The second generation Kia Soul is a much-improved proposition. Granted, it needed to be to avoid being left behind in market sector stuffed with increasingly talented rivals, but in becoming a little bigger, much better finished, with slicker suspension and better refinement, Kia has equipped the Soul for success. As before, it offers a trendier take on supermini motoring.
The original Kia Soul was a great example of a car that looked great on paper but didn't really cut it when you got behind the wheel. It didn't ride very well, it wasn't packaged as cleverly as it should have been and the interior design never lived up to the bold promise of that cubist exterior. Kia as a company has come a long way in recent years and it doesn't have room on its books for a nearly car, so to that end, the Soul has been replaced with a second generation model that's new from the ground up. Well, perhaps that's a mild exaggeration, as it shares its chassis with the Kia cee'd but anyone who's driven a cee'd will appreciate that this promises good things. The Soul didn't sell too badly but it could have made a much bigger impact. Kia's confident that this current car will catch up and then some, putting the frighteners on small MPVs like the Fiat 500L and the Citroen C3 Picasso.
Where the old Soul had a jarring ride, moribund steering and poor refinement, the MK2 model aims to offer a much more involving drive. A modified version of the cee'd chassis is tasked with improving the Soul's ride and handling. The front subframe utilises four bushings to improve refinement and reduce harshness. The shock absorbers on the torsion bar rear suspension have been turned vertically and lengthened, allowing for more suspension travel and improved ride comfort. The front suspension and steering box have also been altered to improve stability, lend better balance and yield benefits to on-centre steering feel. Do these things really matter on a small MPV? Yes, they do. A well-damped ride and slick steering give the car an immediate impression of quality, something the old model singularly lacked. The engines comprise 1.6-litre petrol and diesel engines and a choice of six-speed manual or automatic transmissions. Both engines are carried over from the outgoing model, but have been tweaked to offer improved efficiency and more competitive emissions.
Kia has quite sensibly not fiddled too much with the most successful part of the Soul - its exterior styling. It's still the same block-shaped profile that works well, this time updated with some cleverer detailing. Much of this has been influenced by the 2012 Track'ster show car, including the large trapezoidal lower air intake, the location of the available fog lights and the reworking of Kia's signature grille, while the "floating" body colour panel inset into the boot has its roots based in the Track'ster as well. Combining a longer 2,570mm wheelbase (up 20mm), overall width that's broadened to 1,800mm (increased by 15mm) and the same overall height of 1,610mm adds a more aggressive edge to the MK2 Soul's appearance. The interior benefits from soft-touch materials on the instrument panel, centre console and door panels. Finishes like soft-grain leather and piano-black trims are also available. The Soul now benefits from a larger cabin with incremental increases in front leg room (1,090mm, 20mm more than the previous Soul), rear leg room (up 5mm to 993mm), front headroom (increased 5mm to 1,006mm) and front seat shoulder room (up 7mm to 1,410mm). This improved Soul also offers a 13mm lower hip point and a step-in height that's reduced 5mm, allowing for even easier ingress and egress. Overall cargo capacity is increased from 340 to 354-litres with the rear seats in place.
Prices for this Soul are still affordable, starting at well under £13,000 for the entry-level 1.6-litre GDI petrol variant. You'll need around £16,500 for the least pricey 1.6 CRDi diesel. Beyond the stripped-out 'start' variant, the bulk of the range is based around Connect, Connect Plus, Mixx and Maxx trim levels. All models get a DAB radio, Flex Steer variable power-assisted steering, coloured-keyed bumpers, power windows and mirrors, air conditioning, USB and AUX-in ports and six airbags. Further up the range, there are features like a premium Infiniti sound system, a reversing camera, sat nav and front speaker mood lighting, plus the contrasting roof colour and door mirror casings that will really set your car apart. The top Soul Maxx gets a huge panoramic glass roof, leather upholstery and smart key entry.
The Soul's engine efficiency has always been very good, though the figures have dropped a little over what was on offer before, presumably due to this improved model's slightly greater weight. The 1.6 GDI petrol engine makes 41.5mpg and 158g/km of CO2, while the 1.6 CRDi diesel registers 56.5mpg and 132g/km, which falls to 47.1mpg and 158g/km in the automatic version. If you want to do better than that, you'll need to talk to your dealer about the Soul EV full electric version. Residual values for the Soul have always stood up fairly well and that has helped to put a cap on the overall pence per mile figure when running one. Couple that with low insurance ratings and Kia's excellent seven year/100,000 mile warranty and it all should result in a car that's not going to put a huge dent in the family budget.
This second generation Soul picks up where its predecessor left off. That was a model that may have sold well in foreign markets but never really felt at home on our roads. Nevertheless, there was clearly the kernel of an impressive car there if the ride, refinement and interior quality could just be improved. Kia has clearly been listening carefully to customer feedback because it's exactly these three areas that this improved Soul targets. Is it enough, in effect, to rectify the shortcomings of an oldish design and then expect it to be competitive henceforth? That's the question many buyers are going to be asking, but often it's this steady, incremental process of improvement that results in a properly-honed product. The Soul might have missed the target the first time, but if there's one thing we've learned about 'new' Kia, it's that it doesn't tolerate mediocrity for very long, hence the confidence in this MK2 model. Try one and you might agree that it looks well placed.
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