The base model Kia Soul is the subject of this road test.
Ian Barrett tests Next Car's third Soul for 610 kms around Sydney and the NSW central coast.
ROAD TEST: Kia Soul (petrol/manual)
by Ian Barrett
6th August, 2009
Road Tests >
Kia claims to have "the power to surprise". But if you
admired the sleek new European looks of the Cerato, then 'shock' is more the word when confronted with
Kia's new Soul. Distinctly Asian in character, the 'Suzuki Swift on steroids' look is well suited to
Gen-Y, which values individual expression highly. Who says everyone should look the same? The styling of
the Soul mimics a small SUV, with its high-set three box design, but doesn't claim any off-road
credentials. Looks can be deceiving.
Step inside and you'll be surprised just how much room there is. Dominating the cabin is a dash lay
out which matches the exterior styling. But if the look is striking, the entry-model colour scheme is a
bit deflating, with an all-black 'graphite' finish to trim and plastics. However, all is not lost. Open
the glove box or centre fascia sunglass storage, and bright orange-red colour highlights are revealed.
Seating is surprisingly comfortable and there's plenty of leg and head room as a result of the tall body
configuration. A notable omission on this base model was height adjustment for the driver. We felt that
for smaller drivers the seat was a fraction low.
Equipment levels are par for the course at this price point, with remote keyless entry, manual air
conditioning, power windows and (heated) exterior mirrors, reading lights, and tilt (but not reach)
adjustable steering wheel. In-flight entertainment is provided by an MP3 compatible CD audio system
with 6 speakers including tweeters and power bass. Auxiliary jacks in the centre console, for both iPod
and USB devices, round out the picture and provide seamless interfacing. An optional sound system
upgrade is available which adds a boot-mounted sub-woofer, large centre speaker above the fascia audio
stack, and external amp.
Safety is pretty well covered too, with dual front, side and full-length curtain airbags, as well as
active front head restraints, ABS, EBD and Brake Assist standard across the range. Unfortunately, ESP
and traction control (TCS) are only available on Soul 2 and Soul 3. The base model, as tested here,
goes without these two items, so achieves only a 4-star ANCAP rating.
Underneath that body lies a very conventional front-wheel-drive mechanical lay out. Sitting on a
wheelbase of 2,550 mm, the strut-type front suspension combines with a rear torsion beam set-up to
give surprisingly flat and nimble handling for this style of vehicle, particularly with the optional
'Burner' wheels and 225/45 x18? low profile tyres fitted to our test car. The downside was '
billy-cart' ride comfort, especially on uneven surfaces, with a tendency to skip around a bit at the
rear. And such huge wheels would make the space-saver spare look even more ridiculous, should it
ever be required! Potential buyers may be well advised to stick with one of the standard wheel/tyre
Motive power for the Soul comes from a new all-alloy DOHC 1.6-litre petrol engine with
continuously variable valve timing, producing 91 kW @ 6,300 rpm and max torque of 156 Nm @ 4,200 rpm.
Our test car was fitted with the standard 5-speed manual transmission. This combination is quite
adequate for urban and highway running, providing loads are kept light. We found though, that with
four people on board, a bit of gear changing was needed to maintain speed on some of the F3's longer
gradients. A 1.6-litre turbo diesel power plant is optional on higher-spec Souls, and this would
seem a better bet for country buyers needing that extra oomph.
On a positive note, despite the engine having to work hard at times, fuel economy is surprisingly
good. Kia quote a frugal 6.5 litres/100 km for the combined cycle. We failed to match this figure on
test, but we did have additional bodies on board on occasions. CO2 emissions are 154g/km, which is
sufficient to achieve a 5-star rating in the Federal Government's Green Vehicle Guide.
Kia's clever 'no two souls are the same' sales pitch with this car is to those who crave
individuality. And with no less than 11 exterior colours to choose from, the Soul is a blank canvas
waiting for 'wanna-be' Rembrandts or Pollacks to work on - at least externally. Those who fancy a
retro-chic beige, or street demon red interior to match, will need to dig deeper for a Soul 2 or
Soul 3. But for many that won't be necessary. A wide range of customising options - everything from
body graphics to side skirts to headlight garnishes to 'gas burner' wheels - truly enables buyers to
provide a mind-boggling number of combinations. After all, the one thing we all have in common is
that we're uniquely different!
Our week with the car generated much more than the usual interest from friends, colleagues and
passers-by alike. For some this was a Soul desperately in need of a body, while others wanted to be
pointed to the nearest showroom!
Although undoubtedly designed for Gen-Y younger trendy types, we've said before that value
conscious buyers of all ages who don't mind something different will be tempted by the Soul. It's
combination of practicality, space - for both people and luggage - and economy of ownership will
win many hearts and wallets. Priced from $20,990 (without options), plus dealer delivery and the
various statutory charges, Soul certainly represents the sort of value for money motoring that we've
come to expect from Kia.
Is it for you? Love it or loathe it, you'll be sure to turn lots of heads along the