Driven: Kia Soul

* Price from about £11,000 * On sale March * Funky looks, cheap plastics...

Driven: Kia Soul

Even Kia would probably admit that its cars are bought for logical rather than emotional reasons, but that could be about to change with the aptly named Soul.

It combines chunky off-roader styling with supermini dimensions an appealing concept that Mini, Skoda and Toyota are also working on. Whats more, your Soul needn't look like anyone else's, because the brochure packs in more extras than Ricky Gervais.

Flick through the pages and you'll find everything from sat-nav to dragon decals. However, the standard spec isnt exactly stingy, giving you air-con, stability control and six airbags.

Engines and ride

There's far less choice when it comes to engines, with the line-up limited to a 1.6 petrol and 1.6 diesel. The diesel is expected to carry a premium of around £700, but it would still be our pick. It's smooth, strong and flexible, whereas the petrol feels gutless and drones at speed.

We'd also avoid the optional 18-inch wheels, which look great, but they make the ride far too jittery unless the road is as smooth as a lothario. The Soul feels more settled on the 16-inch alloys that most versions get as standard, and Kia says it may tweak the suspension further to improve things before the car goes on sale.

Steering and interior

Despite the go-anywhere styling, every Soul is front-wheel drive. There's decent grip and body control, but the steering could do with more feel and the tall body can be pushed around by side winds on the motorway.

Yet on the upside, you enjoy a commanding 4x4-style driving position. Most people will be able to get comfortable, even though the steering wheel adjusts for height only, while the dashboard is logically arranged.

There's plenty of scope for customising the interior, too, because the list of dash colours is as comprehensive as anything from Dulux. The plastics also feel suitably robust, even if they're not especially classy.

Run a tape measure over the Soul and you'll find that it's slightly longer than Ford's new Fiesta. However, it feels like a much bigger car inside, with plenty of space for four adults. The boot is okay, and the rear seats fold flat, but the load floor is rather high.

Kias new 'mini is an interesting alternative to mainstream rivals, then, and its temptingly priced. You dont need to sell your soul to afford one.

Kia Soul
Price from (est) £11,000
On sale March
You'll like Funky looks; roomy cabin
You won't Petrol engine; dash plastics