If you ask Kia, the Soul crossover was designed to appeal for the young-and-mobile, like college students and youthful families. When it first appeared on the horizon, it had things like pulsating light rings around the speakers and personalisation packs to make it look even more distinctive. Not that it needed to of course, because anyone would notice what could appear like a motorised fridge.
Fast forward to today, the Soul has a facelift under its belt, and a slash in pricing. The quirky car from the maturing Korean company now sports a sleeker, more minimalist design, and a more appealing driveway price of $24,990 (down $2000 from the previous before-ORC prices). It still doesn’t get the 1.6-litre turbocharged engine out of the Kia pro_cee’d like it does in other markets, but it does pack really solid practicality and great road manners.
“There’s no doubt the restyle has brought more contemporary sparkle to the model.” - AutoExpress
When the original Soul debuted in 2009, it seems that the market wasn’t quite ready to receive it. Compact crossovers were only just beginning to emerge, and the Soul was a very early entrant into what is now a vibrant, burgeoning segment. This second generation model, by Kia’s own reckoning, has “flown under the radar in Australia,” which contrasts starkly with the reception the Soul received in North American markets.
Restyled for 2017, the Soul now wears a more pleasing and less divisive aesthetic, with revised bumpers, wheels, and the grille. It still stands out in a sea of hatchbacks, which is no bad thing if you’re no wallflower. The face retains a similar look to the model it replaces, though it looks thoroughly more modern.
Engine & Drivetrain
“The Soul needs you to really rev the engine to get the most out of it…” - CarAdvice
The Soul, being offered in only one trim level in our market, also sees use of just one engine. A 2.0-litre four-pot that puts out 112kW & 192Nm, with that power going through a six-speed automatic to the front wheels. It’s not the most gutsy of powerplants, with little aid coming to it from the economy-focused gearbox, which holds on to the higher gears to keep the revs low.
Fuel consumption is higher than you might imagine, with the claimed figure sitting at 8.0L/100km. There are bigger competitors with similar engines that manage to return less than that… but it isn’t all bad news, as there is a ‘Sport’ mode which puts the gearbox on point as well as add a little heft to the steering wheel.
“Kia insists the new version’s added materials richness, refinement, and polish…” - Autocar
The Soul’s somewhat divisive exterior is in stark contrast to its interior, which appeals to many. It’s simply cavernous, for its class at least, and offers great amounts of space for passengers up front and in the rear. Cargo space isn’t fantastic, but smart: The underfloor storage is especially practical, letting the young and mobile hide soiled shoes or wetsuits that their active lifestyles will invariably require, which makes it more usable than the 354-litre rating might suggest.
There’s great visibility all-round, and there’s a lot more headroom in the Soul than anything else. The boxy shape, with wheels pushed up to the corners, means there’s a ton of passenger space. Plenty of headroom, plenty of legroom, and three children can sit comfortably in the rear.
Behind the Wheel
“Basing the Soul on the fine platform of the Cee’d is a good start.” - TopGear
It’s got Soul, this soul. Despite what the modest power figure may suggest, this boxy Kia is actually a pretty good steer. The suspension was tweaked for our market, and as a result, it remains comfortable while also minimising body-roll. It’s confident through corners and stable on the motorway, though the steering wheel contributes mostly to the latter. Despite its crossover-like image, it drives like a hatchback, which stacks up well against the competition.
Refinement is great too, with lumps and bumps being more audible than uncomfortable. Even at speed, you’ll hear little road or wind noise (but it creeps in as speed picks up), and the accuracy of the steering wheel means it’s always very easy to place on the road.
Safety & Technology
“The Kia Soul has a long warranty and lots of standard safety kit.” - CarBuyer
Kia offers a solid 7-year, unlimited-mileage warranty, which is impressive. The standard safety kit is pretty impressive too, with anti-lock brakes, brake assist, brake distribution, and parking sensors, as well a reversing camera.
There are seatbelt pretensioners all round, as well as reminders for all seats, furthering its viability for young families. The tilt/telescopic-adjustable steering wheel means it’s easy to find a comfortable driving position, and a USB connection to charge up devices and play tunes.
We’re nothing if not confused about how the market has reacted to the Kia Soul. It’s a well-packaged, distinctive-looking compact crossover, with great kit levels and impressive refinement. And with great drive-away prices, the Soul is a fantastic proposition for young families and the young-at-heart, which again brings up the question of why it isn’t selling faster.
The Soul is really an underrated little car, which deserves praise for its best features (like its cabin size and tidy drive). Shame it doesn’t have a turbocharged mill under the bonnet, though.
WhatCar? - 3.0/5.0 - “Pricing is aggressive, so the Soul appears to be good value next to its closest rivals. And, there are plenty of rivals that offer much better real-world fuel economy.”
AutoExpress - 3.0/5.0 - “In its favour, the Kia Soul is well-priced, well-specified, and feels well-built. It keeps the chunky looks of the previous model, but improves practicality and equipment.”
CarBuyer - 3.3/5.0 - “With a muscular look and plenty of interior space, the Kia Soul looks great inside and out.”
CarAdvice - 7.0/10 - “The improvements to the value equation of the Kia Soul mean it’s more enticing than ever. As an alternative to the Cerato hatchback, it’s an intriguing proposition.”
Kelly Blue Book - 8.7/10- “The 2017 Kia Soul is a compelling choice for anybody searching for a nifty-looking, fun-driving and feature-filled affordable compact car. It looks like nothing else on the road, can't help but put out a fun vibe, and is quite practical thanks to a roomy interior.”
Autocar - 3.0/5.0 - “Proper alternative charm deserves to earn the Soul greater success than many of the bandwagon entrants it’s suddenly up against, mind you – but it’s likely to remain a bit-part player in Europe.”
TopGear - 6.0/10 - “Despite an all-new overhaul, the Soul still isn’t quite there. Utilitarian style gone too far?”
Edmunds - 4.5/5.0 - “The Soul, however, gets a distinct edge over the competition with its funky style, youthful approach and a peppier turbo engine that debuts this year. Add to that a generous warranty and top safety scores, and the Soul's appeal is strong, no matter your age.”