Kia's still got Soul. The second generation version of this compact SUV has been usefully upgraded. Jonathan Crouch reports.
Ten Second Review
Kia has rejuvenated its second generation Soul compact SUV with a welcome package of changes. These include a smarter look and extra media connectivity, but the main improvement lies in the addition of a potent 1.6-litre petrol turbo T-GDI model at the top of the range. As before, the line-up also includes an all-electric EV version. In short, if you want a small car with a bit of attitude, it's well worth a look.
Kia is certainly giving customers looking for a small Crossover or compact SUV plenty of choice. If you want a green-minded car of this kind, the Korean brand's Niro hybrid hatch offers plenty of technology for your cash. But then you could argue that Kia was already offering that in the form of its only slightly smaller Soul compact SUV. The Soul is a little hatch that's been available for some time now in all-electric EV form, but most customers buy it with conventional petrol or diesel opower. To keep these people happy, Kia has revised the second generation version of this model with smarter looks, fresh safety features and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto media connectivity. At the top of the range, the brand has also added in its latest T-GDI petrol turbo engine technology too.
This MK2 model Soul offers a much more involving drive than its first generation predecessor did, a modified version of the cee'd chassis having improved ride and handling. The front subframe utilises four bushings to improve refinement and reduce harshness. The shock absorbers on the torsion bar rear suspension have been turned vertically and lengthened, allowing for more suspension travel and improved ride comfort. There's also better stability, balance and steering feel. Do these things really matter on a small SUV? Yes, they do. A well-damped ride and slick steering give the car an immediate impression of quality. All these things are as they were when we first saw this car in 2014 - as are the mainstream 1.6-litre petrol and diesel engines, a 130bhp petrol unit and a 134bhp CRDi diesel alternative, these powerplants supplied with a choice of six-speed manual or automatic transmissions. As part of the facelift changes, Kia has added in a more powerful T-GDI powerplant at the top of the range, also 1.6-litres in size but here boasting turbocharging that boosts power up to 201bhp - probably about as fast as you'd probably want to go in any kind of Soul. With this variant, you have to have the brand's latest seven-speed '7DCT' double-clutch auto transmission. The other Soul option is the full-electric 'EV' model which is powered by a 81.4 kilowatt battery that puts out the equivalent of 109bhp and will go for around 80 miles between charges.
Design and Build
Exterior changes to this improved second generation model aren't too far-reaching. There are re-modelled front and rear bumpers and a metallic skid plate has been added for a more robust appearance. The Soul's front bumper now houses optional bi-function HID (high-intensity discharge) headlights with LED daytime running lights, and an updated finish has been applied to Kia's signature 'tiger-nose' grille. The rear of the car features newly-designed fog lamps and reflectors for greater illumination for following road users. Other changes include the addition of a gloss black finish to the front and rear wheel arches, plus the option of a body kit for front and rear bumpers and side sills on selected models. Inside, those familiar with the original version of this second generation design will notice smarter gloss black and metallic highlights and revised switchgear. Otherwise, the recipe is as it was, one that delivers a larger cabin that this model's compact exterior dimensions might suggest. Older buyers will like the high-set seats and wide-opening doors. Maturing families meanwhile, will find enough space at the back for three burly teenagers to be quite easily accommodated, thanks to the generous headroom conferred by the distinctive high roof and square tail. There's a usefully-sized 354-litre boot too.
Market and Model
There are four trim levels, dubbed '1', '2', '3' and 'Sport'. Prices for this Soul are still affordable, starting at around £14,000 for the entry-level 1.6-litre GDI petrol variant. You'll need around £18,500 for the least pricey 1.6 CRDi diesel, this the engine you have to have if you want the option of paying £1,500 more for '7-DCT' auto transmission. All models are reasonably well equipped an offer a DAB radio, Flex Steer variable power-assisted steering, coloured-keyed bumpers, power windows and mirrors, air conditioning, USB and AUX-in ports and six airbags. Further up the range, there are features like a premium Infiniti sound system, a reversing camera, sat nav and front speaker mood lighting, plus the contrasting roof colour and door mirror casings that will really set your car apart. The top variant gets a huge panoramic glass roof, leather upholstery and smart key entry. In this facelifted model, buyers can choose from 7.0 or 8.0-inch colour touchscreens and via these can use the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity systems. As you'd expect, the all-electric Soul EV variant costs quite a lot mre than the conventional models. Expect to have to find around £25,000, even after you've subtracted the generous £4,500 government Plug-in car grant from the initially off-putting asking price.
Cost of Ownership
The Soul's engine efficiency has always been very good. The 1.6 GDI petrol engine makes 41.5mpg and 153g/km of CO2, while the 1.6 CRDi diesel registers 56.5mpg and 128g/km, which falls to 47.1mpg and 135g/km in the automatic version. The auto-only 1.6 T-GDI petrol model puts out CO2 figure of 156g/km. If you want to do better than that, you'll need to talk to your dealer about the Soul EV full electric version. In theory, this variant's batteries allow a range of 132 miles between charges but in real world motoring, we've found that a more realistic figure is about 80 miles. Using a UK 230-volt domestic power supply, the Soul EV can be fully recharged in 10 to 13 hours. With the wallbox or at a public fast-charge point, the time is reduced to around five hours. The Soul EV is supplied with a customised red adapter cable stored in a smart Kia-branded pouch for this form of charging. Alternatively, through a public rapid charger the batteries can be topped up to 80 per cent of capacity - the maximum permissible with this type of system - in 33 minutes. Residual values for the Soul have always stood up fairly well and that has helped to put a cap on the overall pence per mile figure when running one. Couple that with low insurance ratings and Kia's excellent seven year/100,000 mile warranty and it all should result in a car that's not going to put a huge dent in the family budget.
As with all small SUV and Crossover models of this kind, the idea here is to bring the more palatable elements of SUV 4x4 design to a front wheel-drive supermini-sized vehicle - and it's something Kia has been doing longer than almost all its rivals. Indeed, the original first generation version of this Soul brought the brand's dealerships a new experience: a model that had potential buyers scanning the colour, trim and accessory options before they checked the price. It was a design people viewed very differently - and it still remains the most characterful car the company makes. This MK2 model though, has moved on, now a lot more sophisticated and much easier to live with. If you're looking for a small but practical car with a big personality, then try one. Who knows? You may well agree that you gotta have soul.