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Kia presents new-generation Soul in the US

Thankfully, the urban car retains its funky exterior styling

Er, those extremely thin lights are the headlamps, right?! PHOTO FROM KIA

Since the introduction of the first-generation Kia Soul in 2009, it has won the attention and the hearts of car buyers looking for something quirky and fun. Though its performance was never exactly stellar, the Soul exuded a certain “urban cool” factor that gave it a bit of an edge. A gem in the rough, this one.

At the ongoing 2018 Los Angeles Auto Show, Kia has pulled the covers off its latest subcompact urban runabout. It’s quite evident that the not-so-new kid on the block has matured in more ways than one. At first glance, it’s obvious Kia has upped the ante in the looks department for the third-generation Soul, which sports sharper design cues while maintaining the car’s familiar, funky shape. Squinting headlights paired with a prominent grille seem to be the latest styling trend from South Korea these days.

Is it just us or does the all-new Kia Soul really look bored? PHOTO FROM KIA

Although sitting on an all-new platform, the new Soul has a profile that stays true to the boxy look, as highlighted by the signature vertical rear window and the winglike C-pillar. Adding a dash of freshness are redesigned 18-inch wheels and a sportier rear with curving taillights and a center-positioned dual exhaust. Overall, the vehicle is 56mm longer than the outgoing model, with a tad bit more legroom in the front and more cargo space at the back.

The rear is a bit too busy (and too weird) for our simple taste. PHOTOS FROM KIA

The base engine is a naturally aspirated 2.0-liter Nu four-cylinder gasoline mill delivering 147hp and 179Nm. It is mated to either a six-speed manual transmission or the so-called Intelligent Variable Transmission. Those wanting more oomph can go for the 1.6-liter twin-scroll-turbo four-cylinder gasoline motor with a more robust 201hp and 264Nm. All that pep is transferred to the front wheels via a snappy seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox.

Incidentally, Kia has also unveiled an EV version that packs 201hp and 395Nm.

The 1.6-liter straight-four engine has a twin-scroll turbo. PHOTO FROM KIA

Placing a premium on driving and ride experience, Kia engineers tweaked the suspension geometry to improve handling and comfort while adding refinement by reducing noise, vibration and harshness throughout the chassis and the cabin. A high regard for safety was also considered as the Soul now comes with a sturdier structure using Advanced High-Strength Steel, hot-stamped components and structural adhesive. With better build integrity combined with such Kia Drive Wise technologies as forward collision avoidance, lane-keeping assist, lane-changing assist, driver attention warning, blind-spot collision warning, rear cross collision warning, smart cruise control and high-beam assist, the Soul is safer than it has ever been and is expected to get the highest marks from auto safety assessment agencies in the United States.

We still can’t decide whether we like the roundish cockpit. PHOTO FROM KIA

The cockpit is just as interesting and engaging with a flat-bottom tiller (GT-Line) and a 10.25-inch HD touchscreen display. One of the main highlights of the interior is the mood lighting system, which offers six intriguingly named mood options: Hey! Yo!, Party Time, Traveling, Romance, Midnight City and Cafe. This enhances the cabin atmosphere with the help of a 640W Harman Kardon 10-speaker audio system.

The 2020 Soul is slated to be sold in the US within the first half of 2019. After that, it will only be a matter of time before the car reaches our shores (most likely via the new Philippine distributor).

Manskee Nascimento

Manskee is a music-loving petrolhead who specializes in car care. He finds peace in long drives to and from his home in La Union.