as high as they are, if the Soul is going to fall flat the Brits would sure let us know ahead of time. Instead, the reviews seem to indicate that the Soul is no less brand-redefining than Hyundai’s Genesis.
Gavin Conway of the Times of London indicates this possibility in his recent test drive, calling the US-bound Soul “quite good” looking. Quality? “The cabin is one of the best Kia has built,” writes Conway. “All the controls are simple and easy to understand, and the materials and finish are a match for those of Japanese rivals, as is build quality.” And though Conway admits that “nobody is ever going to buy a Kia because they are looking for the ultimate driving experience,” he notes that “the Soul does better than expected in that department.”
The boys at the Sun were some of the first to drive the Soul, and Phil Lanning and Ken Gibson call it “cool,” “funky,” “agile,” “a fantastic value.” Lanning concludes his first test drive by saying “this is the first Kia with heart and soul — and so many will fall in love with it,” while Gibson names it a “Trump Car” of ’09.
Meanwhile, Talking Motors has picked up on the building hype, adding it to the new Prius and BMW M3 as potential “top cars of 2009.” The only problem? Every British reviewer prefers the 45 mpg (us gallons, non-EPA) 1.6 liter diesel which is not planned for the American release. And none of them have reviewed the 2.0 gas engine that will power the majority of American Souls. And all fanboyishness aside, TTAC has not yet driven this car. Nor do we take any other keyboard jockey’s word for anything other than their opinion. Still, if Kia is getting the brand redefinition chatter in the entry level market that the Genesis has received upmarket, the elder Niedermeyer’s words should be well-heeded. The Japanese need to watch their backs.