The Kia Soul is a big seller in the USA, however this compact SUV has failed to set the Australian market on fire since its introduction back in 2009.

Even the unique design, aimed at attracting younger buyers, hasn’t helped sales. As it turns out, the relatively small bunch of Soul owners are mostly (much) more mature.

Does this make the Soul a lame duck? I took the Si model on a weekend road trip up the New South Wales coast to find out. 


My road trip consisted of a three-hour drive from Sydney to Nelson Bay (an hour north of Newcastle) to watch my father compete in the AIF National Swimming Titles. This would test the Soul’s highway cruising ability, and comfort on longer runs.

Thanks to generous headroom, and enough space to stretch your legs out in the comfortable front and back seats, you won't be needing a pit-stop every hour in the Soul. However, the spacious interior seems to come at the expense of cargo space.

To say the boot is tiny is an understatement. With rear seats up there's only 238 litres (VDA) on offer, which isn’t enough for a weekend away. It probably isn’t even enough for a week's grocery shopping.

With the rear seats folded flat that figure grows to 878 litres, but these numbers are unimpressive next to the Mazda CX-3 (264- 1174 litres), Honda HR-V (437-1462 litres) or Suzuki Viatra (375-1120 litres).

Regardless, the Soul was comfortable and quiet on the highway. I could have easily driven the small SUV for another three hours without a problem.

The Aussie tuned suspension is another highlight, soaking up every imperfection with aplomb. Not long ago, Ford Falcons and Holden Commodores were the only affordable cars that could can handle rough Aussie conditions, but thanks to Kia’s local engineering team, its cars do the job just as well.

Overseas, the Kia Soul is offered with a 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine and seven-speed dual-clutch auto, a combination that may become available here in the next generation Soul, that Kia's expected to reveal sometime this year.

For now, us Aussies have to settle for the 2.0-litre, naturally aspirated petrol four-cylinder and six-speed, torque converter auto, with the manual gearbox option dropped from local showrooms some time ago.

This engine is no powerhouse, producing 112kW/192Nm; enough for daily driving but not enough to cut the mustard for driver entertainment.

The 2.0-litre four cylinder produces 112kW/192Nm. (image credit: Mitchell Tulk) The 2.0-litre four cylinder produces 112kW/192Nm. (image credit: Mitchell Tulk)

Is it at least fuel efficient? No, not really.

Kia claims combined cycle fuel consumption is 8.0L/100km. Over the weekend the highest number shown (on the dashboard) was 11.4L/100km while traveling around town. On the highway the average dropped to 8.0L/100km, but quickly jumped up again when I hit the 'burbs.

There are three different driving modes; 'Eco', 'Normal' and 'Sport'. None of them drastically changing the driving experience, but naturally Sport holds onto gears longer and adds a bit of weight to the steering.

A problem I had with the Soul Si was its brakes, the pedal was spongy and a lot of pressure was required to pull the car up from normal road speeds.

Once at Nelson Bay, we watched the National Swimming Titles. My father and his Queensland team won the event (20 years straight), in much the same way the Kia Soul was winning me over.


Would the Kia Soul keep up its winning ways as I went to explore the sights and sounds of Nelson Bay? The short answer is yes, as the Soul’s exterior styling was only bested by the area's gorgeous water views.

Ever since the disappearance of the Toyota Rukus, there hasn't been another car on the market that looks quite like the Soul, which adds to its unique character.

And I wasn't the only one who liked the design. Many people commented on the Kia's funky looks, relative to other cars on the road.

No doubt the red and black colour combination helps its appearance, but there's a significant sticking point I'll touch on later.

Inside, the Soul's lacking a lot of equipment you'd expect to find in cars in this part of the market. There's no sat nav (not even an option), no Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and the touchscreen is tiny at 5.0 inches.

The touchscreen is tiny at 5.0 inches. (image credit: Mitchell Tulk) The touchscreen is tiny at 5.0 inches. (image credit: Mitchell Tulk)

The most advanced features you’ll find are a reversing camera with parking sensors, auto headlights, Bluetooth connectivity, and cruise control.

Safety tech is also lacking, with auto emergency braking, and lane departure warning absent. The Soul does have your standard array of braking and traction aids along with Kia’s 'Vehicle Stability Management' (VSM) and 'Emergency Brake Signal' (EBS), but that's about it.

Forget cheap and nasty, Kia builds quality cars these days, and the Soul is no exception. Nothing feels like it will fall apart in a couple of years' time, and the plastics look and feel as good, if not better, than those used by the competition.

The plastics inside the Soul look and feel as good, if not better, than those used by the competition. (image credit: Mitchell Tulk)

The plastics inside the Soul look and feel as good, if not better, than those used by the competition. (image credit: Mitchell Tulk)

Leather door inserts, plus a leather wrapped steering wheel and gear knob also contribute to the quality feel.

As for that sticking point, the Kia Soul is offered in only one trim level (Si) which lists at $24,990, plus on-road costs. But if you want a colour other than white it’ll cost you. The 'Inferno Red' with 'Cherry Black' roof paint combination on our test car costs $910, bringing the total price to $25,900.

And that's plenty. For similar money, you can a have a Mazda CX-3 Maxx which offers more standard equipment. On the flip side, as good looking as the CX-3 is, it's become a common sight on our roads, and simply isn't as attention grabbing as the Soul.