What’s the biggest selling Kia in the USA? Bet you didn’t think it was the Soul, yet it has proven immensely popular on the other side of the Pacific, chiefly due to its interesting shape and the customisation options on offer. But Australians tend to be on the conservative side and anything that’s a lot out of the ordinary struggles to sell here. Pity, because the Soul has a lot going for it.
If you’re young and trendy you might like to get a Kia Soul in a bright colour with some added customisation. If you’re a member of the sex-drugs-and-rock n’ roll generation, but now watching your 70th looming up you might like to get a Soul in a bright colour with some added customisation.
That’s right, two apparently quite different buyers who will benefit from the same car.
Soul has large, comfortable seats at just the right height for ease of access, a high driving position, and there’s good visibility all round with commendably narrow pillars. Four adults can travel in comfort thanks to the excellent head and leg room although the Soul is relatively narrow so a fifth occupant will need to be trim and taut.
However, the boot is on the small side and struggles to cope with loading for a family of four. The rear seatbacks can be lowered to significantly increase room.
Despite slowish sales the Australian importer plugged along with the Soul and in February 2014 launched the second generation. The shape was toned down a little, more importantly, the tailgate was widened to give easier access to the load area.
Originally Kia Soul came with the choice of a 1.6-litre petrol engine and a turbo-diesel with the same capacity. Both with a five-speed manual or four-speed auto. In 2011 a 2.0-litre petrol with a six-speed automatic transmission was added to the range. That auto was also offered in the diesel. The new 2014 Soul’s range was trimmed to 2.0-litre petrol only, with six speeds on both manuals and autos.
All Kia vehicles have considerable Australian input in the suspension and steering, with the gen-two model getting more changes than the original. It certainly doesn’t have sporty performance but it is safe and competent.
South Korean cars now have an excellent reputation for quality and reliability and Kia was significantly increased its number of dealers in Australia. Obviously there’s a concentration in major metro areas, but country cities are also getting into the action.
We have heard of no major problems with parts availability and prices are generally considered reasonable.
Souls are a simple, routine design and good home mechanics can do a fair bit of the work themselves. As always, we remind you to have all safety related work done by professionals.
Perhaps due to the relatively small number of Kia Souls on the road in Australia there’s a bigger than average variation in insurance charges. It pays to shop around, but keep in mind that maintaining a long relationship with one company may provide benefits in the future if there’s a marginal case for a claim.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Diesel engines won’t start as quickly as petrol ones, but if one seems too slow have it checked out by a mechanic.
During your test drive check for diesel smoke from the exhaust when accelerating hard. A few seconds is probably okay, any longer is not.
Gear shifts in the manual should be smooth and easy. As the gearbox wears the shift down into second gear is often the first one to play up. Try a few fast downchanges during your test drive.
The automatic should be smooth in its changes, not shift gears unnecessarily, or hold onto them for too long.
As with any car used to cart kids the Soul can be damaged in the interior through rough use. Check all areas, with particular attention to the plastic and paint as their quality was built down to a price. Not a criticism, this is a low cost car.
Take a close look at the body for signs of customising decals having been removed.
Crash repairs can be indicated by ripples in the panels – look at them end-on in good light. Also check for overspray on non-painted areas like the glass and badges.
CAR BUYING TIP
A small magnet will be attracted to metal, but not plastic or fibreglass, and is an ideal way of checking on body or rust repairs that haven’t been done professionally.