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2009 Kia Soul (copyright image) 
Photography: Stephen Walker

The trendy all-new Kia Soul was
released locally in recent days.
Prices begin at $20,990 (RRP).

REVIEW:   Kia Soul

by Stephen Walker

5th April, 2009

Home > News > Kia > Soul

Kia has been preparing the world for their new light car, the Soul, for some time now. However, the anticipation has been gaining momentum over the past 12 months.

The new Kia Soul is just 4,105 mm long and is powered by either an economical 1.6 litre petrol engine or a very economical 1.6 litre diesel. Next Car has driven both! And we plan on driving the new Kia Souls more extensively in coming weeks.

Although Kia aren't gearing up for this new model to be a volume seller, it must be assumed that interest in this model will be quite high for a number of reasons. For example, as mentioned, Kia has been displaying the Soul concept car or variations of it throughout the world. In fact, the first Soul appeared in 2006. Additionally, the production version of this model has been seen at various motor shows around the globe, including here in Australia. Further, the styling touches used to differentiate this model from every other car on the planet is bound to gain extra attention for the South Korean brand as it continues on its path to a higher profile.

Another reason why this new model will attract attention is the starting price. From just $20,990 (RRP), this car is well priced to take advantage of the interest which will be evident once this model becomes a talking point amongst folks young and old.

Kia Soul Prices (RRP)

Model Petrol manual Petrol automatic Diesel manual Diesel automatic
$20,990 $22,990 - -
    Soul 2
$23,190 $25,190 $26,690 $28,690
    Soul 3
- $27,390 - $30,890

Premium paint (Mica/Metallic) is available at $400 extra cost.


A choice between petrol and diesel engines is a strong point for Kia with the release of their all-new Soul. Being a light car, a small engine is the tradition for this important market segment. Both 4 cylinder engines are 1.6 litres in capacity. Subject to which Soul variant is selected by a buyer, either engine can be matched with manual or automatic transmission.

The 1.6 litre petrol engine, which is bound to be the most popular of the two choices, has 91 kW of power (at 6,300 rpm). The torque rating is 156 Nm at 4,200 rpm. This small capacity, high output power plant is known as a "Gamma" series engine within Kia circles. Its first appearance in Australia is in the Soul. This all aluminium engine features twin overhead camshafts, continuously variable valve timing and electronic multi-point fuel injection. Standard unleaded petrol is the necessary fuel for this engine.

The common rail turbocharged diesel engine is also 1.6 litre in capacity. This UII series diesel engine was designed and engineered at Kia's Russelsheim facility in Germany. It features 94 kW of power at 4,000 rpm and a very useful 260 Nm of torque at 1,900 rpm. These figures ensure respectable performance. The UII series diesel is also used by the Hyundai i30 and Europe's Kia cee'd.

Whilst Soul 2 and Soul 3 are available with a choice of petrol or diesel, the base model Kia Soul is available with the petrol engine only.

2009 Kia Soul (copyright image) 
Photography: Stephen Walker

2009 Kia Soul (copyright image) 
Photography: Stephen Walker

2009 Kia Soul (copyright image) 
Photography: Stephen Walker

2009 Kia Soul (copyright image) 
Photography: Stephen Walker

2009 Kia Soul (copyright image) 
Photography: Stephen Walker

2009 Kia Soul (copyright image) 
Photography: Stephen Walker

2009 Kia Soul (copyright image) 
Photography: Stephen Walker

2009 Kia Soul (copyright image) 
Photography: Stephen Walker


The usual choice of a 5 speed manual or a 4 speed automatic is available for the all-new Kia Soul.

Soul and Soul 2 are available with either manual or automatic transmission, whilst Soul 3 is available only as an automatic.

The auto adds $2,000 to the price of the Kia Soul.

Trim Level

Three versions of the trendy little Kia Soul are available. There's Soul, plus Soul 2 and Soul 3.

One important aspect for Kia is the prospect of customisation by Soul buyers. Besides choosing one of three versions, Kia is offering numerous customisation features. There's stripes, decals, body 'skirts', fuel cap, wheels, 'eye liner' for the headlights and much more. Some are available in packs whilst others are available individually. But the idea is to provide a "no two Souls are the same" type of deal. To assist with this ideal, eleven colours are available. Some of the colours, such as White No. 1, Soul Black, Cocktail Orange, Green Tea, Java Brown, Blue Stone are currently unique to the Soul. Colours such as Tomato Red, Vanilla Shake, Titanium Silver and Moonlight Blue are shared with the Kia Rondo. Another colour, Bright Silver, is shared with Cerato, Rondo and Sorento. Metallic/mica colours are optional at $400.

One gimmick, above all else, requires special mention ..... the sound sensitive 'mood lighting' for the front door speakers of the premium sound system are part of the Soul 3 treatment which is bound to be a 'hit' with many folks. In fact the sound system is an important aspect of the Kia Soul. Every model in Kia's new Soul line-up has a six speaker radio/CD player with iPod and MP3 capability, together with USB and AUX ports. Volume is speed sensitive. The Soul 2 and Soul 3 have steering wheel mounted remote controls for the audio.

