There are three conventionally fuelled engines to choose from, plus an all-electric version called the Soul EV. The 130bhp 1.6-litre petrol isn’t turbocharged, so compared to the equivalent turbo petrols offered in the Juke and the Captur it provides less low-end shove. This forces you to make more gear changes and rev it harder to keep pace with everyday traffic, but when you do it does offers decent performance. The sporty 201bhp petrol is turbocharged, so not only does it have a lot more zip, it offers easier progress when you just want to relax using the higher gears only.
The 126bhp 1.6-litre diesel offers plenty of oomph at low and medium revs, but is ever so slightly slower overall than the entry-level petrol, although it’s still fine for most people’s needs.
Low-end grunt isn’t something the Soul EV is short of. The instant hit of torque from its electric motor is great for zooming away first from the lights, but from about 50mph you notice its performance starting to wane, although it’ll still cruise happily at 70mph on the motorway. The realistic range between charges is around 70 miles, which is someway behind electric car rivals such as the VW e-Golf and Nissan Leaf.
Kia Soul ride comfort
We’d definitely recommend staying clear of the bigger wheel options on the Soul, such as the 18in rims fitted to the 3 and Sport model. The ride can be jittery over scruffy roads anyway, and bigger wheels simply exacerbate the problem.
It’s all down to a relatively firm suspension set-up, which means you can feel significant road imperfections around town or at speed as a ruffling jolt through your behind. That said, of its chief rivals only the Renault Captur offers a significantly smoother ride than the Soul, and the Kia is well controlled so feels quicker to settle over speed bumps than the bouncier Nissan Juke.
Kia Soul handling
The firm suspension, which doesn’t exactly help the Soul’s ride, does wonders for it in the corners. For a comparatively tall car the Soul resists body lean well compared with the roly-poly Nissan Juke and Captur, and like the equally well-sorted Suzuki Vitara it is able to deal with mid-bend undulations without becoming unsettled and nervous. We’d stop short of describing it as fun, but it’s certainly surefooted.
It’s not all good news, though. The steering is reasonably accurate, but like the Vitara you don’t enjoy much feedback. As a result the sensations through the steering wheel that subconsciously tell you how much lock to apply and how much grip you have aren’t there, which means you end up concentrating a little harder on keeping the car on the correct course.
Outright grip is pretty high on petrol and diesel models, but less so in the heavier and less nimble EV model. There’s no four-wheel drive version, so don’t expect a Kia Soul to pull you out of the snow like an all-wheel-drive Vitara might.
Kia Soul refinement
Unless you opt for the ultra-quiet electric model, you’ll find all the engines in the Soul rather grumbly. The diesel is the noisiest and sends some vibrations through into the interior, but even the petrols aren’t exactly smooth, especially compared with the largely hushed Captur and Vitara petrols. The turbocharged motor in the Sport is the worst offender, with a harsh resonance above 4000rpm that will have you wincing.
The brake and clutch pedals feel positive, while the manual gearshift is pretty slick. And that’s good, because it makes the Soul easy to drive smoothly in stop/ start traffic. Not so the seven-speed dual-clutch auto ‘box, which is jerky at parking speeds and occasionally faffs about trying to decide which gear to select on the move. When you pick up the pace on a motorway the big door mirrors create quite a bit of noisy turbulence, but road noise is relatively well dampened down.
This 130bhp 1.6-litre petrol isn’t turbocharged, so compared to the equivalent turbo petrols offered in the Nissan Juke and the Renault Captur it provides less low-end shove, forcing you to make more gear changes and rev it harder to keep pace with everyday traffic. When you give it some beans however, it does offer decent performance. Relative to the competition it’s not very efficient with higher than average CO2 emissions and lower fuel economy, and is available with a six-speed manual gearbox only.
1.6 GDi Turbo
This engine is available only in the top-end Sport trim and with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox. With 201bhp not only does it have a lot more zip than the 130bhp 1.6 petrol, but also better low-end grunt for easier progress when you just want to relax using the higher gears only. Don’t think of it as a hot-hatch rival though, because the handling is no better than the standard models, and the occasionally jerky seven-speed auto ‘box can be frustrating. Fuel consumption is pretty poor, too.
This diesel has the option of a six-speed manual or seven-speed automatic gearbox, but we’d stick with the manual version because the auto is rather unresponsive. The engine offers decent low-end shove and overall performance is adequate, but it’s rather grumbly and unrefined, and also not very efficient compared to the diesel engines in rivals such as the Renault Captur and Nissan Juke.
The instant hit of torque from its electric motor is great for zooming away first from the lights, but from about 50mph you notice its performance starting to wane, although it’ll still cruise happily at 70mph on the motorway. Very quiet and relaxing to drive thanks to no noisy combustion engine up front, and has a realistic range of around 70 miles.