The new Kia Soul is as quirky as ever: it’s now better to drive but no less standout to look at. The choice remains as before: one of these, or a Nissan Juke?
Richard Aucock | April 2014
The Kia Soul is huge in America; they sell hundreds of thousands there each year. Fitting, really: it was designed in California after all. But for all its utilitarian cool, the first generation model never really caught on in the UK. Buyers like quirky when it’s Nissan Juke-shaped, but not when the compact crossover looks like a Soul.
The incompleteness that pre-modern era Kias used to suffer also didn’t help. It wasn’t as well rounded as cars such as the latest cee’d. Kia’s thus having another go by using the current cee’d platform for its underpinnings (good start) and rolling out honed styling that aims to round off the excess blockiness that Europeans didn’t like.
The latest Soul is now a bit longer and wider, with a longer wheelbase, but it’s a bit lower. It looks more elegant in the metal – still with the a sort of US station wagon starkness, but now with a more deft touch that you’d expect of a Schreyer-era car. There’s nothing deft about some of the colours: this vivid green is particularly striking.
Kia will offer even more from the autumn when the Mixx and Maxx models arrive – contrast roofs, graphics packs, the lot. They’re very expensive though, and we don’t think the Soul has the cult-cool status to carry them off. Best instead consider its family-friendly capabilities instead.
What is the 2014 Kia Soul like to drive?
No great surprises with how the Soul drives, but no nasty surprises either. It’s perfectly able all round thanks to its cee’d-derived platform: it somehow has lost its multi-link rear suspension but as it’s not a B-road blaster, this shouldn’t hinder it too much.
Indeed, it’s more the soft settings Kia’s chosen for the new Soul that will cap any fast charging – but the pay-off for this is a sensible one: the in-town ride quality is excellent. Particularly impressive is its refinement, its ability to take the edge off potholes and cushion things very pleasantly indeed. It’s perhaps even better than the more Germanic Volkswagen Golf here. Just keep it steady when they do start to twist, aye…
Two engines sounds a simple choice but Kia makes it even easier by forgetting to give the 1.6 petrol any torque. The diesel is the clear choice; it exhibits that loose top-end clatter that most Kia 1.6 diesels do, but it’s nicely torquey enough and the six-speed gearbox is effortless to use.
Generally, the Soul is an undemanding and cheery thing to drive. Comfort is high on the agenda and that fits the ethos of the car well. Kia proves that not everything has to be rigidly sporting in its focus, and each time you drive in the city centre, you’ll be thankful.
Is the 2014 Kia Soul a family car winner?
The Soul is theoretically a Nissan Juke alternative but it’s actually a pretty decent alternative to the cee’d, for a little less cash to boot. Whereas the cee’d offers all-round Golf-like talent, the Soul focuses on the stuff families like: ride quality’s one, but so is space, equipment, a highly flexible layout and standout-different styling.
Not everyone will like how it looks but the families that do will love it. Once inside, they have a much better quality dash to enjoy, with a modern-look and slightly SUV appearance to it. Piano black adds a quality touch and, if you go for the expected best-seller Connect Plus, so too does touchscreen sat nav.
Make that widescreen touchscreen nav: Kia’s already-excellent high-res system has been made even bigger and more appealing. It’s coming to other models in time but the Soul previews it and its breadth of functionality will certainly appeal. Other kit count pluses standard on all models include DAB, air con and keyless entry: for the money, the Soul’s very well stocked.
And it’s great to sit in. All seats are high, with loads of drop-down legroom, and massive flat windows give a great view out. There’s a particularly boost to rear legroom over the old car, thanks to a longer wheelbase, and stepping in and out is easy (an important consideration if you live in the tight-to-park city). Newfound practicality to the boot lets you make best use of its near-Golf-like capacity.
MR VERDICT: 2014 Kia Soul
The new Kia Soul isn’t quite the leftfield urban cool machine Kia GB would like (and which it admittedly is in the US). People will still buy Fiat 500s and MINIs for that. They’ll also still buy Nissan Juke in their droves too: it’s expected to still outsell the Soul 10 to 1.
So what’s the appeal of the Soul? In offering something a bit different in the small family car sector, and doing many of the things growing families will value highly. All the lifestyle and ‘radical, man’ surfboard stuff will be lost on them, which may disappoint the marketeers, but if they can get past that and discover the Soul’s gentle charms, it’ll prove an interesting addition to add on the consideration list.
- Nissan Juke
- Ford Focus
- Volkswagen Golf
- Vauxhall Mokka
- Fiat 500L
Specification: 2014 Kia Soul
Engine: 1.6-litre turbodiesel
Drivetrain: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Prices from: £16,400 (1.6 CRDi Connect)
Torque: 192lb ft
Top speed: 112mph