2012 Kia Soul (1)If we had to describe the Kia Soul in one word it would be ‘sensible’. Its square, boxy styling provides all the convenience and practicality that has driven so many buyers towards the booming compact SUV market but does so at a more affordable price.

Sensible doesn’t have to be boring and some clever marketing sees Soul offered with a wide choice of colours, the option of 18-inch alloy wheels and an accessory list that includes body graphics, rear spoiler, front, side and rear skirts, all in piano black.

While Kia is targeting young people to whom the head-turning looks of the Soul will appeal, we beg to differ because this is an ideal vehicle for those of us in the baby boomer generation. During our previous road test a number of our contemporaries commented favourably about the car, impressed by the ease of entry, great visibility and interior space, including plenty of room for the grandkids and their gear. All the sensible things.

2012 Kia Soul
Our only criticism of the original Soul, launched here in April 2009, was the marginal performance from the 1.6-litre petrol engine. For the just-released 2012 Soul, Kia has addressed this issue not only by adding dual CVVT technology to the 1.6-litre engine (increasing power output by 4 kW to 95 kW) but also by adding a new 2.0-litre petrol engine to the range.

Continuing the Hyundai/Kia practice of using the Greek alphabet for its engine names, the new engine is appropriately enough called Nu, though if you are superstitious it’s the 13th letter in Greece. Anyway, it produces a maximum 122 kW of power and 200 Nm of torque and the engineering technology seems certain to defy any bad omens.

2012 Kia Soul INTERIOR
Also retained in the Soul is the impressive 1.6-litre CRDI diesel with 94 kW and 260 Nm.

The previous five-speed manual and four-speed automatic transmissions have both now been upgraded to six speeds. The automatic is a $2000 option when mated with the two 1.6-litre engines and standard with the new 2.0-litre.

We were able to spend a couple of hours testing the new 2.0-litre Kia Soul during a recent visit to Melbourne and will carry out an extended test in our home territory in due course.

Fuel consumption figures range from 5.2 litres per 100 kilometres in a manual diesel up to 7.5 L/100 km from the 2.0-litre petrol. We averaged 7.7 L/100 km during our test of the petrol.

Kia Soul+ 2.0 litre petrol
The sensible nature of the Soul is clear the moment you go to get into the car – its large, comfortable seats at just the right height, there’s need to climb up or crouch down. The tall, square body means that all but the tallest occupants will travel in comfort. There’s good visibility all round with large side mirrors and a high driving position, all factors that make for safer travel.

Rear storage is reasonable with 340 litres available with the rear seatbacks in position, increasing to 800 litres with them lowered. The loading lip is low enough for easy loading.

Although we weren’t able to leave the suburbs the difference in power between the two engines was quite noticeable with the newcomer also having a more refined feel. The two extra gears in the automatic transmission also meant more comfortable cruising.

From prior testing we found Soul’s handling to be safe and competent enough and that it holds the road securely. It’s a long way from having sporting performance but that’s unlikely to deter any potential buyers.
Two equipment levels are offered. The 1.6-litre petrol model is Soul, the 1.6-litre diesel and 2.0-litre petrol are both Soul+.

Both models come standard with front, side and curtain airbags, ABS brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution and brake assist, electronic stability control, traction control, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, hill-start assist and auxiliary / USB input sockets.

Soul+ adds cruise control, leather wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, metal-look interior trim, roof rails, and ‘Soul’ embroidered seat and door trim.

One noticeable difference between the two variants is in their wheels with the standard Soul having 15-inch steel wheels and the Soul+ jumping up to 18-inch alloys. The latter can reduce ride comfort on some roads so try for yourself before falling for their trendy looks. Both models come with a space-saver spare to improve luggage room.

As with all Kia models, Soul comes with a five year, unlimited kilometre warranty.  The complete 2012 Kia Soul range, with prices (excluding dealer and government charges) is:
Soul 1.6-litre petrol: $21,490 (manual), $23,490 (automatic) Soul+ 2.0-litre petrol: $26,990 (automatic) Soul 1.6-litre turbo-diesel: $27,990 (manual), $29,990 (automatic)

About Ewan Kennedy

Ewan Kennedy, a long-time car enthusiast, was Technical Research Librarian with the NRMA from 1970 until 1985. He worked part-time as a freelance motoring journalist from 1977 until 1985, when he took a full-time position as Technical Editor with Modern Motor magazine. Late in 1987 he left to set up a full-time business as a freelance motoring journalist. Ewan is an associate member of the Society of Automotive Engineers - International. An economy driving expert, he set the Guinness World Record for the greatest distance travelled in a standard road vehicle on a single fuel fill. He lists his hobbies as stage acting, travelling, boating and reading.
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