Kia Soul review

Our Rating: 
4
4.0/5.0
By Auto Express Test TeamComments

New Kia Soul keeps the chunky looks of the previous model, but improves practicality and equipment

For: 
Practical shape, Long warranty, Unique looks
Against: 
Only two engine options, Not that economical, Bumpy ride on larger wheels

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The Kia Soul is now in its second generation and is wider, longer and more stylish than the car it replaces. A rival to the Nissan Juke, Renault Captur and Peugeot 2008 in the ever-expanding small crossover sector it blends supermini dimensions with SUV-style looks.

It now rides on the same platform as the Kia Cee’d but it retains the distinctive chunky SUV-inspired looks of the bold original. The changes beneath the surface help improve practicality and boost passenger space. 

Buyers can pick from either a 130bhp 1.6-litre petrol or a 126bhp 1.6-litre diesel engine. As you'd expect, the diesel promises lower running costs for those covering high mileages. There’s a choice of five trims – Start, Connect, Connect Plus, Mixx and Maxx – with the higher end models coming with a generous standard kit tally. All Souls benefit from Kia's renowned seven-year, 100,000-mile warranty, too.

Our choice: Soul 1.6 CRDi Mixx

Styling

3.7

The Soul is only a little longer than a Ford Fiesta but its chunky styling makes it stand out. Bigger than before with a slightly more grown-up look, the latest Soul still features trademark features like a floating roof and rounded A-Pillars, but there’s now a more pronounced SUV look to the Kia. Yet, the lastest model has taken several design cues from the Track’ster concept first seen at the Chicago Motor Show in 2013.  

There’s a choice of five trims - Start, Connect, Connect Plus, Mixx and Maxx – with the last two getting an Urban Styling Pack that adds to the bold looks with black trim treatment on the bumpers, side skirts and wheelarches. Mixx models can be specified with four two-tone designs with coloured roofs, while the flagship Maxx gets a panoramic glass roof. You can choose from 11 exterior colours and several alloy wheel designs. 

Mixx and Maxx models get 18-inch rims, with 16 and 17-inch designs featuring on other models. The entry-level Start comes with 16-inch steel wheels. 

Inside, the cabin features a modern dash with deep-set TFT dials. The layout is straightforward, build quality is excellent and higher spec models come with excellent touch-screen navigation and a high-end audio system, while piano black inserts brighten up the cabin even further. Material quality is better than a Nissan Juke, and crucially for this type of car, everything feels robust enough to put up with the trials of family motoring. 

Driving

3.4

You have a choice of 1.6-litre petrol or 1.6-litre diesel engines with the Kia Soul. The petrol motor isn’t turbocharged – unlike its rivals – which does impact on economy but it is cheaper to buy. Although a little noisy at idle, the diesel is the engine to go for as it has plenty of low down torque and is can return over 50mpg.

Kia Soul 2014 action

A large windscreen, smaller A-Pillars and raised ride height give an excellent view out the front and the wheel adjusts for reach and height. Kia’s Flex Steer system gives you a button on the wheel to switch between Sport, Normal and Sport steering modes, but while weighting increases a bit, there’s little real difference in feedback or feel. However, the increased proportions of the new model mean it holds the road better, while the more rigid body helps reduce body roll.

The six-speed manual gearbox has a light but pleasant shift action, and from Connect trim onwards there’s the choice of a six-speed auto, too. The first-generation Soul had a disappointingly firm ride but Kia has fitted a more advanced suspension setup to help rectify the issue.

Reliability

4.3

Kia has a well-earned reputation for strong reliability and an industry-leading seven-year/100,000-mile warranty to back it up and demonstrate the confidence the company has in its products. Kia scores well in our annual Driver Power survey and the last-generation Soul was a solid and robust car.

The latest Soul shares underpinnings with the Kia Cee'd so the major mechanical components are well proven, as are the 1.6-litre diesel and petrol engines. This model has also been on sale in the US for a few months, so any niggles should be ironed out. Kia also has a good reputation for safety, with multiple airbags and ESP all fitted as standard across the Soul range. The latest model hasn’t yet been crashed tested by Euro NCAP but the previous model received the full five-star score, so we’d expect the second-gen model to do just as well. 

Practicality

3.7
Kia Soul 2014 interior

The Soul is bigger and more practical than ever. Compared to the first Soul, the latest version has a 20mm longer wheelbase and is 15mm wider, which contributes to a more spacious cabin and an extra luggage room. It’s also 10mm lower to the ground so it’s easier to get in and out and headroom hasn’t been affected.

Boot space has increased by 14 litres to 354 litres, plus you get extra storage under the boot floor. The high roofline gives excellent headroom and the rear seats are comfortable. The small transmission tunnel also increases rear passenger space and you’ll have no trouble fitting three adults across the rear bench.

However, unlike some crossover rivals, the rear seats don’t slide and there’s no clever folding modulation. But even though they don’t fold fully flat you get 1,367 litres of luggage space if you load to the roof with the seats down. Higher trim models come with handy features like a reversing camera, navigation and Bluetooth.

Running Costs

3.8

Unlike some other Kia models, there's no super-efficient EcoDynamics version of the Soul, so those looking for ultra-low running costs will be disappointed. The 1.6-litre diesel engine is the most economical choice, but its 132g/km CO2 output is on the high side. If you go for the petrol that figure rises dramatically to increases to 170g/km. 

More expensive models come with lots of standard kit and every Soul benefits from Kia’s industry leading seven-year warranty. If significantly reduced running costs is what you’re after, Kia will be bringing an all-electric version of the Soul the UK later this year. 