Another gimmick worthy of mention is the "glow at night" Soul logos on the front seats of Soul 2 and Soul 3 fitted with the standard interior. Soul 3 also has the option of "Retro Chic" or "Street Demon" interior treatment.

Clearly, style and customisation is big with the little Soul.

Body Styles

Just one body style is available with Kia's new light car. Deemed to be an "urban crossover" vehicle by Kia, the all-new Soul has a five door SUV-type body. This new front-wheel drive all-purpose vehicle features a rear tailgate, although Kia refer to this 'liftgate' as a hatchback. Of course there is no difference though.

Features of the Soul's styling include short overhangs, a flat top roof, a narrowing glasshouse, dominant A-pillar and bulging wheel arches.

Other models using the Soul 'platform' are likely at some point in the future.


Stung by criticism some years ago, Kia sees safety as in integral aspect of vehicle presentation. The new Kia Soul has six airbags as standard equipment, active head restraints and numerous body structure enhancements. Also standard for each Soul is anti-lock braking system (ABS) and electronic brake distribution (EBD). Electronic Stability Programme (ESP) is standard for Soul 2 and Soul 3, but not available with the base model Kia Soul.

Although crash testing has not been undertaken by Kia as yet, the company is planning on achieving a 5 star rating from Euro-NCAP later in the year. Because Euro-NCAP provide 5 stars only to cars with ESP which produce a good result in crash testing it must be assumed only Soul 2 and Soul 3 will gain 5 stars. The base model Kia Soul, in the view of Next Car will only receive, at best, a 4 star crash test result. But even 4 stars are good, especially for non-aggressive drivers who are the ones least likely to require ESP.

Fuel Consumption

It's good news all-round for Kia Soul drivers in respect to fuel consumption.

The Kia Soul, being offered with either petrol or diesel engines, is light-on with fuel.

For example, on the combined cycle, the petrol Soul uses just 6.5 or 7.0 litres per 100 kms (manual/auto), whilst the diesel Soul uses 5.2 or 5.9 litres per 100 kms (manual/auto). The light weight Kia Soul won't produce complaints about fuel use. The fuel tank capacity is 48 litres.


CO2 output is rated between 137 and 167 grammes per kilometre for the Kia Soul, when on the combined cycle (the most commonly quoted measuring cycle). These figures are quite good, but Next Car sees pressure mounting on car manufacturers and their customers to reduce emission levels in coming years. But the trend towards good emission levels, such as those quoted for the Kia Soul is making progress towards a more sustainable future simply by eliminating older stock amongst the nation's expansive "car park".


Boot space:

4,105 mm
1,785 mm
1,610 mm (without roof rails)
2,550 mm
546 litres (under luggage cover)


The Kia Soul has the capacity to tow a braked trailer up to 1,100 kilogrammes (auto transmission) or 1,300 kg (manual).

The weight for an unbraked trailer, for the Kia Soul, is 450 kg (petrol engine models) or 550 kg (diesel engine models).


A peace of mind warranty is provided by Kia. Private buyers are supported by a 5 year/unlimited kilometre factory backed warranty. Upon the sale of a Kia with this warranty, the unused portion of the warranty is transferable to the subsequent owner.

Government, fleet and business buyers are covered by a 5 year/130,000 kilometre warranty.


The Soul is manufactured at Kia's Gwangju production facilities in South Korea. The company has the capacity to manufacture up to 175,000 Souls per year. This production plant also makes the Sportage and K2900, together with buses and military vehicles.

On The Road

Prior to the new Kia Soul arriving in local dealerships, a handful of media types were provided an opportunity to drive this trendy new model. Next Car was there, of course. First impressions were quickly established because this car has a good feel about it. To me, it felt comfortable as both a driver and as a front seat passenger. Only the addition of lumbar support could improve the front seating. The roominess is appealing because this is a small car, but certainly not a cramped car! The driving characteristics are pleasant and the car features stand-out styling which will become an attraction in 'itself'. The diesel offers better performance than the petrol engine, but I'm certain that the petrol models will be the better sellers. Although the Kia Soul is a light car, it is not a noisy car. Clearly, this new model has a great deal to offer various 'types' of buyers. Although Kia believes the car will hold sway with younger trendy types, I see value conscious buyers of all ages interested in something different as being tempted by the Soul. That's because the interior is roomy, both front and rear, with reasonable luggage space. There's is an element of quietness and entry/egress is comfortable. Whilst performance isn't going to win many souls, the Soul will win many a 'conquest sale' for Kia because this car is different, very different. In fact, Kia say no two Souls are the same. Perhaps that goes for the buyers too!

2009 Kia Soul (copyright image) 
Photography: Stephen Walker


The Kia Soul is now available from the firm's 100 plus Australian dealers.


Kia's motto suggests the company has "The Power To Surprise". The new Kia Soul, in fact, proves it! This trendy little car is different from every other car on the Australian market. That being the case, it is going to gain attention wherever it goes. The driving experience is quite pleasing, especially with the diesel because of its higher torque rating over the petrol engined versions. But the real treat is the multi-faceted manner in which the Kia Soul attracts buyer attention. The exterior has a very different 'look' to it and, despite the compact dimensions, the interior is comfortably roomy, whilst the price is definitely 'right'. So it is true, and it is particularly obvious, that Kia does have the power to surprise.


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