What is it
The Kia Soul ‘urban crossover’ has been given a mid-life facelift and we were impressed with the updates when we drove it in Nice late last year. Included in the revamp are new bumper and headlamp designs, a refreshed cabin facia and improved standard kit.
More notably, however, Kia has ditched the model’s 124bhp 1.6-litre petrol engine in favour of a more powerful 138bhp unit of the same displacement. The existing 1.6-litre oil-burner has also been revised to lower CO2 emissions by 8g/km to 129g/km, making the diesel exempt from Vehicle Excise Duty in its first year. Also new to the Soul model is the addition of an extra forward gear; now six in total.
Here, we’re testing the new 2012 offering in 1.6 GDi Hunter trim, which comes with large 18-inch alloys, sunroof and a reversing camera.
What’s it like?
Like the car we tested in France, we’re impressed with the new petrol engine. Keener throttle response and brawnier low-end torque transform the Soul’s usability around town and make getting up to speed on motorways less of a chore than before.
The new six-speed manual gearbox also works well with the stronger engine and enables slick changes between any gear for progressive acceleration.
Akin to the latest crop of Kias we’ve driven (Picanto included), it’s the Soul’s steering that lets the car down. It’s too light, feels almost disconnected from the front wheels and won’t inspire swift steering inputs. Saying that, the new Soul corners smoothly with limited body roll. Not that you’d want to launch the Soul into a corner with too much speed; poor brake pedal feel also detracts from the driving experience.
During typical town jaunts, uneven UK road surfaces rattle the car’s flimsy interior plastics and audibly knock the suspension components. Up the speed on open roads and the car’s limited sound deadening highlights tyre roar wind noise.
Should I buy one?
Despite its shortcomings, the Soul’s new engine makes it a decent enough family chariot. There’s plenty of space front and back - with up to 818 litres of load capacity available - bags of standard kit and running costs will be low. And don’t forget Kia’s seven-year/100,000 mile warranty.