Individuality; for some, the path less travelled is always going to provide the biggest draw. This is something that Kia understands, and caters for, with the Soul. Now in its second iteration, it remains a bold and instantly recognisable shape which also neatly hides its diminutive footprint. It may be taller and much squarer but it occupies the same space as a supermini so is well adapted to the urban environment. The key question is whether the Soul is an example of style over substance?
Kia has launched itself from a bit player into a small mainstream manufacturer in a very short space of time. The rise of Kia in the UK is inextricably linked to the Government scrappage scheme that between 2008 and 2010 offered customers £2,000 off a brand new car. The Kia Picanto made it into the top five models bought through the scheme thanks the base specification being yours for as little as £4,195!
Don’t be fooled though, the scrappage scheme may have been the leg-up but Kia has since established itself as a serious contender on merit.
The Soul sells itself on its individual looks, and even though this is the second generation, there is still nothing on UK roads that looks even remotely similar. There was a very clear design brief to stand out from the crowd and this has absolutely been achieved. We suspect that a lot of Soul buyers make the decision from a purely aesthetic point of view, and we also suspect that a lot of potential customers walk away for the same reason.
The funky looks are also on show inside making the interior more interesting than your average small car. The steering wheel deserves particular credit as the circular buttons are both great looking and functional. There are a lot of clear buttons on show across the fascia, and using them is a lot quicker than searching through endless sub menus on a screen, so on balance we give the interior a big thumbs up.
One thing that undoubtedly falls into the ‘pros’ column is the warranty. Yes Kia is still offering a 7-year, 100,000 mile warranty, and no we don’t know how they do it either. It is the most public endorsement of the Korean company’s confidence in the longevity of its products and something that the established manufacturers are still unable or unwilling to do.
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Whilst the looks leave a lasting impression, the same can’t be said of the driving experience. The Soul does everything you could reasonably expect competently but this isn’t a car that encourages you to take the long way home. It is however, spacious, supple enough for UK roads, and generally pretty quiet. The only real blot on the refinement front is the diesel engine which makes its presence felt a little too often. This isn’t helped by the lack of engine stop/start which means that you have to put up with diesel chatter at idle.
Performance is also firmly in the acceptable rather than memorable category but then there’s no disgrace in this given that the driving dynamics aren’t razor sharp.
Officially this model achieves 56.6 mpg which by modern standards isn’t too impressive. However the top test performers often fail to translate their prowess on paper into real world fuel consumption as drivers need to make the most of the myriad of efficiency settings, and adopt efficient driving techniques to reap the rewards. There are also some elements such as engine start/stop which deliver big savings on the official tests but do nothing if you are lucky enough to drive regularly in free-flowing traffic.
So perhaps the Soul which lacks any of the modern tricks for maximising test performance will be a real-world fuel consumption champion? Sadly, not on the evidence of our week with the car, where it returned an average 42.9 mpg. Part of this will be down to the style-led design which has resulted in a drag coefficient of 0.34 which really isn’t anything to write home about and is sure to dent efficiency at motorway speeds.
Kia has built an enviable reputation for delivering quality products at very reasonable prices and the Soul is no exception. This model costs £17,500 which isn’t unreasonable given that it sits in the middle of the range. However it looks even better value when you consider that the premium 8-speaker Infiniti audio package and 8-inch touch-screen sat nav system are both part the standard specification. With automatic air-conditioning, cruise control and DAB radio also part of the package, there is little need to delve into the options lists, so the likelihood is that many owners will be able to drive away happy without needing to specify expensive extras.
If you’re on a budget, the entry-level petrol ‘Start’ specification can be yours for £12,600, whereas if cash is no barrier the top of the range diesel ‘Maxx’ is a cool £21,550. The Connect Plus offers a very attractive ratio of standard equipment to list price so we expect this to be the biggest seller.
The Soul is an interesting alternative for those who want a car with the footprint of a supermini, but demand something that will stand out from the crowd. If this reflects your wish list, the excellent warranty, standard specification, and price make the Soul a serious contender.
However if you broaden your net a bit further the Kia falls a bit short. The driving experience is inoffensive but certainly won’t delight, the looks can polarise opinion, and the fuel consumption both on the official tests and in the real world could be better.
The Soul is awarded a Green Car Guide 7 out of 10 rating. We’re testing the all-electric Kia Soul EV very soon, it will be interesting to see how that scores.