A new petrol engine was the chief change in the Kia's last round of revisions for the Soul. It is still 1.6 litres but now has 138bhp instead of 122bhp thanks to direct injection.

This all-aluminium unit is mated to a choice of manual or automatic six-speed gearboxes, which replaced a five-speed manual and a dated four-speed auto. Peak torque also rises but is delivered at a high 4850rpm. The extra gear ratio means that the intermediates can be close enough to mask this trait while still giving relaxed cruising.

Soul's 1.6-litre engines are better performers than the on-paper figures suggest

The 138bhp engine transforms the Soul, with a keener throttle response and, surprisingly, an almost turbo-like depth of thrust from low revs despite that lofty torque peak. The engine is smoother, too, and squirting the Soul through a series of fast, hilly bends now becomes a pleasure thanks to the broad torque spread.

The Soul’s original petrol engine was thrashy and really needed working to make progress. There were also a few performance discrepancies on our original road test of the Soul – but in a good way. Kia claimed a 0-62mph time of exactly 11sec, but the test car reached 60mph in 9.7sec.

The car's manual gearbox has a smooth, accurate shift, the clutch has lost its former anaesthesia and even the brakes feel quite progressive.

On the diesel front, buyers can opt for Kia’s 126bhp 1.6 CRDi unit. The diesel engine is the better choice than the petrol, with torque enough to motivate the Soul’s relatively chunky kerb weight and, of course, the improvements in economy and emissions over its petrol sibling.

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