|Model tested:||Kia Soul 1.6 GDI 2|
|Economy / CO2:||43.5mph/152g/km|
Review: Kia Soul (Overall score = 4/5 )
Bad cars don’t really exist any more – but bland ones are still common unfortunately. There was a time when such a criticism could be levelled at Kia, but in recent years its cars have become much more modern and far more attractive, making them much more appealing as a result. Perhaps one of the most distinctive of all is the Soul which first appeared in 2008; an all-new model was launched in 2014 and this was lightly refreshed in 2016. Offered only as a five-door hatchback, the Soul comes in petrol and diesel forms and while there’s no hybrid option, you can buy a pure electric model called the Soul EV.
Whereas the Soul’s exterior design is a touch avantgarde the interior is very conventional, and all the better for it from a usability point of view; the fit and finish is excellent and the touch-screen display is extremely easy to use. Very clearly laid out, the dashboard won’t spook your pupils although the instrumentation is a touch over-designed and when combined with the multi-function steering wheel they might be bamboozled at first glance – but they’ll soon get to grips with things. Getting comfy is easy as the seats are comfortable and they incorporate plenty of adjustment; the same goes for the steering wheel.
Visibility is no better than average though, thanks to the thick pillars. You’ll find the Soul easy to live with as there are plenty of cubby holes including a big glove box, arm rest storage, door bins and cup holders. Throw in ample head and leg room for those in the back and practicality is a strong suit for the Soul, and while boot space is no better than average, the split-level boot floor pushes up the usability factor that bit extra.
Kia produces some great engines including cutting-edge small-capacity turbocharged petrol units. While turbocharged 1.6-litre petrol and diesel engines are available in the Soul, our test car was fitted with a naturally aspirated 1.6 GDi (petrol) unit. It’s this that provides the biggest disappointment because it just doesn’t have enough zip, so you have to row it along on the gears; peak torque is 118lb ft at 4850rpm. The powerplant is flexible though and the six-speed gearbox is slick, so swapping cogs is pleasant enough, but it becomes a bit of a chore after a while. But this is a car that’s very easy to drive, especially in urban environments. Things are helped by suspension that does a good job of soaking up the worst of the potholes, while there are two modes for the steering (Sport and Normal) so you can adjust how light it is.
Because the 1.6T-GDi turbocharged petrol engine is available only in range-topping form with a dual-clutch automatic transmission at a hefty £23,980, your best bet is to opt for the much torquier Soul 1.6 CRDi diesel which is rated at 58mpg compared with the 43mpg of the 1.6 GDi. The Soul 1.6 CRDi is priced at £18,955 in 2 trim with the posher 3 costing £21,355 (add £1500 for a dual-clutch automatic transmission). The cheaper model has 17-inch alloys, cruise control and speed limiter, climate control, a rear parking camera, rear parking sensors and a seven-inch touch-screen display with navigation.
The 3 comes with an eight-inch screen, 18-inch wheels, leather trim, heated front seats, keyless go and front parking sensors. All Souls need maintenance every 12 months; the cap on petrol-engined models is 10,000 miles while for diesels it’s 20,000 miles. Service plans are available for up to seven years – which is how long the 100,000-mile warranty lasts. Insurance groups are 9-11 depending on engine.