Loading indicator
News & Reviews
Last 7 Days
  • Funky, different looks are kinda cool; customizable; great passenger space – good visibility; 7-year warranty takes so much risk away when used for a business
  • Small boot; it’s not longer good enough to be good when everyone else is better

LIFESTYLE RATING
7 / 10



by James Ward

The funky Kia Soul landed in Australia in 2009, with an update arriving in early 2014 to a refreshed, second-generation compact SUV.

Struggling to appeal to local buyers, the boxy South Korean is still an affordable little five-seat bus, so we spent a week with one as our Melbourne office ‘runabout’ to see if the Kia Soul indeed had some…

Sitting somewhere between an SUV and an MPV – and actually categorised by VFACTS as a small car – the Soul hasn’t quite set the sales floors on fire, selling only 259 units in 2014 (up 78 cars from 2013).

That’s niche sales territory, but at $24,490 (plus on road costs) the 4.1-metre-long Soul is only slightly more expensive than a mid-spec Toyota Corolla – the country’s highest selling small car.

Now, many small businesses need the use of a vehicle for, put simply,  getting the job done.

Next time you are out and about on the roads during peak ‘working’ hours, take a look and you’ll see myriad sign-written mobile billboards that help keep the big wheels of small business turning.

Gone are the days where discrete sedans perform sales, marketing and general duties – to keep up with the 2.1 million businesses operating in Australia in 2015, you need to be promoting your brand all the time (actually, why not check out www.caradvice.com.au).

2014 Kia Soul Si :: week with Review

To the post office: branding. To a meeting: branding. On the highway: branding.

This doesn’t mean you need to offer up a slab-sided van with a giant phone strapped to the roof for the staff to roam the streets in though. Modern signage and vehicle wraps turn any hatchback into a promotional tool.

The trend has become so prevalent worldwide, in fact, some cars are even offered with full colour customisation options during the purchase cycle – and the Kia Soul was a pioneer in this space.

When the original Soul was launched, you could request a range of vinyl decals to aid in the personalisation of the car.

Even now, Kia’s Korean website offers a cool customiser to get your Soul’s base colour palette looking ‘interesting’ with options for trim, panels and body kit components. An ideal starting point then for a marketing savvy, inner-urban small business like us.

In and out of our garage for the week – while not in pantone correct CarAdvice orange – the Kia Soul makes a bold statement in rich Inferno Red (a $620 paint option).

The boxy Soul makes sense from a space perspective, providing excellent passenger head and legroom. But somehow this fails to translate into practicality, as the Soul has a small 238-litre boot. For context, the marginally longer Holden Trax we spent a week with back in September, has a 356-litre boot. Yes, the Kia has little storage holes under the floor, but they don’t help when you are loading up bigger boxes or bags.

2014 Kia Soul Si :: week with Review

The rolling-square shape is also possibly one reason why the Soul hasn’t enamoured Australian buyers. Other cars using lots of right angles haven’t really made their mark either – the Nissan Cube was only ever available here as a private import and I can’t remember the last Toyota Rukus I saw… (actually, I saw one today, but that’s not really the point).

We also seem to be abnormally tall here at CarAdvice, with most of our Melbourne team over six-foot. And when the Soul’s tailgate is up, it just so happens to sit about six-foot off the ground. Do the maths on that and there were a few bumped heads or close calls at least.

Inside, some of the trim components feel a bit light and cheap but they are an improvement on the previous generation. There are lots of clever storage cubbies too to put ‘stuff’ – a particularly great thing for a car used by multiple drivers.

There are four cup holders, four bottle holders, rear air vents, three 12-volt charge points and six airbags to keep HR staff happy.

On the road, the six-speed manual Soul is light and easy to drive, and, while feeling pleasant and ergonomic inside, like other modern Kias, the Soul keeps its funk levels up with lashings of yellow trim. There is good visibility too and it’s not overtly noisy or harsh when out and about.

2014 Kia Soul Si :: week with Review

The 113kW/191Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder is enough to hustle the little guy along around town, but can see the 1335kg  Soul run out of steam at highway speeds – particularly if you need to overtake.

Considering our car is an ‘urban’ explorer, power was less of a consideration than economy. Claiming 7.6 litres per 100km, over our test week the Kia returned 9.4L/100km – not shocking but not awesome either, particularly when considered a business expense.

Sticking predominantly to inner-city roads, and the Soul handles most surfaces well. It can thump a bit over potholes and speed humps result in things getting a touch bouncy. Drive it like a normal person though, and not a motoring writer, and the Kia is a comfy and nice enough place to be.

Bluetooth works clearly and is easy to pair and there is even a reversing camera incorporated into the 4.3-inch touchscreen – which is a far cleaner approach than the Kia Pro_Cee’d GT’s rear-view mirror location.

Importantly for an office car, Bluetooth audio streaming, iPod connectivity and a six-speaker stereo are all standard equipment, meaning staff can rock out to their particular genre of beats without upsetting Sue from accounts by leaving a Ministry CD in the player…

So, as this car was our team runabout for the week, I asked other CarAdvice crew to weigh in on what they thought of our little red box of soul…

2014 Kia Soul Si :: week with Review

David Zalstein – journalist: The Soul feels quite stable and planted on the road, not floaty or sketchy, and generally rides reasonably well.

I like the steering wheel material but the PlayStation-style steering wheel-mounted buttons for volume and cruise aren’t ideal. There’s a bit going on on the wheel actually, because you’ve also got buttons for phone, trip and steering modes.

