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Kia Soul 2 1.6 CRDi Auto

Click to view picture galleryEverybody could do with more Soul
  in their life. And with
prices starting at
  less than 10,500, why not?”

IT'S GOT THE FOOTPRINT OF A SUPERMINI, a body that can't be pigeon-holed and the flexibility of a medium-sized MPV/SUV. And it's got something else, too — it's got 'soul'.

An urban crossover, the five-door, five-seat Kia Soul brings a fresh style to the idea of a supermini: think Ford Fiesta-sized (although in the metal it looks much larger) on the outside — so just over four metres long. But on the inside the Soul is cavernous. Better still, the compact front-wheel drive Soul hatchback has the 'boxy' proportions and desirable command seating positions of a 4x4 but without any the hefty weight penalties.

High-sided and with the wheels pushed towards the corners, the Soul's deep-roofed five-door body carries strong hints of SUV DNA and is definitely dramatic. A high-rising beltline runs back over bulging wheel arches to a squared-off rectangular tailgate flanked by huge stacked vertical combination light clusters.

However, for all it's unconventional looks, beneath the skin the wide-tracked Soul is reassuringly conventional. Its all-new platform, that will be used in other future Kia models, comes with fully-independent strut-type front suspension with coil springs and gas-filled dampers and a torsion-beam rear axle with trailing arms, coil springs and gas dampers. Engines, all 1.6-litre units, can be either petrol (124bhp) or diesel (126bhp). A four-speed automatic transmission similar to that fitted to the cee'd is available for the diesel.

Trim options are many and varied and, like the MINI and Fiat 500, allow owners to customise their Soul to the extent that they might never see another one exactly the same. The range kicks off with '1' and '2' specifications topped by a rolling programme of special models that will be refreshed every 12 months or so.

Currently these are Samba, Shaker and Burner — all boasting fashionable paint, trim and option packages. Most extrovert is Burner; available only in black, it has fiery red trim, a red dashboard and dragon tattoos adorning its body. Other jaw-dropping options include an advanced reversing camera with its LCD display within an electrochromic rearview mirror and a mega-hi-fi: 315 watts output, large dash-top centre speaker, external amplifier and a sub-woofer in the boot for eight speakers with club-like 'Sound Sensitive Mood Lighting. There's also a number of interior and exterior styling 'packs' along with more practical accessories such as roof boxes and cycle racks.

Individual customising aside, the Soul is far more than a vehicle for individual showmanship. At the price, the high-riding, SUV-style, mini-MPV Soul offers, courtesy of its tall roof and boxy proportions, masses of space in a practical compact package for up to five passengers. And room to spare for their luggage, too!

When it comes to
keeping your passengers
entertained, there’s
a high-end sound system
Given the Soul's compact outer dimensions, interior space is excellent and the cabin is well-thought-out; and the long wheelbase and wide track means lots of room for passengers and luggage. Seats are upholstered in fabric with contrasting patterned centre panels and are themselves comfortable and supportive. Wide opening doors make entry and exit a breeze and the width of the body provides a cabin with decent elbow-room plus the deep, high roof ensures ample headroom.

Three can comfortably be seated in the back on the well-shaped rear bench — the backrest angle is also particularly good — and both leg- and foot-room is generous. In the front — in case we've given you the impression that only the rear passenger compartment is spacious — there's loads of room in all directions for six-footers.

The 60:40-split backrests drop forward almost flat onto the seat base (with the headrests left in situ), expanding the square-ish 340-litre boot to 800 litres — enough for two 26-inch mountain bikes. Even in five-seat mode, the regular shaped boot will accommodate a golf bag plus two travel bags. The tailgate opens high and in spite of a mid-thigh height sill, loading is easy. A false boot floor — that can be lifted out to make a bigger boot — provides additional out of sight storage.

The airy cabin is well equipped with easy to read instrumentation and while the fascia and centre stack are attractively styled and fit and finish good, they're made better by a good mix of textures. It's also obvious that the dark-toned Soul 2 model's trim is as durable as it is well put together. However, open the two-tier glovebox and you'll get a flash of unexpected colour — the lining is bright red. Red is also used for the LCD display graphics and dial needles. Instrument graphics are a clear bright white.

