2014 KIA SOUL REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Five-door small hatchback
Price: $23,990 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 113kW/190Nm 2.0 petrol 4cyl | 6sp manual
Fuel Economy claimed: 7.6 l/100km | tested: 9.0 l/100km
Kia’s Soul has grown up since the brash first-generation model arrived in 2009.
That first car was certainly funky, but its gimmicky features (illuminated speakers, anyone?) failed to appeal to the target demographic of younger buyers.
Instead, it found favour with a more mature generation, those who favoured the Soul for its high seating hip-point, small footprint and cheap entry-level pricing. It was far from a sales success though.
Enter the new model. It still sports distinctively blocky styling, but there are no more gimmicks inside and the interior design has matured greatly.
The model range has also been simplified. Instead of the three-model line-up and diesel and petrol powertrains of the previous-gen, there’s now just one spec and one engine - your only choice is what transmission.
We took the $23,990 Soul Si Manual for a week-long spin, and found it to be a likeable thing.
It’s not perfect by any means, but as a jacked-up alternative to the Cerato it appears the Soul finally has a defined place in Kia Australia’s stable.
Quality: It’s a sea of black plastic in here, which is almost the polar opposite of the more adventurous first-gen Soul and its optional interior colour schemes.
But the quality is there. Plastics have an appealing texture to them, the dash is soft to the touch and so are the door cards, the contrast stitching on the leather steering wheel and cloth seats is nice and the silver accents on the centre stack help break up the monotony.
Quality-wise, it’s worlds apart from the first-gen soul.
Comfort: The tall seating position remains, and those who bought a first-gen Soul for its ease-of-entry will be happy to know that attribute has carried over to the new car. The hip-point is 12mm lower at the front to make entry even easier.
The front seats themselves are firmly cushioned, but shaped to give decent support. The driver’s seat is also height-adjustable, though there’s no adjustable lumbar support.
The steering wheel is adjustable for reach and rake, and festooned with plenty of buttons for cruise control, audio and trip computer. The gear lever falls easily to hand, also.
Headroom is abundant front and rear, and the Soul’s tall cabin also confers good leg and knee-room for back seat occupants.
Two adults of average size won’t find much to complain about in the back of the Soul, besides the absence of face-level air-vents.
Equipment: There’s only one spec in the Soul range now, but it’s got everything you need. Power windows and mirrors, air-conditioning, cruise control, trip computer, Bluetooth phone integration and central locking are all standard.
And that’s in addition to reverse parking-sensors, dusk-sensing headlamps and foglamps.
The audio system is a six-speaker AM/FM and CD player, with iPod connectivity, Bluetooth audio streaming and a USB input for other media players.
The colour LCD audio display is tiny though, and there’s no provision for an integrated sat-nav system.
There are also two 12V outlets at the base of the centre stack to keep your gadgets juiced up.
Storage: The boot measures in at a smallish 238 litres with the rear seats upright, though three separated compartments beneath the boot floor gives the space some added flexibility.
Drop the rear seats and there is 878 litres to the bottom of the windows, or 1251 if you stack your gear to the roof.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: The Soul’s 2.0 litre petrol engine makes 113kW of power and 191Nm of torque, both of which are average numbers for a small car.
However, this is one area where the new Soul has failed to improve on its predecessor.
In the old car (which admittedly wasn’t constrained by tighter emissions laws), the 2.0 litre engine pumped out 122kW and 200Nm.
It was also more efficient, thanks to the previous model being some 30-odd kilos lighter.
As a result, It’s not quick by any means. Like other Kias that use this engine, the Soul needs plenty of revs on board to get anywhere quickly.
The manual gearbox is a pretty slick unit though, with a light action to the clutch and shifter that makes driving it a doddle.
We also found it to be far more preferable to the optional automatic, which has a frustrating preference for tall gears.
Refinement: Barring a thrashy engine note above 4000rpm, the only other refinement-related complaint we had concerned a mystery rattle from somewhere in the rear of the cabin, most likely the parcel shelf.
Ride and Handling: The new Soul is best experienced on smoother roads.
Though Kia Australia developed its own localised suspension tune for this car, the Soul doesn’t feel entirely settled on lumpy roads and tends to jiggle over high-frequency, low-amplitude bumps.
The Soul has Kia’s 'FlexSteer' system, which alters steering weight according to driver preference via a switch on the steering wheel.
It’s a gimmick though, and best left in the default 'normal' setting. Sport mode adds weight but doesn’t improve feel (or remove the substantial dead spot around centre), while Comfort mode is over-assisted and much too light.
At the end of the day though, the Soul is not designed to carve through a set of corners.
It's not bad, but steering feel is largely irrelevant in a jacked-up grocery getter like the Soul, and some may find Comfort mode to be just the ticket when navigating tight shopping-centre carparks.
Braking: The Soul’s brake pedal is reassuringly progressive, and produces stopping power that is more than adequate. Braking hardware consists of discs front and rear, with ventilated rotors up front.
ANCAP rating: The 2014 Kia Soul has yet to be assessed by ANCAP
Safety features: ABS, EBD, brake assist, traction control and stability control round out the Soul’s standard electronic safety suite, while passengers are protected by three-point seatbelts and six airbags (front, front-side, full-length curtain).
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Kia’s warranty is one of the industry’s most competitive, covering all new cars for five years with no kilometre limit.
Service costs: Scheduled services are set for every 15,000km or 12 months, and under Kia’s fixed-price servicing scheme range from $287 to $341.
At 60,000km/48 months a major service is due costing $836, and over a five year/75,000km period the Soul will cost $2073 to maintain.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Toyota Rukus Build 1 ($27,990) - Slightly larger and with a great deal more power and torque from its 2.4 litre engine, the Rukus is nevertheless horrifically outdated compared to the Soul.
The design is old, the interior a generation behind most other Toyota products and the Rukus is just plain expensive for what it offers. (see Rukus reviews)
Holden Trax LS ($23,490 ) - The Soul is arguably more of a quasi-SUV than a small car, and when it comes to small SUVs the Trax is currently the highest-selling in the segment.
It feels a lot more compact inside than the Soul, but even in base model LS form the Trax boasts an integrated sat-nav capability (provided you’re able to use your phone’s data connection with the car).
However, the Trax’s 1.8 litre engine is also underwhelming and interior quality is behind the Soul’s. (see Trax reviews)
Ford EcoSport Trend ($22,2920) - The EcoSport’s 1.0 litre turbo three-cylinder motor is a standout in this segment, and though it has 'just' 92kW and 170Nm, it’s got more usable low-down oomph than many larger motors.
It’s a small car, certainly smaller than the Soul, but plenty likeable.
The interior isn’t as impressive as the Soul’s but if you don’t see yourself carrying more than one passenger on a regular basis, the EcoSport deserves your consideration. (see EcoSport reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The first Soul was an experiment in tapping into the hearts and wallets of the young and young-at-heart.
This new Soul is a far more well-rounded offering that doesn’t limit itself by trying to appeal to a limited, and very fickle, demographic.
It’s got a pleasant interior, plenty of room, good outward vision and - though it’s not class-leading in its on-road performance - it’s more than adequate for getting around town.
The Soul is also a little different and sits outside the norm.
It might have shrugged off much of the look-at-me styling of the first-gen model, but it still turns the occasional head.
If you’re after something a little unique in the small car segment, Kia's Soul is worth a look.
Pricing (excludes on-road costs)
- 2014 Kia Soul Si - Manual $23,990
- 2014 Kia Soul Si - Automatic $25,990