Kia Soul review
The Kia Soul is a small car with attention-grabbing exterior and a spacious interior. Its closest competitor – the Nissan Juke – also took the Marmite approach to heart, while newer rivals such as the Peugeot 2008 share the Soul’s rugged styling and chunky bumpers.
What's not so good
Kia Soul: what would you like to read next?
The Kia 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 Soul has more character than your average Kia
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.
There’s plenty of room in both the front and rear seats for passengers, but the boot is only average in size and not the most practical
Given the level of attention to detail in the Soul, what with the large door pockets and even a USB socket in the rear, it's astonishing that the boot isn't bigger and the step in the boot floor isn't smaller
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.
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.
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.
What the Soul really needs is a small-capacity petrol with cheap running costs
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.
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!
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.
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. Pick the automatic and things really start going downhill with fuel economy dropping to 47mpg. 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.
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.
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.
The Soul’s semi-SUV body style gives the driver a great of their surroundings, although over-the-shoulder visibility is restricted by the car’s thick rear pillars.