What is it?
Introduced to the world in 2008, the first generation Soul was bold, stylish and, in my opinion, kind of funky. It demonstrated that Kia could design and produce a vehicle that was out of the ordinary whilst still being practical and good value for money. During the original models production run it became a market leader in its class in the U.S and China, no easy feat.
In 2013, the second generation Soul arrived with greater interior space in a revitalised higher quality cabin. It handled better too, thanks to a new chassis that’s based on the C’eed’s and its SUV Crossover styling is more dramatic thanks to styling cues from Kia’s Track’ster concept car from 2012.
On the road
Don't let the Soul’s ‘town car’ shape fool you into thinking its, well, just a town car, it isn't, it loves to be thrown around country lanes more than you think. With 126bhp on tap from the turbo diesel engine and a slick 6-speed manual gearbox, it really is a fun car to drive. It has sharper handling that the Cactus I tested earlier and a taller driving position gives you a more commanding view of the road ahead. Once you get on a motorway it’s another car altogether, with low revs at 70mph, it turns into a relaxing cruiser, though some have criticised its boxy shape and large door mirrors for excessive road noise, I didn't notice any. If I have to be critical, I'd say that the suspension that makes it fun in the country can be a bit harsh around town.
Off the road
Obviously I didn’t take the Soul off road, but we did go down some very muddy and slippery lanes on which the Soul performed admirably. Its boxy shape enables a great view in all directions
All I can describe the Soul’s interior is Tardis like with plenty of space up front and in the back. The front seats are comfy and long in the base, which is important if you have long legs like Muddy Madam 'n' me, oh, and they're quickest heated seats in any press car to date.
The dash is nicely laid out and upmarket-looking, all the dials are clear and easy to read. In the centre you have the new infotainment touchscreen which again is straight forward and easy to use. A shout out must go to the Sat-Nav system that Kia use too, I reckon it's one of the best. I was in Nice, France recently on the launch of the new Kia Sportage and the Sat-Nav took a lot of pressure off me whilst I was trying to navigate new roads.
I do like that the front speakers sit up high in each corner of the dash, which is nice, but their chrome bezels reflect in the windscreen, which is annoying. Another annoyance is when I gripped the steering wheel, my palm catches the ‘mode’ button which in turn changes the radio station. Nowt worse than missing an answer on Pop Master because I've had to turn left!
Have I mentioned the multi-colour speaker lighting system that flashes in time to your music? No? Ah well.
Another surprise was the amount of leg room that rear passengers have, add that to the high roof-line and large glass, back seat drivers have as good a view as you have. There's a decent sized boot, to boot, especially when the rear seats are folded down. A 62mm wider tailgate opening adds to the convenience when chucking stuff in the back, and you have space for 354 litres, or up 1,367 litres of shopping, or whatever.
Engines ‘n’ transmissions
The Soul comes with a choice of 2 engines, the 1.6ltr diesel and 1.6ltr petrol, both are available with a 6-speed manual but it’s only the diesel that offers the option of the 6-speed automatic gearbox. Performance looks something like this:
1.6ltr diesel (126bhp), with 6-speed manual
0-60mph in 10.8 seconds, max speed of 112mph returning a combined mpg of 56.5mpg with CO2emissions of 132g/km.
1.6ltr diesel (126bhp), with 6-speed automatic
0-60mph in 11.8 seconds, max speed of 110mph, returning a combined mpg of 47.1mpg with CO2emissions of 158g/km.
1.6ltr petrol (130bhp), with 6-speed manual
0-60mph in 10.6 seconds, max speed of 115mph returning a combined mpg of 41.5mpg with CO2emissions of 158g/km, or 38.7mpg and 170g/km if you have 18’ wheels.
Transmission wise, the Soul is only available in front wheel drive as they reckon their research shows that customers want the looks and driving position of a 4x4, but not the cost that’s associated with one.
Like the Citroen C4 Cactus, the Soul isn't AWD and therefore perhaps has no right to be included here, but it is funky and we like it, so there!
For £19,750, this particular Soul came packed with features and was really good fun, so much that I cheekily asked to keep it for an extra weekend. in fact the Soul has found itself on the short list as a replacement for Muddy Madams ageing Skoda, a honour indeed.