Don’t dismiss Kia’s Soul survivor
PUBLISHED: 06:52 30 July 2015
The Kia Soul’s looks won’t be to everyone’s taste but, beneath the skin, you’ll love the space and practicality, says motoring editor Andy Russell.
Don’t dismiss this
Price: Kia Soul 1.6 CRDi Mixx manual £19,950 (range £12,800 to £23,250)
Engine: 1,582cc, 126bhp, four-cylinder turbo diesel
Performance: 0-60mph 10.8 seconds; top speed 112mph
MPG: Urban 46.3; extra urban 64.2; combined 56.5
CO2 emissions: 132g/km
Benefit-in-kind tax rate: 24%
Insurance group: 10 (out of 50)
Warranty: Seven years or 100,000 miles
Will it fit in the garage? Length 4,140mm; width (excluding door mirrors) 1,800mm (18in wheels 1,831mm); height 1,600mm (18in wheels 1,606mm)
Sometimes you need to look beneath the skin to really appreciate the benefits of a car. The Kia Soul’s look won’t be to everyone’s taste but you’ll love the space and practicality, says motoring editor Andy Russell.
I bet if I gave a child an earthy, potato they’d turn their nose up at it and say they don’t like it. Give them a bag of chips and it would be a different story!
And that’s what the Kia Soul made me think of – no, not a potato but people prejudging something because of the way it looks when, if they just gave it a chance, they might find it quite tasty and appealing.
Kia’s Soul competes in the compact sport utility vehicle crossover sector but its distinctive looks make it stand out, especially the special edition Mixx I drove with its white body, red roof and mirror cappings and big bold alloy wheels. The second-generation’s styling is evolutionary but it’s slightly longer and wider, but lower, emphasising what Kia calls the Soul’s ‘bulldog’ proportions.
What’s it like inside though…
Get past the exterior styling and you have a practical, charismatic family car with even more space for passengers and cargo than the previous model. It’s really rather likeable, practical, versatile and comfortable.
With a seating position higher than conventional hatchbacks it’s easy to get in and out of the Soul and, once inside, it’s surprisingly spacious with an enormous amount of legroom and headroom, front and back. You can fit four six-footers, probably five given the low centre tunnel, in the Soul and no one would complain.
The boot doesn’t look that big with the sill-height floor but lift the floor panel and there’s a deep moulded storage tray beneath which is ideal to stop clutter rolling around. Take the tray out and put the floor panel back in the low position and you have a deep, flat-sided 354-litre boot. Rear seats backs split 60/40 and lay flat with the boot floor at sill level to give up to 1,367 litres.
At the wheel
The fascia isn’t as funky as the exterior but it is logically laid out with a circular theme to the design inspired by ripples spreading outwards when drops of water land in the centre of a still pond.
Big, clear instruments and simple switchgear that is easy to locate and use and light controls and gearshift all help to make the Soul easy and relaxing to drive, especially in heavy traffic.
The large, central touchscreen for functions including Bluetooth, audio and, where fitted, satellite-navigation is set high on the fascia and helps create an uncluttered, fuss-free feel to the fascia.
What you also notice in the higher quality feel to the interior with soft-touch plastics, gloss black panels on most models and tasteful brightwork accents.
The small rear screen and rear side windows limit visibility but my test car had a reversing camera which made manoeuvring in tight spaces less tricky.
Under the bonnet
There’s two 1.6-litre direct-injection engines too choose from – 130bhp petrol and 126bhp turbo diesel and, with the latter costing £1,600, more you’ve got to the miles to justify it.
That said, the diesel is a pleasant travelling companion – flexible enough to poodle along in slow traffic in high gears but on the open road it needs a few revs to come alive with enough mid-range punch and revving happily for safe, simple overtaking.
No matter how I drove it – fast runs or the mixed driving commute – the Soul returned 45mpg, not bad given it is not the most aerodynamic shape.
How it drives
The new chassis is based on that of the Kia cee’d hatchback and SW estate which not only creates more space inside but also plays a big part in improving the driving quality and experience.
The suspension has been tweaked to cope with deteriorating roads in established markets and poor surfaces found in many developing ones and it’s generally smooth and composed. I suspect the bigger 18in wheels on special edition Mixx and Maxx didn’t do it any favours, thumping over sunken manhole covers and small potholes with the low-profile tyres more sensitive to road defects.
The tall body and comfort-biased suspension create some body lean at speed through corners, not alarmingly so, but most owners will be more interested in ride quality than dynamic handling.
Equipment and features
As well as mainstream Start, Connect and Connect Plus models there’s the Soul Mixx and Maxx with extrovert styling and even higher levels of technology.
All models get DAB radio, variable power steering with comfort, normal and sport settings, keyless entry, air conditioning, electric mirror and windows, steering wheel-mounted control, USB and auxiliary ports and six airbags.
Connect adds 17in alloy wheels, front fog lamps, heated door mirrors, Bluetooth and cruise control with speed limiter, a reversing camera and upgraded cabin trim and a storage box between the front seats. Connect Plus includes an upgraded sound system with sat-nav.
Soul Mixx gets contrasting roof and mirrors colour, gloss black bumpers, heated front seats, front, rear and side skirts and wheel arch garnish while Maxx has leather seats, thin film transistor instruments, panoramic sunroof, front and rear parking sensors and keyless entry and ignition.
The Kia Soul is a real case of ‘don’t judge a book by the cover’. Those looks won’t be to everyone’s tastes but look beyond them and you have a hugely practical, well-executed family car with some thoughtful touches, a lot of kit and that seven-year warranty. It’s just a question of whether the Soul can win your heart as well as your head.