Kia Soul hatchback (2014-2018)
“With a quirky design and spacious interior, the Kia Soul is a crossover that’s sure to get you noticed, but it’s not very economical”
- Better-looking than previous models
- Well equipped as standard
- Spacious interior
- Noisy engine
- Limited engine range
When Kia Soul crossover was launched around a decade ago, it was a surprising departure from the South Korean manufacturer’s usual cars. The current Soul still retains the quirky styling of the original model, but it is now only available as a pure-electric EV model, which we’ve reviewed separately.
The Kia Soul is a rival for the Nissan Juke, Citroen C3 Aircross and the Renault Captur. A facelift in 2016 helped the car keep pace with rivals, as did the addition of a 201bhp model called the Kia Soul Sport in 2017.
The Soul was designed from its original concept to have a squared-off design, helping practicality. Its large windows brighten up the interior, even for rear seat passengers and its high seating position allowed for a great view of the road, while still offering lots of head and knee room. The Soul’s tall roof and boxy shape mean storage and boot space is good, but the Renault Captur or Skoda Karoq offer a little more room in these areas.
The boot is usefully proportioned, with its tall roof making it easy to load awkward objects, even if it doesn’t have a big size advantage over rivals like the Renault Captur, Skoda Karoq or Citroen C3 Aircross. Folding the rear seats down also frees up useful extra space.
Styling updates from 2016 included a revamped nose with Kia’s ‘tiger-nose’ family grille, xenon headlights and LED daytime running lights and large front foglights have brought the Soul up to date. It’s a similar story inside, where metallic trim contrasts nicely with piano-black inserts. The Soul Sport gets a sporty front bumper and grille, twin exhaust tailpipes and unique 18-inch alloy wheels, while the interior has its own colour scheme and a flat-bottomed steering wheel.
In any trim, it may not look like the most dynamic of vehicles, but the Soul doesn’t actually give the driver too much of a raw deal. Despite its height, it doesn’t lean into corners like you might expect, and the big wheels grip the road tightly. There’s good visibility forward, too, so you can see a long way ahead from that high driving position. The Sport version takes things too far though, with a firm and unsettled ride that doesn’t feel suited to bumpy British roads.
A powerful 201bhp 1.6-litre T-GDI turbocharged petrol engine brings an extra dimension of performance compared to the 134bhp diesel model, while there is also a 130bhp 1.6-litre petrol – the only engine available for the entry-level '1' model. Except for the automatic-only Soul Sport, all Souls have a six-speed manual gearbox as standard, with certain diesels offering a seven-speed automatic option at extra cost.
With the manual gearbox, the 134bhp diesel can return up to 58.8mpg – a much better figure than the 43.5mpg you can expect from the petrol. The diesel’s CO2 emissions are 127 grams per kilometre, and the annual road-tax bill for every petrol and diesel Soul will be £145. This doesn’t stack up all that favourably against the Nissan Juke, though – with a diesel engine, that car can deliver 70.6mpg and a far lower 104g/km CO2 emissions, with the latter figure leading to lower company car obligations.
The Kia Soul has four trim levels available, beginning with the simply named ‘1’ model, which is pretty generously equipped, with air-conditioning, Bluetooth, DAB radio and inputs for iPods or other MP3 players. The ‘2’ model added a reversing camera and seven-inch infotainment display, including music streaming. Our favourite ’3’ version boosted this to an eight-inch touchscreen display with sat nav including European mapping, an upgraded stereo, keyless entry and an improved climate-control air-conditioning system.
The Kia Soul Sport adds a higher level of standard kit, including a panoramic sunroof, leather and heated front and rear seats, a JBL sound system, xenon headlights, 18-inch alloy wheels and additional safety technology.
Kia owners have the benefit of one of the best warranties on the market: a seven-year/100,000-mile policy that should quell any fears about support if anything should go wrong. The Soul didn’t feature in our Driver Power owner satisfaction in 2019, but in 2016 it managed a 54th place finish out of 150 cars.
The Kia Soul received a four-star rating from Euro NCAP, which is a lower score than some rivals, with a disappointing 75% in the adult occupant protection category. Its score was also affected by the fact that autonomous emergency braking was never made available on this generation.