The funky Kia Soul compact family car/crossover received a facelift in the latter part of 2016 and the range acquired a new 1.6-litre turbodiesel derivative equipped with a manual gearbox. We gave it a whirl and this is what we thought of it...
We Like: Excellent build quality, good diesel engine, spacious
We Don’t Like: Lacks competitive safety features
For something equally funky: The Nissan Juke has to be top of the list for the most polarising looks in the car market. It does have a very frugal 1.5-litre diesel and is surprisingly spacious inside.
For a bit less money: The Renault Captur remains a popular vehicle. Its good looks and excellent value have compensated for its less powerful engine.
The popular choice: Ford’s Ecosport continues to sell well despite the vehicle’s age and mediocre finishings. It is well-priced and probably the most established brand of the competition in SA.
Facts & Figures
Price: R329 995 (July 2017)
Engine: 1.6-litre 4-cylinder turbodiesel
Power: 94 kW
Torque: 260 Nm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Fuel Consumption: 5.2 L/100 km (claimed)
Metallic skid plate on the bottom, a new take on the 'Tiger Nose' grille and a reworked bumper are the major exterior changes.
In terms of design, not much has changed with this facelifted Kia Soul. The boxy design remains and gives the Soul an edge, making it easily recognisable on the road. Minor remodelling of the front bumper with the inclusion of a metallic skid plate mark the most notable changes. The rear gets similar treatment to the bumper and skid plate as well as a fog light redesign for better illumination.
The refreshed Soul ushers in a new derivative in the form of this, the 1.6-litre turbodiesel manual. Turbodiesels aren’t the favoured choice of propulsion in this segment and petrol or turbopetrol engines are far more popular. A turbodiesel engine however, in most cases, returns impressive fuel efficiency and their strong torque figures make them great all-rounders in traffic and freeway situations.
The turbodiesel engine in the Kia is strong and the power and torque delivery make for a smooth ride.
We’ve said this about just about every Kia we’ve driven over the last few years and it still rings true. The interior is put together impressively well with tight and sturdy shut lines that leave no gap for rattles or squeaks. Although the exterior design of the Soul is funky and original, the interior doesn’t share the same pizzaz. It’s a grey expanse with the odd section of piano black thrown in to look more upmarket. The infotainment system is functional and connectible by modern day standards but it looks a little dull compared to some of the touchscreen systems offered by the likes of Renault and Opel, for instance.
The sturdy build quality filters through to the Soul’s driving performance. It’s solid on the road with a firm but stable ride. Road noise is largely left outside and the cabin is impressively quiet. What's more, Kia’s improved steering weighting feels more reassuring at freeway speeds.
It's quite grey in here and the infotainment system doesn't look like much, but it's functional and the build quality feels exceptional.
The 1.6-litre turbodiesel feels well-suited to the Soul and with the added frugality of the diesel engine, you’ll struggle to do less than 700 km on a tank. We averaged in the region of 6.0 L/100 km. The 6-speed manual gearbox keeps it within the torque band nicely, but if you shift too quickly you can ‘beat the box’ and grind your way from second to third on the odd occasion. It’s smooth and easy from pull-off and the light clutch action makes for a car that’s forgiving to drive in traffic.
The square design of the Soul makes it a pretty good car if you value space as high priority. The boot only measures 354-litres, the same as the Juke, but once you fold those rear seats down, the space available is much larger than its rivals at 1 367-litres. This is in stark comparison to the Juke’s 830 litres and the Ecosport’s 705 litres. That extra space translates into more rear passenger space and legroom. It may be a squash to fit 4 people’s luggage in the boot, but if no luggage is required, it’s a comfortable car for all passengers.
The square nature of the Soul means its one of the more spacious and practical cars in this segment.
For a car aimed at the family-orientated buyer, the Soul lacks some of the key safety features that prevent accidents. The Soul’s 6 airbags and ABS are standard but beyond that, there’s not much else. There’s no stability control, traction control or electronic brake force distribution (EBD). All the Kia’s major competitors can claim to have most, if not all of those features. Rear park distance control is standard, as is the rear camera that’s installed into the rear-view mirror.
Pricing and warranty
The new Kia Soul 1.6CRDi Start is priced at R329 995, which puts it towards the upper end of the B-segment crossover range. The Kia Soul is backed by an impressive 5-year/unlimited km warranty and a 4-year/90 000 km service plan.
The Kia Soul 1.6CRDi Start is the starting point to the turbodiesel offerings in the Soul range and comes equipped with a reasonable level of technology and comfort features. Cloth seats and grey plastics are the standard at this end of the market, but the build quality and solid feel of the drive are above its price point. It does, however, lack important safety features, even though it's equipped with just ABS and 6 airbags.
Its engine and gearbox are excellent, delivering sufficient acceleration performance as well as returning impressive fuel consumption figures. The conundrum to take note of though, is that at this entry end of the turbodiesel market, you have to forego some of the luxury and safety items that the equivalently priced petrol models include. Unless you really must have a turbodiesel Soul, you will be better off searching for a fully-equipped petrol-powered crossover.