Kia Soul hatchback
Price £12,600 - £29,995
- Bold styling
- Well equipped
- Spacious interior
- Noisy engines
- Too expensive to run
- Top trim levels too pricey
At a glance
"The Kia Soul is a roomy crossover with a classy interior, but its inefficient engines make it expensive to run."
The Kia Soul has grown up for 2014: it's 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 leaves you feeling disconnected from what the front wheels are doing, the Soul drives well, with lots of grip and not too much body lean for a car this tall. Though the engines are powerful, they're 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. The electric model, the Kia Soul EV, does offer significantly lower running costs, however.
These failings make the Soul hard to recommend in such a fiercely competitive class. The Citroen C4 Cactus looks funkier, plus it's more comfortable, better-suited to families and 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 fuel economy and high tax 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 lags well behind rivals. Its 1.6-litre petrol manages a measly 41.5mpg, dropping to just 38.7mpg for the Mixx and Maxx trim levels. CO2 emissions of 158-170g/km mean road tax will cost between £180 and £205 a year.
To put this into perspective, the Kia Soul petrol is as expensive to tax as the 247bhp Ford Focus ST hot hatchback, while the Peugeot 2008 petrol is capable of 65.7mpg economy and has CO2 emissions of 99g/km.
The Kia Soul diesel isn't that much better, with fuel economy of 56.5mpg and CO2 emissions of 132g/km for £130-a-year road tax. The Nissan Juke can return up to 70.6mpg, the Peugeot 2008 74.3mpg and the Renault Captur an impressive 76.4mpg, while the Citroen C4 Cactus blows them all away with 91.1mpg. Choose the automatic 1.6-litre diesel Soul and fuel consumption increases to 47.1mpg, while CO2 emissions match the petrol's, at 158g/km.
While petrol engines can often make sense if you travel short distances, we'd recommend the Soul diesel with a manual gearbox thanks to its half-decent fuel economy and relatively low tax band. This should also be the most desirable version on the used-car market, boosting its potential resale value.
The arrival of an electric version, called the Kia Soul EV, adds a genuinely green model to the line-up. Kia says this version is capable of travelling 132 miles on a full charge, and, when driven carefully, we think the car is capable of coming very close to this figure.
Engines, drive & performance
Plenty of power and grip, but inert steering and too much noise spoil things
For such a tall car, the Soul corners without too much body lean and plenty of grip. The steering has three settings, each slightly heavier than the one before. Sadly, no matter which setting you choose, it 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 a diesel 2008, Captur or Juke. This engine makes overtaking easy, but on the downside it's quite loud under acceleration. The 130bhp 1.6-litre GDi petrol also appears powerful on paper, but in reality it needs to be worked hard to deliver its best performance, and it's also quite noisy.
The Soul EV is great to drive around town. The 109bhp electric motor can deliver all of its power instantly if you want it to, so it feels extremely quick in stop-start city traffic. The car will do 0-60mph in 10.8 seconds and has a top speed of 90mph. Although the EV's suspension is slightly softer than the standard car's, the battery pack under the floor lowers the EV's centre of gravity, so it still handles reasonably well. The steering is light but still feels artificial, and the Soul EV doesn't have the tight turning circle of the BMW i3 – one of its chief rivals.
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 Connect Plus models and above, further improving the looks inside.
Comfortable front seats and a steering wheel that adjusts for height and reach make for a good driving position. You sit quite high and the Soul has large front and side windows, giving excellent visibility. There's also a reversing camera fitted to every version except the entry-level Start model.
The Soul EV has a few special features, including a radius on the sat-nav map to show you how far the remaining battery charge will take you and where your nearest charging stations are.
The Soul used to have a rough ride, but the suspension fitted to the updated version is better suited to poor-quality 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
Plenty of head and legroom, plus lots of storage cubbies
The recent updates was more than just a visual 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 to what you get in 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.
In the EV, boot capacity drops to 281 litres because of a temperature-control system for the batteries, but this doesn't affect the main luggage area, because it's fitted under the floor. There's also 80mm less legroom in the back of the EV because of the batteries, but you can negate this by rearranging the angle of the rear seats.
Reliability & safety
A long warranty and lots of standard safety kit
Kia was a non-mover in the Driver Power 2014 customer satisfaction survey, remaining an impressive seventh out of 33 manufacturers, beating the likes of Audi, Honda and Toyota. Other Kia models such as the Rio and Cee'd performed well, but this version of 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/100,000-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 anti-lock brakes, hill hold, tyre-pressure monitoring to alert you of a puncture, front and side airbags and ISOFIX child-seat mounts.
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 equipment. There are five trim levels: Start, Connect, Connect Plus, Mixx and Maxx. Start features a DAB digital radio, USB and MP3 player 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 feature some styling add-ons, and the pricey Maxx adds leather upholstery and a panoramic sunroof.
The Soul EV comes in one trim and it's generously equipped. Standard kit includes an eight-inch touchscreen with European mapping, reversing camera, automatic air-conditioning, heated front seats, front fog lamps, tinted rear windows, 16-inch alloy wheels, cruise control and front and rear parking sensors. The car is elligible for the government's £5,000 grant too, making it better value.
When it comes to resale values, the Soul isn't quite as good as its closest rivals, but the entry-level petrol and diesel versions are your best bet for the lowest depreciation. Avoid the expensive Mixx and Maxx trims, as their accessories don't really help their value on the second-hand market.