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Kia Soul 2014 review

EXPERT RATING
7
Looking for a car with soul? Then Kia Soul may be just the thing for you.

Looking for a car with soul? Then Kia Soul may be just the thing for you. With looks that are right out of the ordinary and offered in a bright range of colours, this new-generation Soul -- priced at $23,990 with a six-speed manual gearbox and $25,990 with six-speed automatic -- may have arrived in Australia at just the right time to cash in on the buyer confidence.

Younger buyers want to buy cars like the Kia Soul to play the customisation game and the importer provides some strong colours as a starting point. We drove bright green and vivid red Souls during the media-launch drive program - and certainly attracted plenty of attention.

But we reckon the guys and gals at Kia Australia might be surprised to see many older folks getting into the Soul act as well. After all, today's cashed-up retirees created the infamous 'sex-drugs-and-rock-and-roll' era and may just be looking to bring back memories of these very interesting years. As a bonus, the Kia Soul makes life easier for the ageing joints of the former hippies, because its high seating position means you down have to bend double to get into a low-slung sedan.

Styling

Styling is a major feature and new Soul has the chunky looks that are all the rage in Japan at present, and to a lesser extent in Europe. Soul's front is dominated by a large black lower-grille area with a cross-hatch theme and large foglight pushed out to the lower extremities. Cleverly, the squared-off rear follows a similar design in colour as well as foglight placement.

Inside, the Soul is bold, but at the same time easy to use for the driver, with large instruments - perhaps just the thing for the aforementioned retirees! We particularly like the way the front speaker have been incorporated into the design of the air vents.

Infotainment

Though Kia Soul has the usual range of inputs, by way of the audio system, although it's let down by a small screen that's not only monochrome, but done in a boring brown. What happened to the style here Mr Designer? Satellite navigation isn't an option, so you have to supply your own system or use a smartphone. Dual 12-volt socket in the centre section of the dash make this easy.

Engines / Transmission

New Soul is powered by a 2.0-litre petrol engine that's similar to the one used on the outgoing model, but which has been upgraded to meet the new European emission standards. It has 113kW of power, and a strong 191Nm of torque.  Manual and automatic transmissions are offered, both with six forward ratios.

Safety

Kia hasn't been crash tested in Australia as yet, but the importer is confident it will receive five stars.

Driving

All-new Kia Soul is slightly larger than the original one that arrived here in 2009 with extra legroom in the rear and a bigger boot. Legroom easily works for four adults, with space for three in the back seat if they aren't overly endowed in the girth department.

Though the engine's top torque doesn't arrive till a sky-high 4700 revs (to suit European high-speed motorway driving) there's decent pulling power from 2000 upwards. You do have to work at the gearbox in the manual because of the tall gearing, point the Soul at a steep hill when you have a load on board and you probably need to come down one more ratio than anticipated.

You won't find us saying this very often, but we actually preferred the automatic transmission. It ties in nicely with the engine's characteristics and reacts quickly to inputs from the driver's right foot. There are no steering wheel paddles for manual operation of the auto, but the floor lever is easy to reach and works well.

Ride and handling have received a lot of input from Australian suspension experts in the usual Kia manner. Soul is no sports wagon, but it responds neatly and positively to driver input. Cornering speeds far higher than those likely to be experienced by the average owner mean a big safety factor is built in. Noise and vibration are well isolated and the rough and ready Australian backroads we encountered never looked like fazing the Soul.

Verdict

Looking for something right out of the ordinary, but which is practical at the same time? Then the all-new Kia Soul should sit high on your list of test drives. Interestingly, its main competitors are likely to be little crossover SUVs such as the Ford EcoSport, Holden Trax and Nissan Juke - all vehicles with interesting shapes.

 

Pricing guides

$13,334
Based on 6 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$9,990
Highest Price
$17,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
(base) 1.6L, ULP, 6 SP MAN $6,600 – 10,230 2014 Kia Soul 2014 (base) Pricing and Specs
+ 1.6L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO $9,500 – 14,300 2014 Kia Soul 2014 + Pricing and Specs
Si 2.0L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $7,900 – 12,210 2014 Kia Soul 2014 Si Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7