Kia Soul

 Article last updated: 11/03/10

Kia Soul
Sold in Australia from 2009 until present.
Price range when new: $20,990 - $30,890 AUD.
Engine power and torque range: 91kW, 156Nm (petrol); 94kW, 260Nm (diesel). 
Safety Rating: 4-stars (Soul), 5-stars (Soul2, Soul3) - ANCAP rating, 2009.
Size classification: M-Segment (mini MPV)

"You buy this car for the "look"... the Kia Soul is a fun, funky car; and absolutely ruined by its poor value for money."

Editor's Rating:

Let's face it, if you bought a Kia Soul, you wouldn't have bought it because it was great value, or had a powerful engine, or was a brilliant drive. You buy this car for the "look", and take comfort in knowing that nobody on the road has a car that is the same as yours.

Yes, personalisation is big on the agenda for the Soul - it comes in no less that 11 earthy colours, and you can option a mind-boggling array of decals, spoilers, alloy wheels and other trimmings. So, now that we've established that how the Soul drives is utterly irrelevant (although if you're wondering, it's pretty average, but not terrible), allow me to conduct a completely superficial analysis of one of the most polarising vehicles on the market.

If you want to be noticed on the road, you should consider this car. If you wish to blend in and be inconspicuous, stop reading this article now and look at something else. The Soul doesn't look fast, it doesn't look elegant, but, to some eyes, it is quite funky. More to the point, the Kia Soul looks fun, regardless of what spec level or personalisation options you choose.

And that's great, until you step inside. Unless you spend $30,000 on a top-spec Soul3, the interior is a sea of grey-on-grey-on-grey, and the dash feels like it is made from melted children's toys. However, a splash of colour does come when you open the glovebox, which is trimmed with blood-red Tupperware instead of grey. But, and forgive me for my lack of more elegant expression, that's really really random.

Other than that, everything is quite well laid out, and the cabin feels really light and airy. Unless one or more of your parents is a giraffe, you will have no problems with headroom inside this car. The Soul3 also has a unique and delightfully feel-good feature: it's audio speakers will glow red to the beat of your music. Very cool.

But inevitably, the Soul needs to be brought back down into the real world. Despite having six airbags standard across the range (snaps for Kia, y'all), the base model Soul does not have stability or traction control, and such an exorbitantly tall car should. The standard petrol engine is okay, but the more powerful diesel engine adds a whopping $3,500 to the asking price, and that's just plain mean. And although a Soul can set you back more than $30,000 it still won't have leather seats or a sunroof, or any other luxury feature you can care to name. Other than the disco audio speakers.

And that psychedelic styling, which produces a 4x4-like driving position and good visibility up front, gives you truly hopeless visibility at the back. There's no parking sensors, and there's no reversing camera. Actually, the latter comes in a $2,000 package that includes a sunroof, and it's only available on the top-spec Soul3.

So the Kia Soul is a fun, funky car; and absolutely ruined by its poor value for money. I can't see the sense in blowing more than 30 grand for a 1.6 litre engine, glowing speakers, and not a whole lot else. You'd have to really really like the styling of this car to actually buy one. And it's still only a Kia, it's not like it has badge cred. So... buy a Mazda3 SP25 instead. I can guarantee it will be better in every single way, and it's arguably better looking. But that's not the point. The point is, this is the first Kia ever made that is actually interesting. It's got soul, that's for sure.

Find specifications from the Kia Motors Australia website HERE. Read the Kia Soul Brochure (pdf, 745 KB)

Read more reviews of the Kia Soul: Reviewed June 09, 2009: "By no means was this love at first sight... [but] it put a smile on my face and turned back the years. Don’t knock it ’til you try it." Reviewed August 04 2009: "The Soul is the second new model from Kia this year to make a strong styling statement." Reviewed September 25, 2009: "The Soul is a niche player in the crowded small car market. You may laugh at the — lets say ‘brave’ — boxy styling. You may cast scorn at it. But this car is a star. " Reviewed June 01, 2009: "It’s not about to reset any benchmarks for dynamics or driver appeal... but at least it's got people talking."


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