The second-generation Kia Soul aims to step out of the boxy niche of its predecessor and onto the shopping lists of buyers in the booming sub-compact SUV market.

MY2015 All New Kia Soul

Unlike the original hatch that launched in 2008 aiming to cash in on the success of slab-sided cars such as the Nissan Cube and Scion xB (Toyota Rukus), the all-new Soul debuted in New York 11 months ago with its sights set on the new breed of baby SUVs, including the Ford EcoSport, Chevrolet/Holden Trax and Nissan Juke.

Despite pitching it at a new and more popular segment, Kia Australia still has modest expectations for the second-gen Soul, forecasting annual sales to continue to average roughly 400 units.

MY2015 All New Kia Soul

In an effort to make dealers’ lives easier, reduce supply complexities and simplify the buying process for customers, the new Kia Soul line-up has been cut from three engines and two trim levels to just one engine and a single spec.

The sole Soul Si costs $23,990 when teamed with the six-speed manual transmission and $25,990 with the six-speed automatic. The new pricing means its starting price is now $1500 higher, though Kia says it’s $1000 cheaper than the Soul+ from the old line-up that is a closer comparison from an equipment perspective.

Gone are the 1.6-litre petrol and diesel engines, leaving an updated version of the old model’s 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol unit as the only option. While it’s now Euro 5 emission regulations compliant, power falls from 122kW to 113kW (at 6200rpm) and torque is down 9Nm to 191Nm (at 4700rpm).

Despite the focus on cleaner emissions, the new model actually uses more fuel than the old one too because of the car’s increased size and kerb weight, which is up roughly 33kg to 1335kg (manual) and 1405kg (auto). Kia claims combined cycle fuel consumption of 7.6 litres per 100km for the manual and 8.4L/100km for the auto (up from 7.5L/100km previously).

MY2015 All New Kia Soul

At 4140mm long, 1800mm wide, 1619mm tall and riding on a 2570mm wheelbase, the all-new Kia Soul is 20mm longer and 15mm wider than its predecessor, and has a 42mm-lower roofline and a 20mm-longer wheelbase. Boot space increases 16 litres to a still-tight 238L, and grows 178L to 878L with the 60:40 split-fold rear seats pushed forwards.

The new Soul is built on a modified version of the platform underpinning the compact Cerato and Cee’d models, and is assembled in Kia’s Gwangju factory in South Korea.

Kia says the new model has 29 per cent greater torsional rigidity, features a higher percentage of ultra-high and high-strength steel, and achieves improved NVH (noise, vibration, harshness) levels.

Kia Australia engineers tuned the dampers and steering of the new Soul, as well as adjusted its spring and bar rates in the pursuit of a set-up suited to local conditions and preferences.

The Soul features Hyundai-Kia’s ‘FlexSteer’ system, allowing drivers to select between three distinct steering weights: Normal, Comfort, and Sport.

MY2015 All New Kia Soul

The new model evolves rather than overhauls the design of the old model. Its boxy proportions, short overhangs, slim grille, gaping lower front intake and pillar-mounted tail-lights remaining signature Soul styling elements, though the single-piece headlights, flush tail-lights, flared wheel arches and raked roofline contribute to a more mature exterior design.

The cabin also appears to have taken a step forward in terms of design and quality. The scratchy grey plastics of the old model make way for darker tones combined with piano black, satin chrome and leather highlights with contrast stitching.

Standard features of the Kia Soul Si include 17-inch alloy wheels, rear parking sensors, rear-view camera, auto headlights, fog lights, tinted windows, roof rails, cruise control, manual air conditioning, cloth upholstery, and a six-speaker audio system with 4.3-inch colour touchscreen, AUX/USB inputs, 800Mb ‘My Music’ hard drive storage, and Bluetooth phone connectivity with audio streaming.

MY2015 All New Kia Soul

Six airbags (dual front, side and curtains) and electronic stability control headline a safety package that Kia Australia expects will earn a five-star rating from ANCAP.

Six paints colours are available: Clear White, Cherry Black, Bright Silver, Titanium Silver, Inferno Red, and Acid Green.

CarAdvice attended the launch of the all-new Kia Soul in Sydney today. Stay tuned for our review, coming soon.