Kia Soul - Long Term Review

Rating: 6.0
$21,490 Mrlp
  • Fuel Economy
  • Engine Power
  • CO2 Emissions
  • ANCAP Rating
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2009 Kia Soul3 CRDi - Long Term Review

I’m not sure which supermarket Elvis is in this week, but Shrek is definitely in residence at CarAdvice HQ, at least a very green Kia Soul has taken up Long Term Test residence with us for the next few months.

By David Twomey

It you didn’t catch it, Nadine Armstrong was firmly convinced when she reviewed the Soul recently that it was just the car for Shrek, that loveable cartoon character.

When the people from Kia suggested that we add a Soul to our fleet I agreed, provided it was a diesel, automatic as I felt we should test this configuration, a most appealing city use combination, even if it is a fairly steep $30,890.

When told that was fine, and that we could have any colour we liked provided it was green I knew the car’s fate was sealed.

As soon as the Green Tea coloured Kia Soul3 arrived at the office it was roundly christened ‘Shrek’ by the bunch of wags I work with and there you have it.

So let’s meet ‘Shrek’ and give you some initial impressions.

Aside from the exterior colour the Soul3 (that’s Cubed in Kia-speak) is the range topper and has pretty much everything that’s offered on the range, except for some peculiar reason the Soul2 (yes, you guessed it that Squared) gets roof rails but these are deleted on the Soul3, although you can add them as an option.

Power in the CRDi version of the Soul comes from Kia’s 1.6-litre, variable geometry turbocharged engine that produces 94kW at 4000rpm and 260Nm between 1900rpm and 2750rpm.

This makes it particularly frugal but at the same time offers good performance, which would only be enhanced by the use of a six-speed gearbox, instead of the four-speed currently on offer.

The four-speed automatic does a good job of masking its lack of ratios by utilising the torque of the diesel engine, but you are constantly aware that it could all be just that bit more refined if there were one or two more gear ratios on hand.

That said, around town particularly the Soul3 is a match for any traffic situation and can surprise some much bigger and more powerful cars with the smart way it moves off from the traffic lights.

It moves through the gear briskly and with a minimum of fuss, mostly picking the right gear, it’s just that the car would be even better if it had five or six ratios to play with.

It would also mean a taller top gear, which would provide a more relaxed freeway cruise, and mean that the car didn’t have to relay quite so heavily on its engine torque to get on with some overtaking manoeuvres.

The Soul certainly has fuel efficiency at its heart and Kia quotes a combined cycle fuel consumption of 5.2L/100km for manual transmission and 5.9L/100km for the automatic.

More than 1000 kilometres of very mixed driving, freeway, inner city and suburban produced an overall figure of 7.4L/100km, a reasonable real world result given that quite a lot of that was heavy freeway traffic and inner city driving.

Around the city the Soul is very easy to handle with the light, direct steering meaning city traffic and parking are a breeze. At the same time there’s not a huge amount of feedback, so the Soul can feel a bit dull, although it is responsive and well-behaved which means it rarely gets out of shape.

The shape and proportions of the Soul mean that getting into city parking spaces is not a challenge, however the high lip on the rear window does mean the area directly behind the car is a complete mystery.

Our Soul has neither parking sensors, I would consider them a must for this car, nor the $2000 optional rear-view camera, which very niftily displays in the rear view mirror, which would be a great help in this regard.

The Soul’s firm ride is very European, and something I don’t mind, and its McPherson strut front suspension and coupled torsion beam axle at the rear do a good job of dealing with our sometimes-rough roads.

The 18-inch alloys with 225/45 tyres look smart and don't seem to make the ride unduly harsh.

Build quality of ‘Shrek’ is overall very good and so far the car has shown no signs of any problems. Everything fits where it should and provided you don’t open the glove box too often (it has the brightest red liner!) then all is well with the world.

Internally I have to agree with Nadine, this car is a Tardis, it looks quite compact from the outside but once inside you cannot believe the space.

It can take five adults, it has usable luggage space and will certainly swallow the weekend supermarket shopping in the luggage space with ease.

The audio upgrade in the Soul3 includes an additional centre speaker and sub-woofer. As well there’s iPod or iPhone connectivity through and optional cable, which as an iPhone devotee I can assure you does a great job of putting your favourite tunes at hand.

Of course if you really want to swing, there’s the mood lighting effect, which causes the front speakers to pulsate with red light – very Disco Stu.

Safety is well covered in the Soul3, with dual front, side and full-length curtain airbags; ABS; EBD and Brake Assist, plus Electronic Stability Control (ESC) and TCS.

All of this gets the Soul a five-star EuroNCAP rating, although I must mention that the base Soul in Australia does not have ESC and therefore would not be a five-star rating.

It’s about time for ‘Shrek’ to meet a bigger challenge, the weekend away so we’ll see how he copes with a full load of family and dogs.

One thing for sure the Soul has already confirmed what I thought, Kia is rapidly moving from “need” to “want” in the automotive stakes and with a lot more to come from this Korean company it will be interesting to see 'Shrek’s' Soul-mates!