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  • Uniqueness; higher entry-point; warranty; diesel engine + automatic transmission coupling
  • Boot space; better choices from Kia; interior quality; no reversing camera or sensors; dated infotainment system

6 / 10

Kia Soul Review
Kia Soul Review
Kia Soul Review

The first-generation Kia Soul will soon make way for the all-new model that arrives early next year. But until that happens, it’s worth having another look at this funky little Korean.

When the Kia Soul came out in 2009, the market was going through a phase where boxy cars were the buzz. The likes of the Soul and Toyota Rukus attempted to leverage that demand but overtime the hype fizzled out, like most fads do.

In 2011 Kia sold 431 Souls in Australia, that figure dropped to 353 for 2012, and so far this year, from January to July, only 101 Souls have found new customers.

To find out if it the falling figures were a result of the Soul itself or shifting market trends, we found ourselves in a range-topping Kia Soul+ automatic diesel.

The Soul isn’t a bad car, indeed it’s a pretty decent thing and although it’s starting to show its age, the value for money proposition is still compelling.

Our test car retailed for $29,990 for the 1.6-litre turbo diesel six-speed automatic, with the only option being the $620 cost of “Tomato Red” metallic paint.

Although classified in the small car class, among cars like the Toyota Corolla and Mazda3, in reality the Soul is a higher-riding car, which allows for easier entry for those averse to bending, and one that targets a niche audience.

The interior is certainly not up to modern Korean car manufacturing standards, with a black and red display screen for the audio system and hard plastics throughout the cabin.

Kia Soul Review
Kia Soul Review
Kia Soul Review
Kia Soul Review

The front and rear seats are comfortable and, given the shape of the Kia Soul, headroom is substantial. Two adults can comfortably sit in the back and a third can be accommodated in the middle centre seat if necessary.

But while the head and legroom is above the class average, luggage space is not. The boot is tiny at 222 litres but can be as large as 818L depending on the rear seat arrangement. We found it a struggle to fit a full-size pram inside the boot alone, let alone the week’s worth of shopping.

Speaking of prams, the Kia Soul also lacks the ISOFIX child-seat anchor points that have recently been legalised in Australia.

Behind the wheel the 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel delivers 94kW of power and 260Nm of torque. Coupled to a smooth-shifting six-speed automatic transmission, the Soul accelerates with ease and power delivery is never an issue. We found it a competent drivetrain for both inner-city and highway commutes.

The Soul’s ride is a little on the firm side and bumps tend to be felt, while the cabin is certainly not shy of road noise.

Driven through Sydney the diesel-powered Soul is easy to manoeuvre around town and keeps up with traffic without issue. Weighing a decent 1372kg, the Kia Soul sips just 5.9L of diesel per 100km, according to official consumption figures. In the real world it’s closer to 7L/100km, but even that is pretty decent for a car its size.

Kia Soul Review
Kia Soul Review
Kia Soul Review
Kia Soul Review

Outward visibility isn’t great, and is compounded by the lack of a reversing camera or even parking sensors – across the range. Its flat rear-end does make it a predictable car to park but the very small window at the back means you have absolutely no visibility of anything below a certain point.

The Kia Soul range starts from just $21,490, very reasonable for a car that comes with a five-year unlimited KM warranty, higher-access entry point and distinctive looks. A 1.6-litre petrol engine coupled to a five-speed manual transmission, which gives you 95kW of power and 157Nm of torque, powers the base model. Go up a step to the 2.0-litre petrol and figures jump to 122kW and 200Nm.

Base Kia Soul models, which are available with the 1.6-litre petrol only, get 15-inch steel wheels, full complement of safety features, including driver and passenger front and side airbags and electronic stability control.

On the technology side, Bluetooth connectivity with an iPod-compatible USB port is standard across the range, though we did struggle to get our iPhone 5 to stream music to the car’s six-speaker stereo system.

The higher-spec Kia Soul+ – available with the 2.0-litre petrol ($26,990 for the automatic) and 1.6-litre diesel (from $27,990 for the manual) – gets cruise control, leather steering wheel, seat back pockets, luggage screen, fog lamps and 18-inch alloy wheels.

Kia Soul Review
Kia Soul Review

Specifications and pricing aside, the Kia Soul’s underwhelming sales figures are somewhat simple to explain. For less money buyers can opt for the Kia Cerato (soon to be available in hatch), which starts from $19,990 and comes with a more modern style and superior interior fit and finish. Need more space and a higher seating position? The recently launched Kia Sportage Series II SUV starts from $25,490.

Then there’s the competition – notably the quirky-looking Skoda Yeti that is currently running out the door at $21,990 driveway (but three-year warranty only) and offers a higher-quality cabin, better engines and more enthusiast-focused driving manners.

Overall, the Kia Soul is a decent car if you’re after something with a higher ride height and unique looks, but given its replacement will be here in a less than a year’s time and that both Kia and other manufacturers offer newer and more practical products for similar coin, it’s not the ideal choice.