Disqus - noscript

Cute little thing, practical, well priced and with a 7 year warranty should sell very well for Kia.

Cute? Are you blind?

It's one of the most ugly cars I've seen in a long time.

If you are daft enough to buy one, don't buy the auto, it will be awful, Kia's auto boxes are to say the least a bit schizophrenic in the fact they go up & down like a mad thing they never seem to select the correct gear.

Must be your driving, mine is fine.

And looks are subjective, and this will find a ready audience of admirers. I would guess that your preferences are very conservative.

Try doing a fast acceleration! The Kia boxes are probably the worst I've ever driven.

Ford & Vauxhall boxes are seemingly better at judging things; And you can't compare it to the likes of DSG and the other autos in BMW, MB etc.

Why do they say industry leading warranty? I would have thought Vauxhall would be the leader with a lifetime warranty.

Lifetime = only to the original owner, not lifetime of the car. plus, like KIA, there are so many get-out clauses after the first year, it really isn't worth the paper it's printed on.

The rear looks like they grafted an up! goppy front grille onto an up! rear tailgate. Horrid looking thing, and typical Kia, mis-matching designs from other makers.

Those get out clauses are in the standard 3 year warranties for other marques too. The Vauxhall and Kia warranties are actually very good.

These Peter Schreyer designs are all the better for being adventurous compared to the dull looking Skodas, and even worse are the ultra-boring VW and Audis.

Don't agree about Skoda/VW/Audi, which I think are generally handsome and deliberately cool.

I do agree though, that Schreyer's Kia work is interesting and innovative.

The Soul is not my particular cup of tea, but it's different from the average SUV style vehicle.

They all age quicker than a pint of milk too.

Kia refused to replace a womans clutch on her 6 month old 3,000 mile Kia Soul, saying it was wear and tear. That is despicable.

I had a VW Golf fitted with a DSG transmission and various issues which mostly related to the software. Multiple visits to VW dealer and lots of inconvenience. Eventually got rid. Would certainly take a chance on a Kia product before anything from the VW Group.

Can't believe they are that bad. This car like other Kias sell well in the US - a big auto box market! As for VW group DSG transmissions, based on the experience I had, I wouldn't touch them again as I mention in my comment below.

I don't usually keep a car longer than three years,but I am tempted to keep my vauxhall longer. I only do about 8,000 miles a year, I could still have a warranty after 12years. If it is not worth the paper it is written on why don't other manufacturers offer the same ? It would not cost them any more , would it.

In Australia and the USA we get the 2lt engine which goes really good and suits the car better.I feel sorry for you poms having to chase maximum economy at the expense to performance and fun.

You were obviously one of the unlucky one's, I've had three of them & none have given me any trouble.

VW / Audi have a real stigma against them and image problem. But they are deliberately dull because there is a very large market place for tedious car styling.

You can find a similar story for any car manufacturer.

I don't see why car makers (and therefore the rest of us as costs get passed on) should have to pay out because of poor drivers riding the clutch.

So you didn't get the recall letter then?

They are not that bad. That suggestion that the transmission is bad is fiction,

Kia use Aisin AW (alliance with Borg Warner) auto transmissions. Aisin is part of Toyota and the same autobox has been used in Alfas, Volvos, Peugeots and Jeeps.

Owning a Skoda myself, I quite like the look of the Kia Soul. It would great as 2nd car, small enough to park in tight spots and looks streets ahead of the bland focus and astra's.

Stigma and image problem?

Dull and tedious?

Hardly. A great many people appreciate the calm styling of VW Group vehicles, and this is reflected in sales success.

But if you like something more adventurous, there are plenty of alternatives out there.

Nope. I've just traded each car in after 3 years as I usually do, they were all running superbly when the trade in occurred.

LOL, VWs and Audis are aged before they even go on sale. Like their drivers.

Well if you look at the Driver Power surveys, none of those manufacturers are very high up the rankings are they.

I wouldn't have a:

Jeep - too heavy & thirsty,

Volvo - Were a part of Ford & now Chinese, haven't touched one in years as they're too expensive to maintain.

Pugs (Had two, both good until one went kaput with DPF issues), never again.

Alfa - Never tried one, as I've never liked the looks of them.

Sales success?

Read the comment again....
" there is a very large market place for tedious car styling."

Hence the sales success.
Do try and keep up.

Old fashioned a bit like you then. :-P

Yep, read it thanks.

Your opinion as to what is tedious or not is valid, but doesn't necessarily make you right, as others' opinions are equally valid.

Out of curiosity, what do you regard as a non-tedious car design?

Try telling that to my son in law, 21, new Skoda Fabia vRS, me, 42, new Skoda Octavia vRS 2014. My umpteenth Skoda, in between other makes of company cars like Vauxhalls, Peugeots, Fords, BMW etc - all were so so underwhelming but my vRS' always put a smile on my face.

One of the unlucky ones? Are you serious? DSG transmissions are well known for such issues, and plenty of unlucky owners out there like me if you look on internet owners clubs/chatrooms!

Toyota? Conveniently left out by the childish VW fanboy? These auto boxes have an important feature that DSG doesn't have they are reliable

Any non VW or Audi designs.

I don't drive a golf, so no.

VW Group currently includes eight passenger car brands, plus Ducati bikes.

From what you say, I take it that 6+1 brands are non-tedious for you.

So VW and Audi surely earn points for simply being a little different from other group brands, and certainly for not trying to be clones of Citroen, Ford, Hyundai, et al.

Troll by name, troll by nature.

Go swivel sunshine.

Last updated: 9 Apr, 2014

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