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Kia Soul hatchback (2009 – ) expert review

By Andy Goodwin, 22nd November 2010

The verdict

The Kia Soul is aptly named, as it has injected personality into a line-up of practical, sensible models. It’s spacious and well-equipped.

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Expert rating:



  • It’s the first cool Kia
  • Spacious
  • Long warranty


  • Engines lack refinement
  • So-so economy
  • Unsupportive seats

Full Review

1. Exterior

The Kia Soul marks a change in design language for a Korean car maker which has gone from producing quite bland cars to some of the best-looking around. The boxy exterior is a crossover between a hatchback and sports utility vehicle (SUV), and gives the Soul a solid stance. Special editions called Soul Originals including the Shaker, Burner, Echo and Tempest each bring their own unique exterior design themes.

Our rating: 4

2. Interior

Sadly the interior of the Soul can’t quite live up to its trendy bodywork. What you do get is heaps of space – especially headroom – thanks to the tall roofline and boxy dimensions. It’s also rather funky, with body-coloured dashboards in some special edition models. But, the plastics are quite cheap and scratchy, while the seats aren’t supportive enough. The Citroen C3 Picasso and Nissan Juke feel more expensive.

Our rating: 2

3. Practicality

We’ve already mentioned the Soul’s spacious interior, which feels light and airy. However, this doesn’t translate to particularly good load-lugging ability. The boot measures 340 litres, which is more than a supermini, but less than a Ford Focus, or the C3 Picasso, which holds an impressive 500 litres. Fold the seats down and there’s 671 litres, less than half the C3 Picasso’s 1,506 litre capacity. More expensive models get an adjustable boot floor, with a cubby hole underneath.

Our rating: 2

4. Ride and handling

Firm suspension has been fitted to give the Soul a go-kart feel, but it still rolls a bit too much in tight bends and has a bouncy ride. Ride comfort improves if smaller wheels are fitted, so it’s worth sacrificing some style for better road manners. The steering is light, which makes the Soul easy to drive in town.

Our rating: 3

5. Performance

There are two 1.6-litre engines to choose between, one petrol with 124bhp and a diesel with 126bhp. This is quite a lot of power for the class, so it’s disappointing 0-62mph still takes around 11 seconds. The petrol feels coarse and quite loud, so we’d recommend the diesel, which offers better all-round performance. Both models have a five-speed manual gearbox as standard, however the diesel is available with a four-speed automatic.

Our rating: 3

6. Running costs

The petrol model is quite thirsty, averaging around 43mpg (153-156g/km of CO2 emissions), while the diesel is better thanks to 54.3mpg on average, with CO2 emissions of 137g/km. The C3 Picasso 1.6-litre diesel averages 60.4mpg and emits 119g/km of CO2. Insurance groups are from 14-17 and servicing is every 10,000 miles or one year for the petrol and every 12,000 miles or one year for the diesel.

Our rating: 3

7. Reliability

Every Soul benefits from Kia’s long seven-year or 100,000-mile warranty, which gives peace of mind the ownership experience should be trouble-free.

Our rating: 4

8. Safety

The Kia Soul received the full five-star safety rating when crash tested by EuroNCAP, making it one of the safest models in its class. It is fitted with six airbags, electronic stability programme and anti-lock brakes as standard.

Our rating: 5

9. Equipment

The Soul is available in trim 1 and 2, or as a series of special edition models. The 1 is available only with the petrol engine and has electric windows, radio/CD player, USB and aux socket, air-con and remote central locking. Trim level 2 adds 16-inch alloy wheels, iPod connection and audio controls on the steering wheel. Special addition models have themed extras, some highlights including exterior styling kits, 18-inch alloy wheels, a sunroof, reversing camera and ambient cabin lighting.

Our rating: 4

10. Why buy?

The Soul has the most character of any Kia so far, and its looks are sure to attract buyers. The special edition models are a great way of taking the Soul even further.

Our rating: 3

Expert review 3.3stars

  • Exterior4
  • Interior2
  • Practicality2
  • Ride and handling3
  • Performance3
  • Running costs3
  • Reliability4
  • Safety5
  • Equipment4
  • Why buy?3

Our recommendations

Best on a budget:

Soul 1.6 CRDi 2

It’s not as cheap as the petrol to buy, but it’s cheaper to run


Soul 1.6 CRDi Shaker

Best engine, attractive design and great extras

Blow the budget:

Soul 1.6 CRDi Burner

Dark alloy wheels, roof rails and a unique grille set it apart

The Soul has the most character of any Kia so far