£13,995 - £23,250 Price range
40 - 58 MPG
The Kia Soul is a small car with attention-grabbing exterior and a spacious interior. It looked positively funky when it came out in 2008, but now, eight years later those looks have matured into something that gathers approving looks for its individuality.
The Soul is perfect for small families with its spacious interior and decent boot. The dashboard isn’t the last word in attractive design, but the build quality is good and so is the optional infotainment system.
The driving experience was overhauled in 2016’s facelift of the Soul, so it’s now as comfortable as rivals, but it lacks the fun-to-drive dynamics of the Nissan Juke. The Soul feels best in the city where its tight turning circle and good all-round visibility are best put to use.
And if you go for either the basic petrol or diesel, you had best stay in town because the petrol is gutless on the motorway and the diesel is quite loud. The 1.6-litre turbo petrol, added with the 2016 update, seems to resolve these issues, though.
Standard equipment is very generous with all Souls getting air conditioning, remote central locking, Bluetooth connectivity and USB sockets for your mobile phone or music player.
The 2016 facelift brought the Kia’s inners up to speed with rivals – it now has just as much polished black plastic and metal highlights as they do, and the build-quality has taken an evolutionary step for the better, too. There are plenty of buttons to press and knobs to turn, but everything is positioned logically and, depending on trim level, it’s arranged around a crisp touchscreen infotainment system.
Kia Soul infotainment
Connect Plus models (and up) have an eight-inch touchscreen that’s compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The large display raises eyebrows with its snappy operation, clear graphics and customisable home screen. The level of technology is impressive in the class and as an added bonus a reversing camera is thrown in, too.
Kia Soul passenger space
For 2016, the Soul got longer, wider and taller than before. Passenger space was never an issue in the previous model, but now you can fit three adults in the back without too many complaints – something that isn’t possible in the Nissan Juke. Unlike the old Soul, the driver now gets a full range of adjustment for the steering column and the high-set seats combine with the panoramic windshield to provide a great SUV-esque overview of the road ahead.
Kia Soul storage space
It’s not only the space that’s good – the Soul impresses with large door pockets with room for large bottles, two cupholders behind the gear lever and a large glovebox. Worth noting is the USB port for the rear seats allowing passengers to charge their devices.
Kia Soul boot space
The Soul’s boot space is smack-bang average for the class, having a similar capacity to the Nissan Juke and Peugeot 2008. Measuring 354 litres with the seats up, the Soul lags behind the Renault Captur’s 377-litre load bay. Flip the seats down in the Soul and you have 1,367 litres to play with, but the small step in the load area isn’t great for sliding in large objects.
The Soul is a short and tall car, so some body roll is to be expected when cornering fast, but in normal driving the Kia is pretty decent. The low-rolling resistance tyres aren’t grippy, but they are wide enough for safe, predictable handling.
From 2016 automatic versions of the Soul let you choose between different driving modes – Comfort, Normal and Sport. They make the engine more responsive and add weight to the steering but, even in Sport mode, there’s little feedback to determine what the front wheels are doing.
The Soul is not much longer than a Vauxhall Corsa, so squeezing through gaps in traffic and darting into parking spaces will be a breeze, made easier by the excellent visibility. If you want more peace of mind when parking, the rear parking sensors are reasonably priced at £274.
Before the 2016 facelift, the Soul had a pretty harsh ride, but now it’s much better suited to UK roads. It’s not the best riding car in its class, but it’s pretty decent, providing a good balance between agility and comfort. However, avoid the largest 18-inch wheels in Mixx and Maxx models, because they make the Soul fidgety and unsettled over poor surfaces.
A new engine joined the lineup in 2016. It’s a turbocharged version of the existing 1.6-litre petrol. Unfortunately the rest of the range is pretty average falling behind the class leaders in terms of running costs. If you’re unsure whether to go for the automatic – do it, because it’s a dual-clutch unit, meaning fast gear changes and effortless driving.
Kia Soul petrol engines
You need to rev the life out of the basic 1.6-litre to extract its 0-62mph time of 10.6 seconds. It’s a pretty old-school engine where power comes from revs so, to put it mildly, running costs aren’t competitive – the 1.6-litre has an average fuel consumption of 41mpg, 17mpg off a petrol Peugeot 2008 with the same power. CO2 emissions of the basic engine are similar to those of a VW Golf R, so annual road tax is a hefty £185.
Fuel economy figures haven’t been revealed for the 198hp 1.6-litre petrol just yet, but it shares the same CO2 emissions with the non-turbo version. And if you’re looking for a fast car in this end of the market, the turbo Soul is pretty decent with 0-62mph dispatched in 7.5 seconds.
Kia Soul diesel engines
Diesel-powered rivals have fuel economy figures between 70 and 76mpg. And the Soul? Well, its 130hp 1.6-litre diesel manages just 56mpg on the combined cycle and its £130 annual road tax bill is a bit steep when most rivals will set you back around £30 a year. Pick the automatic and things really start going downhill with fuel economy dropping to 47mpg and road tax rising to £185 a year. Performance is comparable to the basic petrol with 0-62mph taking 10.8 seconds, but the loud roar and characteristical diesel rattle will most likely put you off trying.
Kia Soul EV
Powered solely by electricity, the Soul EV is everything the basic Soul isn’t, so it’s silent and has healthy low-down shove – perfect for city dwellers. It’s also quite expensive, so for more in-depth information have a look at our Kia Soul EV review.
The 1.6 CRDi has less power than the petrol, it only has 126bhp but is has almost the same 0-60mph time of 10.3 seconds. As with the petrol there is a choice between a manual and an automatic gearbox depending on which trim you choose but experts say the manual is better.
Some of the lower trimmed diesel cars have smaller alloy wheels than the petrol too meaning a slightly more comfortable ride. Economy with the diesel is better than the petrol too with up to 57.6mpg and a CO2 rating of 129g/km. As usual with most cars the diesel Soul models will cost more than the petrol equivalent but experts say that this engine suits the Soul best and will be cheaper to own overall.
The 1.6 Petrol comes with 138bhp and goes from 0-60mph in 10 seconds although some reviewers say that the Soul doesn’t feel as quick as the figures suggest. This engine promises up to 44mpg and has a CO2 rating of 149g/km. Both engines have higher than class average running costs and both engines can be noisy at speed, not as loud as the wind and tyre noises though.
You can choose between a 5 speed manual and a 4 speed automatic for the 1.6 petrol but experts say the manual is the better gearbox for the Soul since the automatic reduces maximum mpg and that it’s not that nice to use. It doesn’t have as much torque as the diesel and the diesel has better economy figures which is why the experts prefer it to this petrol.
In isolation, the Kia Soul isn’t a bad purchase with its main pluses being character, a well-made interior, a great infotainment system and a generous amount of standard equipment. After the 2016 update you now also have a competitive turbocharged petrol engine and a much improved ride quality. There’s also plenty of space for passengers and their luggage.
However, compared to rivals, the Soul doesn’t really excel in one area, and will likely remain a leftfield choice because of this.