The Kia Soul returns renewed and with extra spirit
Kia’s second generation Soul has come back to delivers even more dramatic SUV crossover spirit. Inside there is more space in a revitalised and higher-quality cabin, enhanced safety and sharper driving dynamics are thanks to a new chassis based on that of the Kia cee’d.
The upright stance, square shoulders and distinctive bumper flares instantly identify it as a Soul, but it has a 20mm longer wheelbase – now 2,570mm – which stretches the car by a corresponding amount to 4,140mm, and it is 15mm wider at 1,800mm. With the height lowered by 10mm to 1,600mm, the new car appears more squat, sporty and purposeful. There are benefits for practicality, too: the tailgate opening is 62mm wider and provides access to a four per cent larger boot – 354 litres with the rear seats upright, With the rears seats folded the luggage capacity is 994 litres to the cargo cover and a maximum of 1,367 litres up to the roof level.
Exterior similarities follow the Track’ster concept with the large trapezoidal lower air intake at the front, front fog lights mounted low and pushed to the outer edges, a restyled version of Kia’s signature ‘tiger-nose’ grille and a floating body-colour ‘backpack’ panel set into the tailgate.
Kia will offer five trim options with the new Soul in the UK, all featuring significant upgrades in equipment and technology compared with the previous model. The five grades are Soul Start, Soul Connect, Soul Connect Plus, Soul Mixx and Soul Maxx.
Much-loved themes from the first Soul, such as the wraparound greenhouse – with privacy and solar glass on the Soul Mixx and Maxx (available from the Summer) – and high-mounted stacked tail lamps have been preserved. But a great deal of effort has gone into giving the new car more of a premium look through detailing like the LED indicators in the mirror housings on all but the Soul Start; the projection headlights with LED daytime running lamps, LED rear lamps and chromed exterior door handles on the Soul Mixx and Maxx; and panoramic sunroof on the Soul Maxx.
There is also a more premium look and feel to the interior. This has been achieved through the choice of materials; the soft-touch facings on the instrument panel, centre console and door panels; the leather-covered steering wheel rim and gearlever knob (except Soul Start) and the high-gloss black finishings on the fascia panel, steering wheel bezel, door armrests and upper console cover (Soul Connect upwards). In the three upper-grade versions there are front speaker mood lights, while the range-topping Soul Maxx has a TFT instrument cluster and leather upholstery.
The new Soul provides more passenger and luggage space than the previous model and has new seats that offer increased sideways and thigh support. There is more head and shoulder room for the driver and front passenger, while in the rear of the cabin up to three people enjoy more knee and leg space. The step-in point and hip point are also lower, making it easier to get in and out. The windscreen pillars are further away from the front occupants, and there is a lower centre tunnel to improve arm and elbow space.
Occupants will also find the cabin is quieter thanks to liberal use of expansion foam, replacing the previous block foam, in the body cavities. A reinforced isolation pad in the cargo area and polyurethane-layered carpet also contribute to a reduction in interior noise of almost three decibels.
Both engines adopt direct fuel injection to ensure they use only as much fuel as they need at any time. Direct injection, with turbocharging in the case of the U2 diesel engine, also helps to boost low-speed response and driveability.
The 1.6-litre CRDi diesel engine was designed and engineered at European Technical Centre at Russelsheim, just outside Frankfurt, and is made at the company’s manufacturing facility at Žilina, in Slovakia. It develops 126bhp and 260Nm of torque. Acceleration from 0-60mph is achieved in 10.8 seconds with the six-speed manual gearbox, while the top speed is 112mph. The figures with the six-speed automatic gearbox are 11.8 seconds and 110mph.
The new Soul is also available with Kia’s 1.6-litre GDi (Gasoline Direct Injection) petrol engine. GDi makes it possible to raise power and torque levels while reducing fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. It develops 130bhp and 161Nm of torque and accelerates from 0-60mph in 10.6 seconds, with a top speed of 115mph. Average fuel consumption of the Start, Connect and Connect Plus models is 41.5mpg with CO2 emissions of 158g/m, while for the Mixx and Maxx with 18-inch wheels the figures are 38.7mpg and 170g/km.
The Soul’s fun-to-drive handling characteristics are bolstered by improved ride quality to cope with deteriorating roads. New suspension bushing, a suspension insulator at the front and revised suspension geometry at the rear have improved both comfort and quietness. All of this has been aided by the greater rigidity of the new Soul thanks to a considerable increase in the use of high-tensile steel in the construction.
New standard features on every Soul are a DAB radio, Flex Steer variable power-assisted steering and a tyre pressure monitoring system (TPMS). Also fitted to every model are painted bumpers, door handles and side mirror casings, keyless entry, air conditioning, electrically adjustable door mirrors, electric windows all round, steering wheel-mounted controls, USB and AUX ports and six airbags.
Soul Connect adds artificial leather cluster housings, door centretrim and armrests plus a rear power socket. It has 17-inch alloy wheels in place of the 16-inch steel wheels of Soul Start, front foglamps, door mirror heaters, cruise control with a speed limiter, Bluetooth, a reversing camera, leather steering wheel and gearshift knob, a high-gloss black finish on the centrefascia panel, steering wheel bezel, door armrest and upper console and a storage box between the front seats.
Soul Mixx has 18-inch alloy wheels, a contrasting colour roof and door mirror casings, high-gloss black bumpers, chrome exterior door handles, LED rear combination lamps, privacy and solar glass, a cooled glovebox, heated front seats and a luggage floor undertray. It is also fitted with the urban styling pack consisting of front, side and rear skirts and a wheel-arch garnish.
Topping the range is the Soul Maxx, which features unique 18-inch alloy wheels, leather upholstery, a TFT supervision cluster, a panoramic sunroof, front and rear parking sensors and a smart-entry key and engine start/stop button.
Kia has already announced that towards the end of 2014 there will be a fully-electric version of the car, called Soul EV – the company’s first global commercial EV – with zero tailpipe emissions, but for now the new spirited Soul is on sale now from just £12,600 for the Start 1.6 GDi 130bhp 6-speed manual.