A new, second-generation version of the Kia Soul, the stylish and highly original compact crossover which started the design-led revolution that has transformed perceptions of the company in the UK, is now on sale from just £12,600.
It delivers even more dramatic SUV crossover styling, greater space in a revitalised and higher-quality cabin, enhanced safety and sharper driving dynamics thanks to a new chassis based on that of the Kia cee’d. The new Soul is available with a choice of two efficient engines and five trim levels. It draws extensively from Kia’s highly praised Track’ster concept car from the 2012 Chicago Auto Show.
The first Soul from 2008 – fresh, funky, original and bold – demonstrated that Kia could design and engineer cars which were out of the ordinary, without losing its focus on practicality and value for money. It went on to become a top five car in its class and market leader in the United States and China. In 2012, the last full year the original model was in production, Kia sold almost 165,000 units, despite the arrival of several newer competitors.
The new model arrives at the perfect moment to take advantage of the boom in the compact crossover market. Annual sales of this type of car in Western Europe are forecast to rise from around 380,000 in 2013 to more than 600,000 by 2015. Just over a quarter of buyers are British.
All versions are front-wheel-drive five-door crossovers – Kia research has shown that while buyers desire the appearance, semi-elevated driving position and perceived safety advantages of a 4×4, they do not want the higher fuel consumption and taxation that four-wheel drive entails.
The new Soul in a snapshot
As with the previous model, the new Soul offers buyers a choice of efficient turbodiesel engines tuned for effortless driving flexibility. The diesel Soul has CO2 emissions as low as 132g/km and fuel economy as high as 56.5mpg. Kia has already announced that towards the end of 2014 there will be a fully-electric version of the car, called Soul EV – the company’s first global commercial EV – with zero tailpipe emissions.
There are three regular trim lines – Start, Connect and Connect Plus – which will be joined in the summer by the Soul Mixx and Soul Maxx, with even more extrovert styling and higher levels of technology than ever before.
More stylish, more SUV in appearance
The new Soul design team, led by Tom Kearns, chief designer at the company’s California studios, has adopted as many elements of the Track’ster concept as is feasible for a production car. The result is a sportier, more tough-looking new Soul which maintains what Kearns calls the “bulldog” proportions of the Track’ster.
The upright stance, square shoulders and distinctive bumper flares instantly identify it as a Soul, but it has a 20mm longer wheelbase – now 2,570mm – which stretches the car by a corresponding amount to 4,140mm, and it is 15mm wider at 1,800mm. With the height lowered by 10mm to 1,600mm, the new car appears more squat, sporty and purposeful. There are benefits for practicality, too: the tailgate opening is 62mm wider and provides access to a four per cent larger boot – 354 litres with the rear seats upright, With the rears seats folded the luggage capacity is 994 litres to the cargo cover and a maximum of 1,367 litres up to the roof level.
Exterior similarities to the Track’ster concept include the large trapezoidal lower air intake at the front, front foglights mounted low and pushed to the outer edges, a restyled version of Kia’s signature ‘tiger-nose’ grille and a floating body-colour ‘backpack’ panel set into the tailgate.
Much-loved themes from the first Soul, such as the wraparound greenhouse – with privacy and solar glass on the Soul Mixx and Maxx – and high-mounted stacked tail lamps have been preserved. But a great deal of effort has gone into giving the new car more of a premium look through detailing like the LED indicators in the mirror housings on all but the Soul Start; the projection headlights with LED daytime running lamps, LED rear lamps and chromed exterior door handles on the Soul Mixx and Maxx; and panoramic sunroof on the Soul Maxx.
More room, more quality
Themes from the Track’ster concept car are also to be found in the interior, especially in the use of circular patterns. The ideas were inspired by the ripples which spread outwards when drops of water land on the still surface of a pond.
There is also a more premium look and feel to the interior. This has been achieved through the choice of materials; the soft-touch facings on the instrument panel, centre console and door panels; the leather-covered steering wheel rim and gearlever knob (except Soul Start) and the high-gloss black finishings on the fascia panel, steering wheel bezel, door armrests and upper console cover (Soul Connect upwards). In the three upper-grade versions there are front speaker mood lights, while the range-topping Soul Maxx has a TFT instrument cluster and leather upholstery.
