Ian Dickson
18/02/2009 00:00 | By Ian Dickson, content editor, MSN Cars

Kia Soul review (2009 onwards)

Kia Soul (© Kia)

What – Kia Soul 1.6 petrol
Where – Henley-on-Thames, England
Price - £10,495 - £14,995
Available - March
Key rivals - Citroen C3 Picasso, Ford Fusion, Honda Jazz, Nissan Note, Renault Modus, Skoda Roomster, Vauxhall Meriva, Toyota Yaris Verso


Kia's SUV-inspired 'crossover' blends the styling of a 4x4 with the practicality of an MPV and the pricing of a supermini

We like: funky styling, personalisation options, cabin space, handling, diesel engineWe dislike: harsh ride, some cheap plastic in the cabin, petrol engine boomy

Read more Kia reviews

First impressions

Kia Soul (© Images © Kia)

Getting that all-important car sale has never been more important. No longer can a car be 'just okay' to succeed in the showroom. It has to be different, fit for a variety of purposes, enjoyable to drive, cheap to buy and run, roomy enough for a family and, well, you get the idea...To launch a new car now might seem like madness, but Kia's Soul is well-priced, starting at £10,500 and rising to £14,995, and looks more capable than your average supermini, so it may tempt down-sizers out of their SUVs. It also has that funky, chunky, urban feel to it, with vivid eye-catching colours and decals galore. This car says "I don't take life too seriously".


Kia Soul (© Images © Kia)

Two engines are available - petrol and diesel 1.6s. Both have similar power outputs (124 bhp for the petrol and 126 for the diesel), but it's the diesel that would be our choice, its 192 lb/ft of pulling muscle giving it flexible performance that's better suited to carrying heavy loads. It's also relatively smooth and quiet for a diesel.The petrol is harder work; you need to rev it higher in each gear to get the same acceleration, plus it makes quite a racket at higher revs - where you'll spend a lot of time. Performance times for either aren't startling; 60mph takes 11 seconds or more.There's no eco model at the moment, and we wouldn't rule that out, but Kia insists there will definitely not be a four-wheel drive version.

Ride and handling

Kia Soul (© Images © Kia)

Kia turned to chassis gods Lotus when developing the Soul. The brief: "responsive handling with a supple ride". Have they cracked it? Well, for a car that is 1.6 metres tall - that's almost as high as a Honda CRV - the Soul handles surprisingly well.Take a roundabout too quickly and this Kia does a fine job of staying upright, limited suspension travel preventing the body from leaning over too much. Only a lack of grip from the front end will stop you turning into a proper boy racer and making the kids bring their lunches up on every outing.

Kia Soul (© Images © Kia)

Now for the 'but'. And it's a big one. There always has to be a compromise between ride and handling - and the downside of the Soul's frankly astonishing body control is a harsh ride.Our car was wearing the largest wheels, which didn't help, but on our test route mainly comprising English A and B roads the suspension thumped and banged over potholes and broken Tarmac. The low-speed ride is smoother, but it's still not perfect.

Interior and equipment

Kia Soul (© Images © Kia)

One of the reasons people love SUVs is the commanding view of the road. You get this in the Soul. And the world's tallest man would probably have an inch or two to spare in here, such is the gap between head and roofline.
Crucially, this makes the Soul feel a lot bigger than a conventional supermini and makes the cabin bright and airy.Move back a row and three people should have no problem fitting across the rear bench, with adequate knee room for the vast majority. Moving towards the boot, it's clear that the priority has been on providing comfortable passenger space at the expense of luggage.

Kia Soul (© Images © Kia)

The rear bench doesn't slide fore and aft like rivals such as the Citroen C3 Picasso, so the boot is a rather limited 340 litres - which is fine for day-to-day tasks but will leave you wanting if you go on holiday. It can be extended to 800 litres by folding the seats flat.Handily, there is a boot divider beneath the floor, so you can drive home from the shops - making full use of the Lotus-tuned suspension - without turning the back of your car into an omelette. The funky exterior theme continues inside, with coloured dashes - the red dash is particularly fetching! - door speakers which light up and fade in and out, a USB and AUX port for iPod moments, as well as tons of personalisation options. There are a multitude of trim levels, starting with Soul 1 and Soul 2, and rising to 'Originals' like Samba, Shaker and Burner, which come with their own distinct styles. All models get the MP3 functionality, air-con, four electric windows, remote locking and six airbags. That's not forgetting the excellent five-year unlimited-mileage warranty that every new Kia is covered under.

Economy and safety

Combined economy for the petrol is 43.5mpg and 54.3 for the diesel, both respectable figures that shouldn't be too hard to get near if you drive carefully.Carbon emissions are similarly slick - 153g/km and 137g/km respectively, but you'd be stretching the truth to call it green. If you're downsizing, however, the Soul will be a cheap, conscience-cleansing car.

The MSN Cars verdict

Four stars for the Kia Soul (© Image © Microsoft)

The Soul is fun, cheap, spacious, practical, decent to drive and cost-effective to run - what's not to like? Buy one and you won't fail to be impressed. However, the ride was much too jarring so avoid the big wheels if your street-cred allows.

Engines: petrol1.6
Engines: diesel1.6
Power (bhp)124-126
Torque lb ft 115 - 192
0-62 mph secs 11.3 - 11.0
Top speed mph110  -113
Mpg combined43.5 - 54.3
CO2 g/km / Tax %137 - 153 

Read more Kia reviews

Also consider: Kia Soul rivals

Citroen C3 Picasso
Ford Fusion
Honda Jazz
Nissan Note
Renault Modus
Skoda Roomster
Vauxhall Meriva


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