As I walked towards the line of new Kia Souls lined up waiting I was pleased to see that the latest generation has kept the distinct proportions and shape as the car it replaces.
The exterior design has more than a splattering of design cues from the Track’ster concept car, but the overall shape is very familiar.
My biggest criticism of the first generation Kia Soul was that it lacked refinement and had a tendency to crash about over bumps, but the new Soul with its Cee’d derived chassis brings the funky looking Kia back into the world of acceptable levels of comfort.
Reading through the technical information provided it seems Kia has spent a lot of effort suppressing sounds as well as improving comfort and handling.
Once behind the wheel the handling couldn’t be described as brilliant, but when pushed there was a very predictable and safe feeling amount of understeer. One nice touch was the electric power steering which has settings for Normal, Comfort and Sport it gave the Soul a nice weighted feel, even if it lacked a little feedback from the wheels.
The engines available are a 1.6 petrol and a 1.6 diesel, all available with a very slick six speed manual or a six speed automatic – which we have not yet tested.
Power output for the petrol is 130bhp with 161 Nm of torque while the diesel is slightly down on bhp at 126 but with a much more user friendly 260 Nm of torque.
Out on the road the increased level of torque with the diesel makes for a much more pleasant driving experience. The petrol cars lack of engine braking and whine when being pushed let it down slightly, but there will be others who prefer the refinement of the petrol over the diesel.
The manual petrol gives a claimed 41.5mpg which is acceptable. The manual diesel manages a combined 56.5 mpg claimed which is good but that isn’t really that great when compared to some rivals.
Both are let down on their emissions with the petrol coming in between 158 and 170 g of CO2 depending on trim and wheels. The diesels range between 132 and 158g of CO2.
Kia could have introduced measures such as stop-start, but say that UK buyers are willing to sacrifice the higher CO2 output rather than spend the extra on the technology. This seems a bit of a shame when so many cars are under or near the magic 100g CO2 limit now.
The base spec Soul Start starts at £12,600 on the road, but with steel wheels and without the toys and shiny finishes of the more plush models it feels as if it is lacking a bit of soul…
The higher spec Soul Connect starts at £14,800 on the road. It adds alloys, much smarter trim, reversing camera and leather steering wheel. These additions over the base model improve the feel of the car drastically, but if you add the diesel and automatic gearbox you’re only £100 short of £18,000!
Connect Plus, Mixx and Maxx versions will join the range but once you get to the range topping Maxx diesel with metallic paint the cost is only just short of £22,000 on the road.
Boot space is a tad on the limited side at 345 litres, even though this is a 4% improvement over the outgoing model. With the seats down this increases to 1,367 litres.
Kia’s Soul is a good car, the higher seating position, good visibility along with Kia’s brilliant 7 year warranty should make it a definite consideration for someone looking for a small front wheel drive SUV.
The Kia’s rear-view camera is a very useful addition. This is a pretty big car so some extra help when driving through the city and parking up is a nice feature.
It is a shame that the previous generation didn’t appeal to younger drivers, despite the crazy colours and sticker packs.
Factors such as the cost and high tax-bands might count against this new one but hopefully the improved styling, drivability and quality should win a few younger drivers over.
Kia Soul – Funky looks, high tax, good diesel engine, can be pricey.