ROAD TEST: Kia Soul SX

ROAD TEST: Kia Soul SX

The original Kia Soul was just okay. Behind all the gimmicky flashing speakers and unique looks hid a car that was largely half-baked and just not particularly good. It got by on largely by virtue of its big personality and surprising practicality, but other than that it hardly inspired excitement.

The new Soul, however, is quite different despite looking quite similar. It is rather a good little car indeed. There is a small “but” though…

Kia Soul (01)

Outside

Likes: Clearly similar to the last Soul, but different enough to be recognised as new. Handsome and endearingly boxy, but with enough curves present to stop it simply being a cube. Very cohesive design. Big, chunky taillights look fantastic.

Dislikes: The fake “tiger nose” grille is a bit of a tacked-on afterthought.

Kia Soul (05)

Inside

Likes: Massively improved interior is a real highlight. High quality and well put together. Comfortable seats offer an excellent driving position. All the controls fall easily to hand and are very ergonomically sensible.

Dislikes: Everything is very black…

Kia Soul (02)

Under the bonnet

Likes: Six-speed transmission is slick and a nice little shifter. Engine is free-revving and eager…

Dislikes: But it needs to be, because it struggles to move the Soul. The little 91kW/152Nm 1.6-litre engine is simply too small for the Soul, with hills proving to be a particular challenge. Because it has to work so hard it really isn’t as economical as it should be.

Kia Soul (03)

On the road

Likes: The ride and handling have been as massively improved as the interior. Turns in surprisingly eagerly, especially for a tall vehicle. Ride comfort is a huge improvement over the last Soul, and it shows none of the harshness that was previously present.

Dislikes: The whole “selectable steering mode” thing is still silly, but at least ‘Sport’ mode is a decent balance between assistance and feel, even though that feel is largely artificial.

Verdict

The new Soul is such a massive improvement over the old one it is hard to think that they are made by the same company. The jump in quality and ability is consistent with the overall improvement of the Korean car industry – and the Kia/Hyundai group specifically – in the last few years and it is nice to see the Soul now getting the quality and ability to match its big personality and cheeky looks.

The flashing speakers have been left out this time and that is also indicative of the Soul’s more mature approach to things this time round.

While it is a bit disappointing that the little 1.6 struggles to shift the Soul with any degree of convincing enthusiasm, despite it trying its very best, the Soul is still an impressive little machine that does the job around town.

There is hope on the horizon, however, as the Soul SX will very shortly be available with a 113kW/191Nm 2.0-litre engine for an extra $2,000 over the 1.6’s asking price of $33,490. That will no doubt be $2,000 well spent.

As it stands though the 1.6 SX is a great-looking, well made, practical little machine that has an undeniable charm. If you can’t stretch the extra $2K for the 2.0, it will still be a great little car. But you won’t be winning many traffic light drags…

Price: $33,490

Engine: 1.6-litre inline four-cylinder petrol

Power/torque: 91kW/152Nm

Transmission: Six-speed automatic

0-100km/h: n/a

Fuel consumption: 8.2L/100km

CO2 emissions: 192g/km

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