At this moment in time, it’s clear to see that the SUV market is very popular in the UK. In the case of the small SUV, the Nissan Juke and the Renault Captur have been popular choices – but what if you don’t fancy either of those? Could the Kia Soul be a worthy alternative? I tested it recently to find out.
Design and Styling
When the Soul first hit the scene in 2009, its boxy styling did somewhat divide opinion, but this is the second generation model. It’s based on the Track’ster concept that was unveiled in 2012 and I rather like it in all honesty. Yes, it retains the boxy profile, but the front end has been spruced up and looks cleaner and more dynamic than the first generation.
The model tested is the ‘3’ trim, which sits at the top of the range, underneath the ‘Sport’ trim. This means you you get chunky 18″ alloy wheels and chrome door handles, although this lovely paint job is optional. It’s called Inferno Red, which is contrasted with a Quartz Black roof. This looks very splendid indeed, but this will set you back almost £800. That’s a pity as the other colours are a tad boring if you ask me.
Step inside, the cabin and in the case of the ‘3’ model, you are greeted with leather seats, a soft touch dashboard and gloss black trim levels. These features combined make the inside of the Soul a very nice place to be and it’s a noticeable step up from the Kia Rio I tested a few weeks back.
(4 / 5)
There are four trim levels available in the Soul, ‘1’, ‘2’, ‘3’ and ‘Sport’. The ‘1’ model starts from £14,310 and offers the basics such as air conditioning, 16″ alloy wheels, Bluetooth and DAB radio whereas the more favourable ‘2’ trim starts at £17,065. This will give buyers 17″ alloy wheels, automatic air conditioning, cruise control with speed limiter, 7″ touchscreen with smartphone integration and navigation plus rear parking sensors with camera.
The model tested is the ‘3’, meaning it adds leather seats, heated front seats, 18″ alloy wheels, keyless entry, 8″ touchscreen with navigation, front and rear parking sensors, plus it has a premium JBL sound system with mood lighting. This trim will make the Soul’s price creep over £20,910, so as much as I like the ‘3’ trim, I think the ‘2’ is a better bet in regards to value.
Last but not least, the ‘Sport’ trim, which starts at £23,565, adds a panoramic sunroof, xenon headlamps, high beam assist, as well as safety features such as blind spot detection, lane departure warning and rear cross traffic alert. You’ll also have use of the same 201bhp 1.6 litre petrol that is used in the Pro_Cee’d GT, a car I tested a few weeks ago.(4 / 5)
Space and Comfort
The boxy nature of the Soul may not be to everyone’s tastes, but it does mean that you get a generous amount of space inside. Even Peter Crouch should be able to find a decent amount of headroom in the front, and the headroom in the rear is just as good. I was pleasantly surprised about the legroom in the back as well – even with the driver’s seat set for my 6 foot 2 frame, I was able to get amble legroom in the rear. So with that in mind, I can see no reason why three tall passengers can’t get comfortable in the rear for long journeys.
The boot offers 354 litres of room, which is about average in class, and this can be extended to 994 litres with the 60/40 seats folded down. With this being the ‘3’ trim, you’ll get a section under the main boot floor that has three individual compartments, which could prove to be very handy on family trips or long weekends away.
In regards to comfort, the Soul has a rather firm suspension setup, but it’s not what you’d call comfortable and even though it’s riding on big 18″ wheels, the ride feels more composed than then Rio I tested a few weeks back. The leather seats help to improve comfort, although I did find them a tad slippery at times. The ‘2’ trim has slightly smaller rims, which may improve the ride further, but it’s not overly awful in ‘3’ form.(3.5 / 5)
What’s It Like To Drive?
The Soul definitely has its good points and its bad points. The car handles pretty well and thanks to a ‘sport’ setting for the steering, the steering weight is quite satisfying as well. The 1.6 litre diesel engine is not fantastic though, it’s not refined and towards the top of the rev range it produces a loud drone. Thankfully though, the 6-speed manual its attached to is rather pleasant to use and the throws are accurate.
The diesel unit offers 134bhp with 260Nm of torque, meaning you will hit 60mph in 10.8 seconds and then on to a top speed of 112mph. Doesn’t sound overly fast, but the diesel make decent progress, with the main grunt of the power coming in around the middle of the rev range. There is also a petrol option, which is also 1.6 litre, and offers 130bhp. Despite the slight decrease in power, the petrol offers a slightly faster 0-60 time of 10.6 and a faster top speed of 115mph.
As I’ve already mentioned, the diesel is not the best unit and at times, it reminded me of driving an old Ford Transit, as it’s a bit rough and it doesn’t sound great when idling. Thankfully, the JBL sound system was able to drown this out, so it wasn’t too much of an issue. Speaking of noise, I have to say I was surprised with how the car dealt with noise on the motorway. You’d think that because of the car’s shape, it would be a racket, but it’s quieter than you’d imagine. Sure, the large mirrors create some wind noise, but other than that it’s pretty civilised.
Visibility out the car isn’t too bad, although the rear window is rather small. Despite this though, the Soul isn’t difficult to park, especially when you have rear parking sensors and camera to fall back on. Take it out of the car park and on to open the road, and you’ll find the Soul is pretty decent. Of course, there is some body roll, but not quite as much as you would expect by looking at the car’s shape and design. The brakes are decent and the steering feels better in ‘Sport’ as it feels too light in normal mode. The ‘Sport’ setting did not make it feel more accurate or direct in my opinion, but the extra weight was definitely welcome.
(3.5 / 5)
The Soul’s lack of engine choices don’t do it any favours in regards to fuel economy, and this is an area with it falls behinds its rivals. As you would expect, the diesel offers better economy, but even that is pretty average. 58.8mpg is the combined figure and I was able to get 50.2mpg, although I must confess that was rather hard work. That may not sound like the worst economy, but if you consider cars like the Nissan Juke can offer an engine that offers around 70mpg, then you have to agree that the Soul is lacking in that area.
If you opt for the 1.6 litre petrol unit, you’ll be looking at a combined figure of 43.5mpg with the manual and with the auto, you’ll looking at 40.9mpg. 56.5mpg is the combined figure for the 1.6 litre diesel with the 7-speed auto. Going back to the 1.6 litre diesel with the manual ‘box, CO2 emissions come in at 127g/km, which is actually the best on offer in the Soul, with the 1.6 petrol auto model offering the worst CO2 emissions with 156g/km.
(3 / 5)
The Kia Soul is certainly not perfect; it’s firm ride and its styling may not be for everyone, plus the economy is certainly not class leading. The lack of engines may also put buyers off, but despite this, I feel the car has a certain charm about it and I think it’s better looking than the popular Nissan Juke. Plus it offers a decent amount of kit and there is a generous amount of room inside, so I feel that the Kia Soul is definitely worth a look if you’re after a small SUV.
Car Obsession Rating (3.5 / 5)
- Plenty of kit
- Stylish design
- Decent interior room
- Long warranty
- Firm ride
- Average economy
- Lack of engine refinement
- Limited engine choice
The Juke may not be everyone’s up of tea in regards to styling, but it’s a popular buy in the UK, but it doesn’t offer the same amount of space as the Soul. It does offer a larger range of engines though, and the equivalent model to the Soul’s ‘3’ trim is a little cheaper too. This does mean that the interior fittings are cheap as a result.
The Captur is no doubt a stylish customer, but it’s not known for its drivability, and like the Juke, it’s not known for the most premium of interiors. Other reviewers have commented that the engines on offer in the Captur feel underpowered, so that is something you will also need to consider.