What's the used Kia Soul like?
Nominative determinism. That’s the proper name for those occasions when someone’s name has an impact on what they do or who they are. Like BBC weather presenter Sara Blizzard, her American counterpart Storm Field, or lawyer Sue Yoo. Then there’s the Kia Soul, a car that was clearly named with this phenomenon in mind, in an attempt to imbue it with sufficient character to elevate it above the throng of small SUVs now flooding the used market.
Did it work? Well, first impressions aren’t bad: the Soul has chunky, fashionable styling that avoids resorting to retro cues yet still manages to stand out from the crowd.
Three engines are available: two petrols, with 130bhp and 201bhp, and a 134bhp diesel, all of 1.6 litres. There’s also the Soul EV which, as its name suggests, is an electric car.
The trim levels handily start with 1, which gets air conditioning, a DAB radio, Bluetooth and front and rear electric windows as standard, then proceed up through 2, with its climate control, sat-nav, cruise control and rear-view camera, and then 3, which gets leather seats – heated in the front – larger alloy wheels and front and rear parking sensors.
Top-of-the-range Sport gets the more potent petrol engine as standard, along with sporty styling, a panoramic glass roof, heated rear seats and an upgraded sound system. In addition, a series of special edition models were made available throughout the Soul’s life, with various paint or equipment options thrown in for free.
While those top models might sound tempting, we reckon the 1 or 2 makes the most sense, because they came with smaller wheels that make the Soul ride acceptably well – with bigger wheels, it becomes too jarring over bumpier roads. Mind you, no matter which Soul you choose, the slightly firm suspension does at least mean body lean is kept under control in corners.
Don’t go thinking it’s a sporty car, though; the Soul has very light and remote-feeling steering that, while useful at parking speeds, makes it feel vague and uncommunicative at speed. Meanwhile, the lower-powered petrol engine, while reasonably quiet, is extremely lethargic, and the more powerful version is fast but thirsty. The diesel represents a good balance between punch and fuel economy, but it’s noisy and vibrates too much.
The Soul EV is far quieter, as you'd expect, and has plenty of low-down grunt, but the extra weight of its batteries makes it even more ponderous than the standards Soul to drive.
Where the Soul does win friends is inside. It has a tasteful dashboard finished in smart plastics that’s far more appealing to use than those of rivals such as the Nissan Juke and Renault Captur. And on 2 models and above, there’s a fast, well-designed touchscreen infotainment system that’s one of the easiest out there to use.
There’s loads of room for both front and rear passengers thanks to the Soul's tall, boxy roofline, although boot space is only average for the class – there’s more in the Suzuki Vitara, for example. What’s more, you don’t get sliding or reclining rear seats – they only fold in a 60/40 split, making the Soul a little less versatile than its best rivals.