The second-generation Kia Soul has kept the 'look-at-me styling' of the original and now feels like a more premium product. We're running one on the What Car? fleet for a year to see what other improvements have made.
The car Kia Soul 1.6 CRDi Mixx automatic
Run by Will Williams, photographer
Needs to be comfortable over long distance; act as a photographer's mobile office
Run by What Car? since September 2014
What's it like?
The Kia Soul certainly stands out from the crowd. It has a higher ride height than a regular hatchback and has something of the American SUV about its looks. Like Marmite, folk either love or hate its appearance, but it certainly provokes a response. Either way it definitely has presence.
In my opinion, the cabin is one of the best interiors that Kia has produced to date. There are plenty of soft-touch materials and piano black finishes to make it feel that little bit different. It also has a clear, 8.0in touchscreen that works the sat-nav, audio and telephone functions. Storage space is well catered for and the rear cabin space is better than the previous model's, with a longer wheelbase.
The range lineup starts, appropriately enough, with the Start, moving up through Connect, Connect Plus, Mixx and topping the range is the Maxx. Our Mixx model has a six-speed automatic gearbox and metallic 'powder blue' paint as options, taking its price to £21,250.
As a photographer, I cover a lot of miles traipsing all over the country to photoshoots. Ideally my long-termer would therefore be something comfortable. Unfortunately the ride on our Soul is overly firm. We went with Mixx trim that upgrades the size of the wheel to 18in, which means that rutted roads can be a real pain.
I really appreciate the relatively compact dimensions and flat sides of the Soul. I took the car on holiday and negotiating the narrow lanes of Devon was child's play, while decent-sized mirrors and the reversing camera made light work of backing up to passing places to let the odd tractor through, too.
The Soul is also let down by the steering, which is vague.
Living with the Kia Soul
The Kia Soul is a very easy car to live with. The stereo system is good, the heated seats warm up incredibly quickly (a huge bonus in the depths of winter), the infotainment system screen is very good and there's lots of room in the rear seats.
I do a lot of driving all over the country as part of my job so cruise control and sat-nav are very useful features. The cruise control is controlled by steering wheel-mounted buttons that are quick to respond and logical while the sat-nav is a good system. It features a list of previous destinations on startup which is surprisingly useful and means that I don't have to constantly re-enter destination information.
There's plenty of room in both the front and rear seats. The boot might not be the biggest in the class but it's still a good size and is able to swallow all the photographic kit I need.
Our car comes with a dual boot floor, which is useful but not perfect.
I’ve noticed when the dual boot is in the lower position there is an unmistakable one inch gap which I wouldn’t expect, even from a non-premium car brand. The gap is proving a bit of a pain, because it attracts anything small to fall through the gap – flash batteries and memory cards especially.
In order to retrieve it I have to remove the heavy cases and then lift the floor – an art in itself – then retrieve whatever fell through.
The dual boot floor is awkward to place, because you need to fold it in half in order to squeeze it through the slots on the boot sides.
When placed in the upper position, there’s still a reasonable amount of space available, but it struggles to swallow all the equipment I need to carry out my role. A family with a labrador or similar-sized dog would certainly find life difficult with this boot arrangement.
Another thing to consider is that despite being quite deep, the boot isn't very long and has a deep sill, so lifting heavy cases over is more of a chore than it would be with an estate car.
Kia Soul specification
One feature of our long-term Soul that I really like is the reversing camera. The system works well using the clear 8.0in colour touchscreen to show you how close you are to any obstacles behind. The only proviso being that the vertical rear hatch of the car attracts all manner of road grime in winter, so the lens needs a frequent wipe to be able to see what's lurking.
The only other issue is that there are no sensors. I don't mind this but a fair number of cars with cameras also feature sensors that beep, it's just something to bear in mind if you hop in to the Soul from something else and keep going waiting to hear a beep...
There is one thing about our long-term Soul that is possibly better than any other car I've ever experienced; it's the rate at which its standard heated front seats can warm your chilled bones within mere seconds.
Us snappers are experts at judging how good a heated seat is after standing on exposed Welsh hillsides shooting our group tests. The other morning I hadn't even pulled out of the parking space before I could feel the warmth helping to ease my commute, the ample button is also ideally placed to reach with a numb finger.
Unlike some heated seats, there's no timed cut out, so I can be warmed all the way to my location. If only the ride was half as accomplished as the seat heaters.
Kia Soul problems
While I'm glad to report that Kia now fits every UK model of the new Soul with a DAB radio as standard, ours has already developed a particularly irritating habit.
I love my music, and BBC 6 Music is my station of choice. It's stored on the Soul's radio as a preset; number six, obviously. Yet every time I switch on the car Absolute Classic Rock, Humberside, of all things, is forced upon my ears.
I need to delve in to the manual to see if there's an easy fix to solve this tiresome problem, but it seems strange that anything other than the last station I listened to would be played. It's not even stored among the plentiful selection of presets.
What Car? reader Alex Dalgleish got in touch with me about it. He informed me that the Kia forum says a rescan won't necessarily sort out the issue. Apparently, the stereo stores stations alphabetically, hence Absolute's continued assault on my ears, although on the flip side I'm now rather partial to a bit of Survivor.
As a further irritation, a colleague and I noticed that having reselected 6 Music, if you then plug in an iPhone to charge, the stereo selects this as a music source and starts playing tunes from the phone. Then, if you switch over to the radio again, guess what? Yes, that's right, it's back to Humberside's finest, with T'Pau, and China In Your Hand.
I need to speak to my local dealer about this, but from what I have read on the forums, they are as foxed by the issue as I am.
The Soul has suffered a wound on its fascia just under the registration plate and I suspect the culprit was a careless driver reversing into it with a tow bar. I’m hopeful the dent will push out, but if it isn’t salvageable then a trip to the dealer may be in order.
Kia Soul 1.6 CRDi Mixx automatic statistics
List price £21,250
Target Price Click here for the latest price
Mileage to date 12,789
Fuel economy 47.1mpg
True MPG 41.5mpg
Emissions/Company car tax 158g/km/22%
Cost per mile 44p
Insurance group 10
Typical quote £399