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Kia Soul Review
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  • O123

    CA you complain about the Souls radio unit yet toyota shoves there POS one in and you say nothing about it at all. This at least is integrated nicely

    • klyu

      Kia’s radio isn’t covered by the 5 year warranty though. A freind of mine with a new Kia had the complete sound system/satnav unit fail, not covered by warranty & there’s a exemption for it (and other items) in the warranty conditions. $1500 replacement.

      • Henry Toussaint

        Same happend with My 2009 Elantra. Had to pay $188 just for a new Unit. And wasn’t covered by warranty. The dealer said they were bad and only lasted about 3 years, which ours did.

    • http://www.caradvice.com.au/ Alborz Fallah

      0123, Believe me, I am the first to raise a flag when a car’s headunit is rubbish! Which Toyota review are you referring to?

      I should add that when the headunit is a double-din that can easily be replaced, its less of a complaint because you can simply replace it without much fuss, but the Soul’s is integrated, which makes it much harder to upgrade.

      • adam

        Thats true, Ive noticed in your new corolla and Rav4 reviews you mention its outdated, but lets face it, Its 2013 and toyota is really just being lazy when all the other makers can put a nice head unit in.

      • pete

        Can advise the head unit and in the current Aurion and Camry Sportivo models has the most deplorable radio reception. I have been told by Toyota it is due to the radio switching to a mono signal in weak reception areas which cant be overridden. The drop in sound is beyond ridiculous and it happens in most of the metro areas which are not weak signal areas. In this day and age this oversight is beyond belief. The drop in sound is also a driving hazard that it is so noticeable and distracting, ie. you are driving along and your favourite song drops by 30% in volume!! Anyone else experienced this.

    • sdfas

      The radio unit in some Toyota’s base models is not completely integrated, but it easily looks much nicer than that above ^^ drab plastic

  • pol

    Uniqueness and styling, that’s all matter for this boxy car. Oh yeah plus you can get a SUV-ish driving experience, although it’s totally underpowered.

  • disuqs

    koreans interior plastic is by far the worst there is. very grainy, flimsy and peels like crazy.

  • Eric V

    The Honda Jazz has 337/848 (848 to window line) litres of boot space.
    If the reason for the Kia’s boxy shape is practicality then they’ve failed.

  • Exar Kun

    There were heaps of these in Vancouver when I visited recently. And the Rukus too. They just go nuts over them over there.

  • Don Quay

    Did the Soul ever make sense? Really, being seen in one of these would just be embarrassing.

  • Zaccy16

    Ugly box, the diesel is easily the best choice but why buy one at all! the yeti is cheaper with a much better engine, quality, handling, space etc.. and its only $21,990 at the moment with the great 1.2 tsi, even the slightly smaller skoda roomster is much better than this cheap and nasty kia

Kia Soul Specs

Car Details
Body Type
New Price
Private Sale
$17,820 - $20,250
Dealer Retail
$18,960 - $22,550
Dealer Trade
$14,000 - $16,200
Engine Specifications
Engine Type
Engine Size
Max. Torque
260Nm @  1900rpm
Max. Power
94kW @  4000rpm
Pwr:Wgt Ratio
Bore & Stroke
Compression Ratio
Valve Gear
Drivetrain Specifications
Drive Type
Final Drive Ratio
Fuel Specifications
Fuel Type
Fuel Tank Capacity
Fuel Consumption (Combined)
5.9L / 100km
Weight & Measurement
Kerb Weight
Gross Vehicle Weight
Not Provided
Ground Clearance
Towing Capacity
Brake:1100  Unbrake:450
Steering & Suspension
Steering Type
Turning Circle
Front Rim Size
Rear Rim Size
Front Tyres
225/45 R18
Rear Tyres
225/45 R18
Wheel Base
Front Track
Rear Track
Front Brakes
Rear Brakes
Front Suspension
MacPherson strut, Coil Spring, Gas damper, Anti roll bar
Rear Suspension
Torsion bar, Coil Spring, Gas damper, Anti roll bar
Standard Features
Air Conditioning
Control & Handling
18 Inch Alloy Wheels, Electronic Brake Force Distribution, Electronic Stability Program, Traction Control System
Adjustable Steering Wheel - Tilt & Telescopic, Cruise Control, Leather Steering Wheel, Power Steering, Trip Computer
Radio CD with 6 Speakers
Fog Lights - Front, Power Mirrors
Cloth Trim, Power Windows
Dual Airbag Package, Anti-lock Braking, Head Airbags, Seatbelts - Pre-tensioners Front Seats, Side Front Air Bags
Central Locking Remote Control, Engine Immobiliser
Optional Features
Power Sunroof
Metallic Paint
Service Interval
12 months /  15,000 kms
60 months /  999,000 kms
VIN Plate Location
On Plate Inside of Toolbox Lid
Country of Origin