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The Top Gear car review: Kia Soul
For:Better than the original yet just as standout
Against:...But is it standout in a good way? Not quite a bargain either
1.6 CRDi Connect Plus 5dr
Dynamically not exciting, but refinement has been ratcheted up, it looks tidy and is keenly priced.
Korean firm reinvents its crossover hatchback-thingy. Better built and better to drive
We test the prototype version of Kia’s electric mini-MPV in South Korea…
The diesel is the one to go for – better than the petrol by some margin, but it carries a price premium.
Has presence without agression or excess. Boxiness is great for space too. Dynamics don’t quite live up to it, sadly.
What we say:
Despite an all-new overhaul, the Soul still isn't quite there. Utilitarian style gone too far?
What is it?
Funny looking thing, the original Kia Soul. Like a Land Rover Defender crossed with a mini people carrier. It never really caught on over here, but Americans loved it and bought loads of them. So there’s an all-new Soul here for 2014. And it looks… um, rather like the old one. Moving on….?
Well, hold on. It does at least look sleeker than the old one. Body detailing is neater and the lower roofline takes away the old tip-over top-heavy look. That’s all relative, of course. Really, the child who’s drawn it has simply got handier with the felt tips (and found some vivid new colours).
Basing the Soul on the fine platform of the Cee’d you see opposite is a good start. Its neat multi-link rear suspension has got lost along the way, but most of the other bits are present – so, although Kia’s given it a very soft and supple tune, it’s still confident and hangs on gamely in corners. And the benefit of going soft is making the ride pillowy: in town, the new Soul does a great job at soaking up city scars.
There are two engines but the direct injection 1.6 petrol should be avoided. It really doesn’t suit the Soul. It doesn’t have enough torque and what it does have is delivered at ear-screeching revs. Best go for the default diesel, a slightly clattery thing but with enough torque to make light work of a fully laden rear. Ah yes…
On the inside
The Soul is enormous. on paper, this competes against the Juke, a car with a pathetic boot: here is its nemesis. The boot’s Focus-sized with the seats up and vast with them down, and those flat sides mean it swallows way more than a small car should. It’s also nice for passengers, who sit high, have a cracking view out and enjoy plenty of space (a longer wheelbase has boosted rear legroom).
Star of the more upmarket-looking dash is the new infotainment touchscreen fitted to upper-trim models, This previews the new generation of system coming to all Kias and it’s a cracker. Multi-colour speaker lighting that flashes in time to the music is, in contrast, crackers.
Despite things like DAB on all, the Soul somehow isn’t quite as affordable as you’d expect, particularly the forthcoming Mixx and Maxx range-toppers. Worth avoiding for their names alone. The Connect Plus is the one to go for, as it has the flash sat nav as standard. Similarly, the engines could be more efficient, especially the thirsty petrol. But it has that huge warranty (and the associated build quality), by which time the styling could have made it a cult car over here as well as the US. Maybe.