Kia is immensely proud of how far it has come as a brand since the rickety old Sportage clattered onto British roads in 1993. Having once been a cheap and cheerful off-brand choice, it has evolved into a serious carmaker that consistently gives premium badges a run for their money.
The Soul is one of the Korean brand’s more interesting cars. Interesting both to look at – it’s half way between a Japanese “kei” car and a conventional large family car – and to drive. One of the headline features of any Kia is the seven-year warranty, but is that enough to fend off competition from the Peugeot 2008, Renault Captur and Nissan Juke?
The driver and front passenger occupy a spacious, well-organised interior. An unusually high roof gives the cabin a breezy feel, with plenty of natural light making the car an enjoyable one to sit in. The back seats are slightly less generous with their head, leg and arm room, but are still large enough for two fully-grown adults. Wide door apertures make the Soul easy to climb in and out of, too.
Storage space is excellent, with two large bottle holders and several oddment boxes available up front. Rear passengers get fewer opportunities to forget their possessions beyond a pair of simple door bins. The glovebox, while cavernous, is occupied seemingly entirely by a large manual.
The boot is broadly comparable to that of its competitors, such as the Nissan Juke, Renault Captur and Peugeot 2008. The seats don’t quite fold flat, which can be a problem when transporting larger loads, but the sit-up-and-beg nature of the Soul gives it a high roofline which can mitigate the bump where the rear bench hinges.
Loud and rough
The Soul’s upright driving position is now preferred by many UK drivers, and is adjustable enough to cater for motorists of all heights. This, combined with comfortable seats and well-sorted layouts, makes the car immediately welcoming as you climb in.
Unfortunately, the ride lets it down beyond this point. The Soul clearly wants to be as ethereal on the road as its name suggests, but the suspension lets minor blemishes in the road come crashing up into the car, while tyre and wind noise create a constant low-level roar.
There appears to be some conflict between the top and bottom half of the car, as well as very detached steering. Startling body lean in roundabouts and a convulsive reaction to speed bumps makes for almost comedic progress at times.
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Dashboard layout 6/10
Disappointing infotainment system
The Soul’s main functions are controlled using a combination of physical, tactile switches and buttons, and the car’s large touchscreen. All feel rugged and well-constructed, and are generally all located in familiar or at least sensible places. The materials used are commensurate with the low price of this vehicle, but nothing feels like it is about to snap off. Turrets at each end of the dash contain both air vents and speakers.
The touchscreen itself is fairly responsive and will be intuitive to anyone who has used a similar system before, however it comes with its fair share of flaws. Many radio and media functions are too complex to perform safely on the move, and the buttons on the steering wheel are of limited use.
The satellite navigation system seems to falter in areas with poor mobile phone coverage, and suggests spectacularly simplistic routes when working. The routes are conveyed to the driver well, though, with visual cues prepared in a stack when approaching a series of roundabouts or junctions.
Easy to drive 8/10
Light and agile
The most frustrating thing about the Soul’s performance is its sluggish acceleration. The claimed acceleration figures for the 1.6-litre petrol require frantic waving of the gearstick, and you can forget about overtaking at any serious speed. But at lower speeds, the car is very easy to move around, thanks partly to the lightness of the controls and the impressive turning circle. For a larger car, the Soul feels very nimble.
The steering comes with three settings, ranging from ‘normal’ to ‘impalpable’. The latter setting (really called ‘comfort’) allows the car to be turned with one finger, important for effortless urban driving and easy parking. The six-speed manual gearbox demands your enthusiasm, though, so pick an automatic – which is only available with the diesel engine – if you spend most of your time driving on city roads.
Visibility is generally good, and is helped by the fundamentally angular nature of the Soul. The rear of the car is flat, which makes reversing easy to judge, while most drivers can see the entirety of the bonnet when trying to park.
Fun to drive 4/10
More funny than fun
The Soul’s slowness will frustrate eager drivers, and the six-speed manual isn’t quite engaging enough to satisfy anyone on a serious B-road blast.
This is in no way a driver’s car. The steering just isn’t consistent or communicative enough for that. Things like the Nissan Juke Nismo would be comparable, though committed motorists are likely to prefer well-sorted hatchbacks like the Ford Focus ST.
A seven-year warranty comes fitted to this car. You can cover as many miles as you want for the first three years, then the following four years come under a 100,000-mile cap. It isn’t the most generous for all buyers (Hyundai offers unlimited mileage for up to five years) but will suit many families looking for a long-term buy.
The Soul scores highly in the JD Power vehicle dependability survey and Kia is generally well-regarded in terms of reliability.
The Soul is a heavy car for its size, and fuel consumption suffers as a result. You can expect an mpg figure in the mid-thirties under real-world conditions in the 1.6 petrol, and not much more than 40mpg in the diesel version, putting it behind several key competitors.
In manual guise, you have to to drive this car quite hard to achieve comfortable acceleration around dual carriageways and on motorway slip roads. This puts a huge dent in the overall fuel economy if, for example, you’re commuting into and out of an urban area.
Warranty is the biggest selling point
Prices for the Soul are broadly in line with those of competitors. While some rivals are better on the road or offer more space, one of Kia’s key selling points is the enormous warranty it puts on its cars – seven years in total, with no mileage limit in the first three years.
Cars like the Nissan Note are cheaper but lack the desirability and upright driving position of the Soul. The Citroen C4 Cactus is an interesting alternative that costs slightly more across the board. Kia’s seven-year warranty is transferrable with the car, which can reduce the impact of depreciation.
A low score and outdated safety provisions
Euro NCAP gave the Soul a 75% mark for adult occupant protection and 82% for children. Overall it earned four stars out of five, meaning that it falls behind rivals such as the Renault Captur, Peugeot 2008, and Nissan Juke. The Mazda CX-3 and Fiat 500X both earned four stars, though, while the budget Dacia Duster got just three.
Curiously for a city car, the Soul lacks automatic emergency braking – an increasingly popular system that can prevent low-speed impacts during city driving. There are no knee airbags (and front seat leg protection was an area of concern highlighted in the Euro NCAP report) but front and side airbags are fitted as standard.
Good entry-level but expensive top-of-the-range
The Soul’s entry-level Start trim is quite generous, in that it offers a DAB radio, steering wheel controls, hill-start assist and plug sockets for your MP3 player. It’s a hefty leap from here to the next trim level up, Connect, which adds bluetooth, a reversing camera and cruise control, along with exterior decorations and bigger alloys.
The Connect Plus probably delivers the best value, though, while the Maxx tops out at the kind of price you could pay for a much better car.
The automatic gearbox is probably the least tiring option for most drivers, but this is only available with the diesel engine.
Our favourite version
The Kia Soul is a practical family car with charismatic looks and an excellent reputation for reliability. A seven-year warranty, one of the most impressive in the industry, is a huge selling point, and certainly enough to mitigate any complaints about characterless steering and vague handling. However, the Soul’s loud, rough ride is more of a problem, and poor fuel economy might be enough to coax buyers into one of many alternatives.
Source : www.telegraph.co.uk