Kia Soul 1.6 CRDi 134 Connect
List price when new £16,600
Price today £8500
Available from 2014-present
Kia’s funky-looking Soul is excellent value and remarkably spacious, and comes with a whopping warranty
Ssangyong Tivoli 1.6 D EX
List price when new £15,850
Price today £9500
Available from 2015-present
The Ssangyong Tivoli is a distinctive and well-equipped alternative to the usual small SUV suspects
Price today is based on a 2015 model with average mileage and full service history, correct at time of writing
So you want a small SUV. Something that stands out from the crowd; a funky and fashionable high-riding hatchback that you’ll spot a mile off in the supermarket car park. It needs to be spacious, of course, with versatility and practicality built-in, and it should be reliable, too, with a little bit of manufacturer warranty left-over. And naturally, you don’t want to spend a lot of money – let’s say, less than £10,000.
Were you watching ‘Location, Location, Location’ right now, this would be the point at which Phil or Kirstie would look knowingly at the camera and say something about compromise. But we don’t do compromise here on What Car?. Believe it or not, there are two used cars out there which tick all of those boxes – and we’ve brought them together to find out which you should choose.
In the red corner, it’s the Kia Soul. Long beloved of those seeking a small SUV that’s a bit different, the Soul’s chunky styling is rather appealing, treading a clever line between cute and butch. Inside, you get a similarly snazzy dashboard, while that boxy profile delivers loads of space. And this 1.6-litre diesel version should be reasonably economical, too.
Meanwhile, in the… um, sort-of greenish-blue corner, we’ve got the Ssangyong Tivoli. Its hatchback-on-steroids looks mean it’s particularly distinctive, and it also promises a wealth of equipment as standard. Trouble is, its relative obscurity means it’s much harder to find than the Soul on the used market. So is it worth making the extra effort to seek out?
What are they like to drive?
Make no mistake, neither car delivers the sort of acceleration that’s going to get your pulse racing. However, both will hit 60mph in around 11 seconds, which is enough oomph to keep pace with fast-moving traffic and even perform the odd high-speed overtake without your heart venturing too close to your mouth.
However, while there’s little to split these two for outright performance, the fact the Ssangyong’s engine pulls more willingly from low revs makes it more relaxing to drive swiftly, and means you need to change gear less frequently. It’s just a shame that when you do need to use the Ssangyong’s gearbox you’ll find it a bit stiff and notchy; the Kia’s is much lighter and slicker.
In fact, the Kia is altogether the more refined choice. Its engine is smoother and quieter, and less wind and road noise finds its way into the cabin at a motorway cruise. You can hear the suspension working away in both cars, particularly around town, but again the Ssangyong is marginally the less effective at suppressing this annoying noise.
Neither of these SUVs handles as well as the best family hatchbacks, but the Kia certainly doesn’t disgrace itself. There’s plenty of grip and the Soul always feels stable and secure, even though its high-sided body sways about a little through tight twists and turns. Its somewhat vague steering doesn’t inspire much confidence through faster corners, although it is light enough to making parking a doddle.
The Ssangyong’s steering is heavier, no matter which of the variable weight settings you choose (by pressing a button on the dashboard). However, there still isn’t much in the way of feedback, which is a bit of an issue given that the Ssangyong’s front tyres don’t grip the road particularly well – especially in the wet.
Ride comfort will understandably be of more concern to many buyers and again the Kia has a clear edge. It never becomes too firm or unsettled, even over potholes, although you’ll notice your head tossing from side to side along scruffy town roads. The Ssangyong, meanwhile, is less effective at smoothing out battered surfaces; its larger-diameter wheels and lower-profile tyres are no doubt partly to blame.
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