Kia Soul review
Kia overhauls its chunky B-segment crossover SUV-hatch; we end up liking it a lot.
Matt Robinson
Matt Robinson

Published on March 21, 2014

Overall rating: 4/5

New looks inside and out, more equipment, better refinement - the Kia Soul has always been on the periphery of the B-segment, but this 2014 machine deserves a bigger slice of the sales pie, because it's really rather good.

In the metal 4.5/5

Put a picture of the old Soul next to a snap of the new one and we can play a game of spot the difference. We'll give you a few minutes to try and circle a few changes... give in? OK, we forgive you for struggling but in actual fact every single body panel on the car is new. And as subtle refreshes go, this one has worked a treat. The Soul's LED-bejewelled front end is just a little bit less goofy than it was, while at the back there's some striking detailing to behold. Given that you can personalise the Soul, as you can with a MINI, Fiat 500 et al in this sort of market, you can also opt for some interesting colours - although you need to pick from the four two-tone paint jobs carefully, otherwise the car looks a bit odd.

The inner Soul (sorry) is excellent. Both in terms of design and the quality of the materials used, the Kia has a superb cabin with masses of room, clever storage cubbies hidden everywhere, some neat design details like the two front tweeter speakers on top of the air vents and the option of plenty of toys. We tried cars equipped with touchscreen satnav (nice graphics, easy to use), cruise control, leather and climate control. It doesn't feel like you have to accept an interior that's 'nearly as good as the competition' any more, that's for certain.

Driving it 4/5

This Soul is based on the latest Kia cee'd platform and two-thirds of its body is made of ultra-high or high strength steel for 29 per cent better torsional rigidity overall. Kia has also relocated the front MacPherson suspension on its own sub-frame with four bushings, fitted longer, vertically-mounted shock absorbers at the rear and moved the steering box forward, all in the hope of making the car both more refined and better to throw about. In one of these areas, Kia has hit the bull's-eye.

Though Kia Ireland has yet to confirm its plans for the new Soul, it's known that it will only offer the CRDi 1.6-litre diesel engine with the lovely six-speed manual gearbox (an automatic on special order). It is no road rocket in this configuration but it certainly feels punchier at low revs than the lacklustre petrol model available in other markets, while you don't have to endlessly stir the gearbox for acceleration.

However, the real shining example the Kia sets in this segment is thanks to its refinement. Even on 18-inch alloys, there's a fluidity to its ride that makes cruising and town driving hugely pleasurable, and engine noise is subdued once into sixth and on a trailing throttle.

So the harsher edges of the Soul's ride have been eroded, but it doesn't wallow on its springs as a result. The crossover resists roll very well for something so upright and high-riding, and it has more grip than you might think in the corners too - but the problem here, as ever, is the steering. There are three settings you can choose from but none of them offer any feel and they're all way too light. The brakes are capable enough but while the Soul's handling is good, it's not exceptional. Much better to drive the Kia as the vast majority of buyers inevitably will, in a more relaxed manner. That way, you can revel in its high-quality refinement.

What you get for your money

Pricing for the new Kia Soul has not yet been announced, though it is expected to be on the market in Ireland from May this year. It's unclear whether Kia will stick with its regular LX, EX, GSE line-up or use some of the more daring names attached to trim levels across Europe, which include Start, Connect, Connect Plus, Mixx and Maxx. We'll update this review once full details are known.

Worth Noting

There's a Soul EV coming for those who want the ultimate in eco-motoring. It has a more smoothed-off front end than the Souls with conventional engines, and it's priced to compete with Nissan's LEAF. Kia says it will come in one high-specification trim only, regardless of market, as EV early adopters seem to go for lots of tech in their futuristic chariots. Kia Ireland will not have the Soul EV on sale in 2014, but will review demand for electric cars in 2015.


Unless you're a really, really enthusiastic driver, if you pick a diesel, manual Kia Soul and then specify it in the right colours inside and out, with the addition of a few choice toys, it's hard to recommend anything that can do simple, comfortable motoring better. Possessed of a supple ride, quiet manners and the sort of ingenious use of space in a compact footprint that shows the MINI up for the chunky charlatan it is, the Soul is a hugely appealing machine as a day-to-day companion because it doesn't try too hard; it pragmatically invites you to take it as it is, a solid-but-small crossover that's great value. Throw in the manufacturer's mega seven-year warranty and likely keen pricing, and we think the new Soul could be a real winner.


Tech Specs

Model testedKia Soul 1.6 CRDi
Engine1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel
Transmissionsix-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Body stylefive-door crossover
RivalsFiat 500L Trekking, Renault Captur, Skoda Yeti
CO2 emissions125g/km (Band B1, €270 per annum)
Combined economy58.9mpg (4.8 litres/100km)
Top speed177km/h
0-100km/h11.2 seconds
Power128hp at 4,000rpm
Torque260Nm from 1,900- to 2,750rpm