February 2009

Kia Soul Soul Burner 1.6 CRDi

Unusual design marks out the Soul

February 2009

picture of car from the frontpicture of car from the rearpicture of car interiorpicture of car in detail

Overall rating

4.5 out of 5 stars


  • Intriguing and unusual design
  • Practical and attractive cabin
  • Good standard specification
  • Quality feel throughout


  • Wider choice of engines would be welcome
  • Lower-spec models less attractive without alloy wheels
  • Top models expensive compared to superminis
  • No automatic diesel option

Kia has built itself a good reputation by offering a range of cars with good value and specification at their heart, but more recently the Korean firm has added more sex appeal. Now it has introduced the Soul, a car designed with the fashion-conscious in mind without abandoning the practical considerations of its core buyers.

The Soul is not an easy car to pigeonhole thanks to its unusual looks. The basic outline is SUV-like, but the dimensions are much closer to that of a supermini, which is why Kia calls the Soul an urban crossover. It is intended to lure buyers in from all of these segments although, additionally, Kia has given the Soul a boutique feel to appeal to fashion-driven buyers also.

Alongside the Soul 1 and Soul 2 trim levels, Kia is offering three special limited editions called Soul Burner, Soul Shaker and Soul Samba. Each of these has a unique interior and exterior feel, and come with a number of unusual features which are optional on other models.

Under the skin the Soul sticks to the conventional recipe for cars of this size, with a front-mounted engine and front-wheel drive layout. The chunky shape does, however, maximise the interior space available and compares favourably in terms of volume with cars from the class above.

A further feature of the Soul is the large degree of customisation available. Like its Mini and Fiat 500 rivals, the Soul can be highly personalised with interior and exterior features, some of which are clearly aimed at the youth market, but others offer increased practicality.

Our verdict on the Kia Soul Soul Burner 1.6 CRDi

The Soul is an unusual car from many viewpoints but driving and using it makes it abundantly clear that it is a widely talented and capable machine. It looks smart and individual, is a pleasure to drive and offers excellent practicality for its size. It also offers good value and the wide range of options means it will suit a range of budgets, too.


Running costs for the Soul should be relatively low, thanks to good economy from both engine options and modest insurance groupings. Some buyers may be put off the highest specification models due to the price tag, but the Soul's attributes are just as apparent in the entry level version.

Space and practicality

The Soul makes use of practically every inch within its footprint thanks to the tall bodyshell and the upshot is a car that packs a lot into a small space. Headroom is excellent front and rear, while legroom is good all round. The boot is also generous, and with the seats folded it turns into a mini-estate. There are also plenty of useful storage areas and, on many versions, the inside of the cubbies are lined in a different colour, which is a nice touch.

Controls and display

The layout of the Soul is sensible and practical as well as attractive. The high-set dashboard is clearly laid out with smart instruments and well-designed buttons and switches. The auio system is set high in the dashboard too and, with a clear display, is easy to use.


Regardless of the intended buyer, comfort is going to be a priority and the Soul does not disappoint. The cabin is airy and comfortable, while noise is well suppressed. The ride is comfortable despite the relatively firm suspension settings and, particularly with the diesel engine, is an undemanding car to drive.

Car security

With remote central locking and an engine immobiliser on all models, the Soul is up to the class standard in terms of security.

Car safety

The Soul has an impressive range of safety features as standard. All models get six airbags and ESP, a feature rarely seen as standard on a car at this price level.

Driver appeal

The Soul's conventional mechanical layout belies the fact that it offers an unexpected amount of driving pleasure. Thanks to some honing by Lotus the suspension has been optimised for UK roads and as a result the Soul copes admirably. Although a little firmer than many comparable hatches the Soul absorbs bumps and imperfections without difficulty and yet is good fun through the bends, too. Both the petrol and diesel units are quiet and responsive, but the diesel offers more flexible performance.

Family car appeal

The Soul can also turn its hand to family duties with ease. With Isofix mounting points, a good view out from all seats and the option of the impressive high-end stereo, the Soul can pack a lot into its small exterior. It may not have the capacity to carry a large family, but for those with one or two children it is more than suitable.

First car appeal

The Soul would make an excellent first car thanks to its ease of driving, good visibility and youth appeal. Younger buyers will probably want the highest-specification versions however, which are probably a little expensive for those new to motoring.

Quality and image

The Soul has a quality feel inside and out, and the attention to detail and use of materials demonstrates the effort that has been put in to make this a quality product. In terms of image, the Soul has such a strong design theme that it stands apart from the rest of the Kia range to a degree and is likely to achieve its goal of finding homes with fashion-conscious buyers.


The Soul's upright stance is perfect for easy entry and exit. The large doors open wide to give a good aperture to climb in and the high seating position allows the occupants to slide in easily. The same goes for the boot, with a simple, wide hatch and a boot floor at a good height.

Stereo and ICE (In car entertainment)

Kia has put a lot of effort into the audio package on all Soul models, so every car gets a six-speaker CD/tuner with MP3 compatibility, an auxiliary slot and a USB slot. The highest-spec cars add a 315-watt system with a separate amplifier and subwoofer, which is very powerful and produces an excellent sound.

Colours and trim

The Soul scores well here, as it offers a wider choice of colours than is usual and much brighter shades, too. The cabin is enlivened by the use of colour, particularly the higher-specification models, and the quality of the plastics used make the cabin a pleasant place to be.


The Soul is ideal for parking as its squared-off design makes it easy to judge the extremities. The electric power steering is also light at low speed and parking sensors are also available, as well as a reversing camera that displays an image in the rear view mirror.

Spare wheel

Space saver fitted beneath the boot floor.

Range information

Petrol engine options - 1.6-litre (124bhp). Diesel engine options - 1.6-litre (126bhp). Transmission options: five-speed manual gearbox, four-speed automatic gearbox. Trim levels: Soul 1, Soul 2, Samba, Shaker, Burner.

Alternative cars

Mini One Conventional hatch with charm, looks and good to drive

Fiat 500 Retro-inspired looks but nothing like as spacious

Suzuki SX4 Similar size and rugged looks, decent specification

Fiat Sedici Off-roader style, practical cabin and good value too

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