And user-friendly it all is, too, with remote audio controls on the steering wheel and a goodly supply of storage bins. Other nice touches include deep sun visors that really do keep the sun out of your eyes and audible warning if the belts are not fastened on occupied seats. And when it comes to keeping your passengers entertained, there's a high-end sound system. Additionally, at the base of the centre stack, you'll find an interface for an iPod, MP3 or anything else that connects via a USB or jack-plug.

Other standard cabin kit includes efficient AirCon, the already-mentioned sound system (six-speaker RDS radio with CD player, iPod/MP3 compatibility and PowerBass for concert hall-quality sound with a lively reproduction of bass tones), four electric windows (driver's with auto one-shot up/down operation), leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel, power door mirrors, central locking, anti-whiplash front headrests, two Isofix rear child-seat mounting points, passenger airbag cut-off switch and six airbags. In addition, you get distinctive five-spoke alloys, Electronic Stability Programme (ESP), ABS, Electronic Brakeforce Distribution and a five-year unlimited mileage warranty.

The 126bhp diesel
provides enough ‘grunt’
to take advantage of
the nippy, Lotus-fettled
For the driver, especially in town, the high-set driving position is a major asset, giving a great view of the road — and no tricky blind spots either, not even at the rear three-quarters despite the strong C-pillars. The rake-adjustable, thick-rimmed, leather-bound steering wheel feels satisfyingly 'grippy' in your hands. Another welcome advantage of the Soul's tallish body is that it doesn't go unnoticed and, in the cut and thrust of traffic, bigger vehicles don't try to edge you out — as often happens to smaller cars.

The 126bhp diesel unit provides enough 'grunt' — there's 192lb ft of torque on tap between 1,900 and 2,750rpm — to take advantage of the Soul's nippy, Lotus-fettled handling. For the record it does 0-62mph in 11.9 seconds although off the line it feels a bit quicker than that, so no worries about being left on the grid in the Traffic Lights grands prix. Maximum speed is 109mph and on the motorway the diesel auto zips along without feeling at all stressed as if it knows it could go even faster.

Overall the CRDi turbodiesel is responsive and, as you would expect, more fuel efficient. Even in four-speed automatic spec it's quite miserly with fuel. Official figures for the diesel auto are 37.7, 47.9 and 54.3mpg respectively for Urban, Combined and Extra Urban. Overall, our test average worked out to 53.8mpg. In fact, Kia say that every Soul model comfortably betters 50mpg.

Out of town the Soul is an easy drive. Lotus has done a good job fine-tuning the suspension and the car feels quick-witted and handles surprisingly tidily. In fact, given its height (and the resultant higher centre of gravity), it's more than capable of pressing on while maintaining a tidy stance.

Most of the time the Soul rides flat; yes, it will lean on fast corners but then it isn't a low-slung hot hatch. Grip is notably reassuring and the brakes — discs all round, ventilated at the front — are progressive and bite hard when you need them too. At speed it feels secure and stable. The Soul has the same motor-driven electronic power-assisted steering as the Kia cee'd. Not only does it contribute a three per cent fuel saving but assistance is provided only when needed; in conjunction with the tight turning circle, it makes for easy parking and low-speed manoeuvring.

On the open road the diesel proves to be up to scratch and the smooth-shifting auto 'box ensures getting the power down is all very civilised. Despite the fairly taut suspension, the ride is perfectly adequate and while on the firm side never feels harsh or uncomfortable.

The question is: Do you need some Soul in your life? If you're looking for individuality but would rather not pay a premium price for it, then this Kia could tick your box. Add in good driveability, exceptional space, low running costs (with a likely 60mpg) and the peace of mind that comes from a five-year/unlimited mileage bumper-to-bumper warranty and it's obvious that a little Soul goes a long way. — MotorBar

Kia Soul 2 1.6 CRDi Auto
| 13,495
Maximum speed: 109mph | 0-62mph: 11.9 seconds | Overall MPG: 53.8mpg
Power: 126bhp | Torque: 192lb ft | CO2 155g/km | Insurance group 5