Kia Soul 1.6 CRDi Shaker

Korean car is a distinctive addition to the class

Typically, Kias appeal to the head, but the new Soul is also supposed to appeal to the heart. The supermini is designed to add a welcome dash of desirability to the Korean company’s worthy image. But will that be enough to see off the practical new Citroen?

The Soul is billed as an urban crossover, although it’s practical, too. The flagship Burner has already beaten Skoda’s versatile Roomster (Issue 1,054), yet we’ve chosen the more restrained Shaker for this test. Thanks to Kia’s competitive pricing, you can get a diesel Soul for less than the cost of our C3 Picasso, while the 1.6-litre petrol costs £1,000 less.

Unlike its rivals, the Kia has not been styled to resemble a scaled down MPV. Instead, the firm’s designers have given the car a tough SUV appearance. With a raised ride height, upright windscreen and chunky wheelarches filled with 18-inch alloys, the Korean car looks every inch the mini off-roader. The only downside is that the distinctive beige finish of our Shaker is the only paintwork option available with this special launch trim.

Inside, the dashboard gets the same colour treatment. There’s no doubt it helps to brighten the interior, but it’s likely to become grubby with normal family use. However, that’s one of the few complaints we can level against the Kia’s cabin. The firm has worked hard to create a quality feel, and only the occasional piece of hard and shiny plastic trim lets the interior down.

Buyers certainly won’t feel short-changed by the amount of space on offer. Passengers travelling in the back get plenty of head and legroom, while useful storage cubbies are dotted all over the cabin. Better still, the tall SUV-style driving position provides excellent visibility. The Soul can’t match the Nissan and Citroen for ultimate versatility, though.

It’s the only car in our line-up that doesn’t have a sliding rear bench, and the 340-litre boot only trumps the smaller Daihatsu by 46 litres. But what the Soul lacks in space it makes up for with kit. Air-con, an electric sunroof and iPod connection are all standard. There’s even a reversing camera which transmits images to the rear view mirror.

The Kia ups the stakes when you hit the road. Its 126bhp 1.6-litre diesel feels more muscular than its petrol rivals. Despite being the heaviest car here, it sprinted from 30-50mph in 4.6 seconds in third – that’s six-tenths faster than the Note.

Away from the test track, the Soul impresses with its refinement. As with the Citroen, it provides a grown-up driving experience, with surprisingly low noise levels and a comfortable ride.

Head for a twisty road, and the Kia shows real composure. The steering is accurate, there is plenty of grip and body roll is well controlled. It can’t match the Nissan for entertainment, but it’s not far behind.

So with its neat styling, strong pace, good driving dynamics and spacious cabin, the Soul is without doubt Kia’s best car yet.

Details

Chart position: 3WHY: With distinctive looks and decent dynamics, the new Soul is a Kia with style and character all of its own.

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