The gearbox is good, snicking through gears nicely, and the clutch, while light, still gives decent feedback. I didn’t play with the steering modes but whatever mode it was in felt a bit unnecessarily heavy.

Overall, there’s an easy, nice, fun feel to the Soul.

Marika Zhu – Sales Manager: It has lots of features for the price and I found it particularly easy to connect my Bluetooth phone.

The ride was smooth and the Soul was generally easy to drive once you got over its high clutch take-up point. This took me a while to get used to and, considering I’m not always wearing the most sensible shoes, I would have preferred an automatic.

2014 Kia Soul Si :: week with Review

The boxy styling might attract some, but it’s not quite me. I don’t think I could see myself in one long term.

Andrew Beecher – CEO:  Engine is uninvolving but does the job and the six-speed manual gearshift is very sweet – smooth, predictable and a great example of the breed. Clutch pedal is light, though take up is progressive.

Suspension is predictable and compliant, and comfortably fit for purpose around town. Steering mode selector is a waste of time, with comfort being too light and sport too heavy.

While the central touchscreen is smaller than the screen of an iPhone 5, usability is great, with simple, easy access to primary functions both on-screen and via the associated physical shortcut buttons. Rear-view camera clarity is also good.

Rear seat headroom is a big positive due to the Soul’s high roofline, but alas, the boot really is tiny.

Based on this, the Kia Soul is a good little bus, right?

2014 Kia Soul Si :: week with Review

Well, it is… but there are plenty of important things that other cars in the segment do better. The Peugeot 2008 is bigger inside and more fuel efficient. Holden’s Trax is cheaper and has a larger seven-inch touchscreen.

On paper, there is counter to every argument for a Soul, except one: Kia’s market-leading seven-year unlimited kilometer warranty. For a business, this peace of mind is a pretty strong selling point and may even elicit a cheery reaction from trusty old Sue in accounts.

So while personal buyers are seemingly looking elsewhere for their small car, for business buyers who need a no-fuss, easy to live with and cost effective runabout-come-marketing tool, the Kia Soul is definitely worth a look.

After all, it does have plenty of, well, soul…

Click the Photos tab for more images by Tom Fraser.


  Submit an Owner Car Review

KIA SOUL BREAKDOWN

2014 Kia Soul Si :: week with Review
  • 7
  • 7.5
  • 8
  • 7
  • 8
  • 8
  Submit an Owner Car Review

Kia Soul Specs

Si : PS : 2.0L MULTI POINT F/INJ - 6 SP MANUAL - UNLEADED PETROL - 4D HATCHBACK
Car Details
Make
KIA
Model
SOUL
Variant
Si
Series
PS
Year
2014
Body Type
4D HATCHBACK
Seats
5
Pricing
New Price
N/A
Private Sale
$12,320 - $14,000
Dealer Retail
$13,880 - $16,500
Dealer Trade
$9,800 - $11,200
Engine Specifications
Engine Type
MULTI POINT F/INJ
Engine Size
2.0L
Cylinders
INLINE 4
Max. Torque
191Nm @  4700rpm
Max. Power
113kW @  6200rpm
Pwr:Wgt Ratio
82.2W/kg
Bore & Stroke
81x97mm
Compression Ratio
10.3
Valve Gear
VARIABLE DOUBLE OVERHEAD CAM
Drivetrain Specifications
Transmission
6 SP MANUAL
Drive Type
FRONT WHEEL DRIVE
Final Drive Ratio
4.467
Fuel Specifications
Fuel Type
UNLEADED PETROL
Fuel Tank Capacity
54Litres
Fuel Consumption (Combined)
7.6L / 100km
Weight & Measurement
Kerb Weight
1375
Gross Vehicle Weight
Not Provided
Height
1619mm
Length
4140mm
Width
1800mm
Ground Clearance
150mm
Towing Capacity
Brake:1100  Unbrake:550
Steering & Suspension
Steering Type
RACK & PINION - POWER ASSISTED
Turning Circle
10.6
Front Rim Size
6.5x17
Rear Rim Size
6.5x17
Front Tyres
215/55 R17
Rear Tyres
215/55 R17
Wheel Base
2570
Front Track
1568
Rear Track
1580
Front Brakes
DISC - VENTILATED
Rear Brakes
DISC
Front Suspension
MacPherson strut, Coil Spring, Gas damper, Anti roll bar
Rear Suspension
Torsion bar, Coil Spring, Hydraulic double acting shock absorber
Standard Features
Comfort
Air Conditioning
Control & Handling
17 Inch Alloy Wheels, Electronic Brake Force Distribution, Electronic Stability Program, Hill Holder, Traction Control System
Driver
Cruise Control, Leather Steering Wheel, Multi Function Steering Wheel, Mobile Phone Connectivity, Parking Distance Control Rear, Power Steering, Reversing Camera, Trip Computer
Entertainment
Radio CD with 6 Speakers
Exterior
Fog Lights - Front, Remote Boot/Hatch Release
Interior
Centre Console Box - Multi-purpose, Cloth Trim, Power Windows, Tinted Windows
Safety
Dual Front Airbag Package, Anti-lock Braking, Head Airbags, Side Airbags, Seatbelts - Pre-tensioners Front Seats
Security
Alarm System/Remote Anti Theft, Central Locking Remote Control, Engine Immobiliser
Optional Features
Exterior
Metallic Paint
Other
Service Interval
12 months /  15,000 kms
Warranty
84 months /  999,000 kms
VIN Plate Location
RHS - Lower Door Aperture
Country of Origin
Korea