Kia Soul 1.6 GDi Start Driven - Compelling Cubism

The concept of the overtly boxy hatchback has never really caught on in the UK like it did in both Japan and the U.S. (the latter for a time, at least).

Over here, Nissan's Cube lasted barely a year, while Daihatsu's intriguing Materia survived only as long as the company itself before exchange rates forced its exit from the UK.

Kia Soul rear angle close

Strangely though, the Kia Soul has endured. Perhaps it's Kia's huge 7-year warranty attracting customers, or the prospect of dragon-themed special editions. Or perhaps it's the price, since the entry-level Start 1.6 GDi tested here comes in at just 12,600.

For comparison, that's barely more than you'd pay for a mid-range Kia Rio with the 1.25-litre engine. We like the Rio a lot, but it's hard not to argue it lacks a little... well, soul, next to the Soul. Budget-conscious customers wanting more from their runaround than five doors and a low price tag will welcome it.

Kia Soul front

Of course, the Soul has tough competition at this end of the market. An entry-level Nissan Juke or Renault Captur is similarly priced.

Arguably, the Soul is funkier than either, even if Start models lack alloy wheels or front fog lights. You still get the chunky headlights and bulldog grille, the large flared wings and the neat black-rimmed tailgate whose centre section appears to float between the rear lights.

Kia Soul detail

And of course, you lose nothing in interior volume to the high-end Connect Plus we also tested. The satnav disappears, as do the leather steering wheel and glowing speaker surrounds. But interior ergonomics are good, with tilt and reach adjustment in the wheel, a height-adjustable seat, good visibility and chunky controls. It feels well-built too, and aside from the big-buttoned stereo with its small glowing display you don't feel too hard done-by for choosing the cheapest model.

It's good on the road, too. Cracked road surfaces occasionally catch out the suspension, but it feels tough enough to deal with potholes and speed bumps. There's enough grip to tackle roundabouts at pace, and while we'd prefer a slightly quicker steering rack it's reasonably accurate and well-weighted.

Kia Soul interior

The engine feels livelier than previous 1.6 Kias we've driven too. It can't match the diesel for economy - though we did manage up to 40 mpg in our town and country drive around Leeds - but it's quieter and smoother, and even has a bit of a kick to it if you explore the furthest reaches of the rev range.

Priced as tested: 12,600
MPG: 41.5
CO2: 158 g/km

Kia Soul side


Kia says around two thirds of buyers will opt for the diesel engine, and those that do will find plenty to like. Most buyers also head for higher trim levels, and all the fancy connected tech, mood lighting and satellite navigation systems that entails.

But those who stick to the Start won't be disappointed. It's competitively priced, and while its CO2 emissions and economy figures aren't spectacular on paper, it seems capable of getting close on the road. The lively engine is a delight in town, which is where the Soul excels - it has the looks, it has the drive and it has the comfy, spacious interior. If you're shopping for Jukes, 2008s and Capturs, give it a try.

Head over to our full Kia Soul reviews page for more reviews, photos, videos and statistics.

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