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