First Drive: Kia Soul
Sector: Crossover Price: £12,600–£21,550 Fuel: 38.7–56.5mpg CO2: 132–170g/km
The second-generation Kia Soul has big shoes to fill. Its predecessor might not have found a huge European fanbase but its distinctive styling, personalisation options and dancing hamster advertising campaign have made it a core component of Kia’s global brand reinvention, and one of its biggest-selling cars in the United States.
So there’s been little attempt to soften the boxy, boar-like styling this time around. Instead, Kia has pigeonholed the Soul more logically as a B-segment crossover, a competitor for the ever-dominant Nissan Juke among others, and is targeting a more retail-focused UK customer base than its Motability-heavy predecessor.
But this is a big advance. The Soul has become a sportier-looking car under design chief Peter Schreyer, shares its platform with the cee’d rather than the Venga and the layout and quality of the cabin now matches Kia’s latest cars, all of which helps make it feel more European. Top-spec Mixx and Maxx trims also get SUV-like arch extensions, which better define it as a crossover.
Boxiness has its benefits. Occupants get plentiful headroom in the upright cabin, and there’s a wide tailgate at the back providing access to a boot which now drops into a compartment under the optional false floor. With the rear bench folded, the Soul provides an almost class-leading 1,367 litres of space when stacked to its square roofline.
The downside is running costs. Kia’s 1.6-litre diesel is a no-brainer against the thirsty and lacklustre petrol, but with CO2 emissions at 132g/km it’s a long way from the class benchmark, which won’t help broaden its appeal even with the numerous improvements elsewhere.
But in Europe perhaps there’s no need to. The original Soul catered for those who wanted something unusual to look at and practical to live with, and its replacement ticks the same boxes.
To watch a video of the Soul, click here.