Kia Soul hatchback
Price £12,600 - £21,550
- Bold styling
- Spacious interior
- Too expensive to run
- Noisy engines
- Top trim levels too pricey
At a glance
"The Kia Soul is a roomy crossover with a classy interior, but its uneconomical engines make it expensive to run."
The Kia Soul has grown up for 2014, being taller, wider and longer than before. It's very roomy inside, offering passengers plenty of headroom and a more upmarket feel than some of its rivals. The ride comfort has been improved too, smoothing out the bumps better than before.
Despite its light steering, which gives a disconnected feel between driver and front wheels, the Soul drives quite well, with lots of grip and not too much body lean for a vehicle this tall. Though the engines are powerful, they are also far too thirsty. Rivals like the Peugeot 2008, Renault Captur and Nissan Juke offer similarly chunky looks with city car running costs, but the Soul can be as expensive to run as a full-size SUV or sporty hot hatch, with the range-topping petrol engine managing just 38.7mpg.
These failings make the Soul hard to recommend in such a fiercely competitive class. The Citroen C4 Cactus looks funkier, is more comfortable, better-suited to families and is much cheaper to run. If you want a sportier crossover, both the 2008 and Juke have sharper styling and are more fun to drive.
MPG, running costs & CO2
Poor economy and high tax bands might put you off the Soul altogether
While the best crossovers offer the chunky looks of an SUV with the running costs of a small car, the Kia Soul is badly lagging behind rivals. Its 1.6-litre petrol manages a measly 41.5mpg, which drops to just 38.7mpg with the trim levels ‘Mixx’ and ‘Maxx’. Emissions of 158g/km to 170g/km of CO2 cost between £180 and £205 in annual road tax.
To put this into perspective, the petrol Soul is as expensive to tax as the 247bhp Ford Focus ST hot hatchback, while the Peugeot 2008 has a petrol version capable of 65.7mpg and CO2 emissions of 99g/km.
The diesel isn’t that much better, with economy of 56.5mpg and emissions of 132g/km costing £130 a year in road tax. The Nissan Juke can return up to 70.6mpg, the 2008 74.3mpg and the Captur an impressive 76.4mpg, while the C4 Cactus blows them all away with 91.1mpg. Choose the automatic 1.6-litre diesel and consumption increases to 47.1mpg, while emissions match the petrol at 158g/km.
While petrol engines can often make sense if you travel short distances, we’d recommend the Soul as a diesel with a manual gearbox thanks to its half-decent economy and tax band. This should also be the most desirable version on the used car market, aiding its potential resale value.
Engines, drive & performance
Plenty of power and grip, but inert steering and too much noise spoil things
For such a tall-looking car the Soul corners without too much body lean and with plenty of grip. The steering has three settings, which adjust how much effort is required to turn the wheel. Sadly, no matter which setting you choose, the steering lacks the positive feedback that you get in a Nissan Juke.
The 126bhp CRDi diesel is the pick of the engine range, with more power than you’ll find in a diesel 2008, Captur or Juke. The engine makes overtaking easy but on the downside the diesel is quite loud under acceleration. The 130bhp 1.6-litre GDi petrol also appears powerful on paper but in reality it needs working hard to deliver its best performance, and it’s also quite noisy.
Interior & comfort
An upmarket interior with lots of equipment
The latest Kia Soul has an improved interior with better quality materials, including new switches and buttons that look and feel upmarket and are clearly and logically laid out. A large eight-inch touchscreen is fitted in models ‘Connect Plus’ and above, further improving the looks inside.
Comfortable front seats and a steering wheel that adjusts for height and reach allows for a good driving position. You sit quite high and the Soul has large front and side windows, giving excellent visibility. You also get a reversing camera fitted in every version except the entry-level ‘Start’ model.
The older Soul used to have a rough ride, but the suspension fitted to the updated version is more comfortable for British roads. It’s best to avoid the 18-inch wheels of the ‘Mixx’ and ‘Maxx’ models, however, as these send more bumps into the cabin.
Practicality & boot space
Ample headroom and legroom, with plenty of storage cubbies
The recent updates weren’t just a makeover, the new Soul is longer, wider and taller than before. Its boxy shape also helps to create a spacious interior, with more front and rear headroom than you’ll find in the curvier Nissan Juke. There’s plenty of legroom for four adults to travel comfortably, while three children can fit easily on the rear seats.
Interior storage impresses, with door pockets able to swallow large bottles, cup holders behind the gear lever, a large glovebox and space for your phone and wallet in the centre console.
The boot measures 354 litres behind the rear seats, making it almost identical in size to the Juke and 2008, but slightly smaller than the Captur’s 377-litre luggage space. The rear seats split and fold, but don’t go completely flat, so there’s a step over which you have to lift longer items. With the seats down there’s an impressive 1,367 litres of space if you load right up to the roof. Accessibility is good thanks to the large bootlid but a small loading lip means you can’t quite slide items straight in.
It’s possible to move the boot floor to several different heights, or lift it up to find the temporary space-saver spare wheel.
Reliability & safety
A long warranty and lots of standard safety kit
Kia was a non-mover in the 2014 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, holding an impressive seventh position out of 33 manufacturers and beating the likes of Audi, Honda and Toyota. Other Kia models like the Rio and Cee’d performed well but the Soul was too new to make it into the chart.
Any issues shouldn’t be too much of a worry, however, thanks to Kia’s industry-leading seven-year/100,00 mile warranty. The Soul hasn’t been crash-tested by Euro NCAP yet, but we’d expect a good result, particularly as the previous version was awarded five stars.
Every Soul comes fitted with ABS, hill-hold, tyre pressure monitoring to alert you of a puncture, front and side airbags and ISOFIX mounts for child car seats.
Price, value for money & options
A low entry-price and lots of equipment make the Soul good value
The Kia Soul undercuts its main rivals and looks like good value thanks to a comprehensive range of standard-fit equipment. There are five trim levels: Start, Connect, Connect Plus, Mixx and Maxx, with Start getting DAB digital radio, USB and AUX connections and steering wheel controls. Connect adds 17-inch alloy wheels, cruise control and Bluetooth, while Connect Plus is the pick of the range as it also benefits from an eight-inch touchscreen, but does without the 18-inch wheels of the Mixx and Maxx models. The range-toppers have styling add-ons and the pricey Maxx gets leather upholstery and a panoramic sunroof.
When it comes to re-sale values, the Soul isn’t quite as good as holding its value as its closest rivals, but the entry-level petrol and diesel versions are your best bet for the least depreciation. Avoid the Mixx and Maxx grades, as it’s hard to recoup the high initial cost of the car.