Long lead times meant Kia would have started thinking about the second-generation Soul not long after the first version appeared in 2008. And that’s tricky stuff trying to anticipate how the ‘hip-to-be-square’ hatchback would be perceived more than four years down the track.
Well now we know – Kia has sold over 760,000 Souls in markets throughout the world and the second-generation has followed the same styling direction rather than taking-on a new persona. But this time the Kia Soul has noticeably more substance to the way it looks and the way it feels inside…and that’s all good.
And this time around the Kia Soul was not launched to the soundtrack of ‘It’s Hip To Be Square’. Well Toyota’s Rukus and Nissan’s Japanese market Nissan Cube are hip too these days and it’s not just ‘Gen Ys’ who are shopping these cars – in fact Kia Soul has been popular with mature buyers who appreciate its extra practicality.
Kia Soul Overview
For the all-new range, Kia has simplified the Soul model lineup – now just one grade (the Si grade in essence) in either six-speed manual or six-speed automatic (pleasingly a conventional automatic not a CVT).
Car Showroom tested the entry-level Kia Soul (six-speed manual) which is priced at $23,990. You’ll need an extra $2K for the auto.
The Kia Soul rides on the same platform as the Cerato.
Kia Soul Engine
Soul scores Kia’s ‘Nu’ 2.0-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine. It’s an all-alloy engine with a friction-reducing offset crankshaft and variable intake valve timing.
Maximum power is 113kW at 6200rpm and peak torque of 191Nm is delivered at 4700rpm. Combined-cycle fuel consumption for the six-speed manual as tested is rated at 7.6l/100kms (8.4l/100kms for the auto).
Kia Soul The Interior
Like the exterior, there is a lot of the Kia Track’ster concept at play in the execution of the all-new Kia Soul’s circular-themed interior. You immediately notice the sculptured circles enclosing the window switches and door locks in the door panels and the new circular gear lever is direct from the Track’ster.
The circular obsession continues with the new, recessed circular gauges which are easily read behind the new-design Kia three-spoke steering wheel (adjusts for rake/reach). Throughout there is a much more upscale look and feel for the Kia Soul – higher quality materials and new soft-touch materials for the instrument panel, centre console and door panels.
Once inside you do notice the extra space – dimensions up in key areas both front and rear – and the lower step-in height. Front seats too are larger and more bolstered.
Compared to the previous model, the latest Kia Soul affords some 4.0 per-cent more luggage space – 238-litres with the rear seat in-place or 878-litres when folded flat (1251-litres if loaded to the roof).
Kia Soul Exterior & Styling
The second generation Kia Soul was created by Kia’s American Design Centre in California by a team headed by Tom Kearns and directed by Frankfurt-based German Peter Schreyer. The American team was also responsible for Kia’s head-turning Track’ster concept car from 2012.
The mission was to keep what made the original Soul special while injecting freshness and a degree of ‘grown-up’. Looking at the ruler, the second-generation is 20mm longer and 15mm wider that its predecessor but, reflecting its switch back to the mainstream, is 41mm lower.
And those extra dimensions have afforded a 20mm boost in wheelbase for extra interior space.
Cues from the Track’ster are plentiful – not the least of which are the front’s large trapezoidal lower air intake and low-mounted fog lights. Kia’s hallmark ‘tiger-nose’ grille has also been re-worked with influence from the Track’ster.
At the rear there is the ‘floating’ body-colour panel inset and while everything is new, hallmark Soul cues - like the high-mounted tail-lights - have been kept and improved.
Kia Soul On The Road
Interesting to read the comments from our colleagues at the ‘boy racer’ magazines who have tested the Kia Soul. Oh they reckon the petrol engine is lethargic and the steering isn’t good.
And that’s rubbish. Like Kia created the Soul as a ‘Track Day’ car.
The bottom line is the Kia Soul drives as good as many hatchbacks with much more substantial price tags. In fact making this generation Soul more fun to drive than the previous model was one of Kia’s key objectives tasked to its designers and engineers - and don’t forget the chassis is a relative of Kia’s European market cee’d hatchback… and you don’t hear too many complaints about its driving dynamics.
So you’ve got a MacPherson strut front-end and Torsion Beam rear, torsional rigidity up by 29 per-cent and ‘FlexSteer’ (‘Normal’, ‘Comfort’ and ‘Sport’) for the Motor Driven Power Steering (the latter contributing a3.0-per-cent improvement in fuel consumption by the way). And don’t forget the substantial local testing done by Kia Australia to devise a unique suspension calibration for the Soul and in fact every Kia model.
Over our high-speed mountain roads test loop, the Kia Soul wasn’t a hot hatch but still it turned-in on demand and responded to mid-turn throttle changes. The suspension was actually quite firm which inspired confidence in direction changes.
And in the city we really appreciated Kia Soul’s small 10.6-metre turning circle and standard reversing camera and parking sensors…you’d have to be major-league untalented to have any difficulty maneuvering this thing into even the tightest parking space.
Kia Soul Issues
It’s a strange thing. In most circumstances the Kia Soul is commendably quiet and refined but at speeds on secondary roads it becomes a tad noisy.
If we were Kia, we’d be working really hard to bring the diesel-powered Soul to Australia – a bit more torque and diesel fuel-frugality would be a winning combo.
Kia Soul Verdict
The cantankerous chaps in this business who really need to retire sat back in their comfy chairs and offered their ‘pipes & slippers’ view that there would be no second-generation Kia Soul…it would be a one-hit merchant. Well guess what folks – the Kia Soul kept the sales charts ticking-over nicely because it appealed to the ‘now’ generation and the all-new model has the goods to repeat that success.
This time around the Kia Soul is a bit more mature with extra sophistication in its design, but those boxy looks are oh-so-practical, especially for time-starved young singles or families. Same on the inside where a dose of extra style and softness is spot-on for today’s market…even though the price tag starts with a ‘2’, buyers expect contemporary standards of quality and refinement.
Sure it’s no Kia pro-cee’d GT in the driving department but the Kia Soul is still more than a match for many hatchbacks with prices significantly north of $30,000. And Kia being Kia, you get the impression the Soul will take some hard work and keep bouncing back time after time. That’s quality for you.
Kia Soul The Competition
Skoda recently gave its Yeti a freshen-up. Two-wheel-drive models loom as possible rivals for the Kia Soul – albeit pricier rivals. For sure Kia has the Skoda licked for grunt with Soul’s punchy 2.0-litre engine, however we do like the updated looks of the Yeti which – a bit like the Soul – in being a tad more mainstream are also obvious quality.
Toyota Rukus continues to turn-heads and attract buyers. A fair bit more expensive than the Kia Soul, but along similar lines, the Rukus employs Toyota’s powerful (125kW/224Nm) 2.4-litre petrol engine and lays-on the groovy looks inside too.