The new Soul provides more passenger and luggage space than the previous model and has new seats that offer increased sideways and thigh support. There is more head and shoulder room for the driver and front passenger, while in the rear of the cabin up to three people enjoy more knee and leg space. The step-in point and hip point are also lower, making it easier to get in and out. The windscreen pillars are further away from the front occupants, and there is a lower centre tunnel to improve arm and elbow space.
Occupants will also find the cabin is quieter thanks to liberal use of expansion foam, replacing the previous block foam, in the body cavities. A reinforced isolation pad in the cargo area and polyurethane-layered carpet also contribute to a reduction in interior noise of almost three decibels.
Direct injection boosts driveability and efficiency
Both engines adopt direct fuel injection to ensure they use only as much fuel as they need at any time. Direct injection, with turbocharging in the case of the U2 diesel engine, also helps to boost low-speed response and driveability.
The 1.6-litre CRDi diesel engine was designed and engineered at European Technical Centre at Russelsheim, just outside Frankfurt, and is made at the company’s manufacturing facility at Žilina, in Slovakia. It develops 126bhp and 191ft lb. of torque. Acceleration from 0-60mph is achieved in 10.8 seconds with the six-speed manual gearbox, while the top speed is 112mph. The figures with the six-speed automatic gearbox are 11.8 seconds and 110mph.
Manual versions have combined fuel consumption of 56.5mpg with CO2 emissions of 132g/km, while the figures for the automatic are a highly impressive 47.1mpg and 158g/km.
The Soul’s fun-to-drive handling characteristics are bolstered by improved ride quality to cope with deteriorating roads. New suspension bushing, a suspension insulator at the front and revised suspension geometry at the rear have improved both comfort and quietness. All of this has been aided by the greater rigidity of the new Soul thanks to a considerable increase in the use of high-tensile steel in the construction.
The Soul continues to use Kia’s Motor Driven Power Steering system, now with the adoption of Flex Steer, the variable-assistance function which allows drivers to adjust the degree of assistance provided according to preference and where the car is being driven. For parking or manoeuvring in narrow town streets the Comfort setting offers increased assistance, while for highway driving at speed the Sport mode reduces the amount of help to maximise feedback and stability. There is also a Normal setting that is suited to most everyday driving conditions.
More equipment, more technology
Kia will offer five trim options with the new Soul in the UK, all featuring significant upgrades in equipment and technology compared with the previous model. The five grades are Soul Start, Soul Connect, Soul Connect Plus, Soul Mixx and Soul Maxx.
New standard features on every Soul are a DAB radio, Flex Steer variable power-assisted steering and a tyre pressure monitoring system (TPMS). Also fitted to every model are painted bumpers, door handles and side mirror casings, keyless entry, air conditioning, electrically adjustable door mirrors, electric windows all round, steering wheel-mounted controls, USB and AUX ports and six airbags.
Soul Connect adds artificial leather cluster housings, door centretrim and armrests plus a rear power socket. It has 17-inch alloy wheels in place of the 16-inch steel wheels of Soul Start, front foglamps, door mirror heaters, cruise control with a speed limiter, Bluetooth, a reversing camera, leather steering wheel and gearshift knob, a high-gloss black finish on the centrefascia panel, steering wheel bezel, door armrest and upper console and a storage box between the front seats.
The Soul Connect Plus additionally has a premium Infinity sound system, satellite navigation integrated within the DAB radio a reversing camera and front speaker mood lights.
Soul Mixx has 18-inch alloy wheels, a contrasting colour roof and door mirror casings, high-gloss black bumpers, chrome exterior door handles, LED rear combination lamps, privacy and solar glass, a cooled glovebox, heated front seats and a luggage floor undertray. It is also fitted with the urban styling pack consisting of front, side and rear skirts and a wheel-arch garnish.
Topping the range is the Soul Maxx, which features unique 18-inch alloy wheels, leather upholstery, a TFT supervision cluster, a panoramic sunroof, front and rear parking sensors and a smart-entry key and engine start/stop button.
Warranty and Servicing
In common with all Kias, the new Soul is covered by a seven-year/100,000-mile warranty covering all labour and parts except those subject to normal wear and tear. The warranty is transferable if the car is sold before the time/mileage limit expires.
For retail customers, the new Soul is available with Kia’s Care-3 (three years) and Care-3 Plus (five years) servicing and maintenance packages. These ensure fixed-price, inflation-proof routine care using only Kia factory parts and Kia trained technicians. They are transferable to subsequent owners if the car is sold before they expire.