Unusual supermini alternative impresses with value, practicality and dynamics

What is it?

This is the Kia Soul 2 1.6 petrol, the mid-spec version of Kia’s supermini-sized SUV crossover. If that sounds confusing, then think of the Kia Soul as a jacked-up chunky supermini with a dash of Mini Clubman-style ‘lifestyle’ desirability chucked in.

Eventually the ranks of the supermini-based quasi-SUVs will be swollen by the addition of the Skoda Yeti and the production version of the Nissan Qazana concept (due to be shown at Geneva), a car based on the platform of the next Nissan Micra. For now, though, the Kia Soul finds itself with few rivals.

What’s it like?

When we tried the diesel version of the Kia Soul in Korea, we came away impressed by the concept, but disappointed by the ride and handling.

Since then, however, the Kia Soul has made a trip to the folks at Lotus Engineering, who have fine-tuned the chassis for the tricky demands of the UK road network.

Lotus hasn’t made major changes, but has tweaked the damper rates and rebound settings.

The result of these changes is impressive. The Kia Soul flows with the undulations of a road in a way that belies its chunky shape and Korean provenance. It’s composed, yet it rarely feels too firm and it soaks up transverse ridges and surface imperfections with quiet ease.

The Kia Soul is not an agile car, but it always feels planted and self-assured. The electric power steering is heavy at low to medium speeds, but it feels accurate and incisive as you start to press on.

The 1.6-litre petrol engine in the Kia Soul 2 puts out 124bhp, but a weak 115lbft of torque at quite a heady 4200rpm. Still, it revs reasonably sweetly and combines well with a slick five-speed gearbox to make working it hard a relatively rewarding experience.

Still, the Kia Soul 2 is good for 62mph from rest in 11.0sec. Fuel consumption and emissions aren’t bad either; the Kia Soul 2 1.6 pumps out 153g/km of CO2 and manages 43.5mpg on the official combined cycle.

The Soul feels impressively well built, too. There are some hard-feeling plastics, but they’re tucked out of the way.

The only real black marks are for the driving position. The steering wheel only adjusts for rake, and an adjustable seat squab would also have made finding a comfortable driving position a mite easier.

Should I buy one?

The Kia Soul, in its final UK form, is definitely a step forward for Kia. It drives well and rides much better than we expected (and significantly better than the wooden Cee’d three-door).

The Soul is also spacious, good value and, above all, interesting. If you’re looking for something supermini-sized that stands out from the crowd, you could do far worse.

Matt Rigby

Join the debate

Add a comment…
sierra 20 February 2009

Re: Kia Soul 2 1.6

Thought you drove Kias for 7 years and then gave them away.

Orangewheels 20 February 2009

Re: Kia Soul 2 1.6

Krysh wrote:

Times are changing, brown can be a great colour for a car. Look at the Porsche 911 in Macadamia brown, that is one sexy car and rather than looking dowdy it looks classy and classic.

You say you don't like the colour of the Soul, fine but just remember it does come in other colours. Then again you probably drive a silver car.

Nope, but I like my cars to be in a colour where is is physically possible to sell them on in, without dealers bursting out laughing and telling me its worth £1,000 less because of the undesirable colour.

tommallett 20 February 2009

Re: Kia Soul 2 1.6

The name is slightly incongruous. Maybe they were just having a laugh.

That aside Kia do deserve to succeed generally as Skoda have done so all the best to them.