KIA Soul


Debut: 2013
Maker: KIA
Predecessor: Soul Mk1


 Published on 2 Oct 2013
All rights reserved. 


Nissan Cube and Toyota bB started the trend of tall-body funky hatchbacks in the late 1990s. However, just like the whole Japanese motor industry, their leading status has been shifting to the Korean. Kia Soul was launched in 5 years ago and it quickly became the class leader in North America, selling more than 100,000 units each year there. In addition to its presence in Europe and Asia, it should be globally the best seller of its kind. What made it such a hit? A funky design by the team of Peter Schreyer was undoubtedly the main reason, but the Soul also had a set of competitive qualities, such as a spacious cabin, strong engines and reasonable prices. On the down side, it was criticized for a stiff ride and lack of refinement.

The second generation Soul seen here is even more stylish than the last one. At the first glance from pictures, it looks very close to the original design, but in the fresh it is very different indeed. In fact, it now looks a bit like a mini-Land Rover, with that tough yet elegant feel. How is this done? The clamshell bonnet certainly helps, as is a more pronounced shoulder line that aligns with the near-horizontal bonnet. The subtly curved wheel arches push its large wheels further outside to create an extra sense of offroad stability. Finally, by moving up the pseudo front grille and installing a muscular front bumper, it looks remarkably close to an SUV. On the other hand, the new headlights, taillights and wheel design are all funkier and higher quality than the old ones. Ditto the blackened tailgate with a "floating" panel. This car really turns heads.



Compare with the old car, it is barely longer (by 20 mm), wider (by 15 mm) and lower (by 10 mm, at a still exaggerative 1600 mm). The wheelbase is stretched by 20 mm to 2570 mm. The latter is unsurprising, as it shares underpinnings with Kia Rio hatchback. The new platform is by no means groundbreaking, but it represents a progress in all directions. By increasing the usage of high or ultra-high strength steel to 66 percent of the chassis, torsional rigidity is upped by 29 percent. The same ultra-high strength steel also enables its A-pillars to be narrowed by 20 mm to improve visibility. Suspension continues to rely on MacPherson struts up front and torsion beam at the back (what else do you expect?), but there are some refinement to deal with the aforementioned criticisms. The front subframe is now (finally) mounted to the chassis through rubber bushings. The rear shock absorbers are now mounted vertically to enable a longer travel. By relocating the front anti-roll bars, the steering box can be mounted fore of the front axle to improve on-center feel. The steering box's stronger casing also helps cutting kickback and vibration.

On the road, the new Soul feels as if it gets a new soul. The ride is far smoother, even on 18-inch wheels. Noise and harshness in the cabin is vastly reduced. It isn't the most refined car in the class, but the fact that it surges from the bottom of the class to the middle rank is already applausible. Handling is no more than average, as you would expect for a tall-body funky car like this. The electrical power steering is passable without feeling inspiring. Body control is decent. The over-specced 235/45R18 rubbers generate more grip than it needs, so the car will understeer in a safe manner at the limit, and there is no way to get lift-off oversteer as you can in a Fiesta.



The existing 1.6-liter Gamma engine with dual-VVT and GDI has been tuned to deliver more low down torque (5 percent more at 1500 rpm). Unfortunately, in the process its peak output drops by 10 hp to 130 hp, while peak torque is lowered by 5 lbft to 118 lbft. Hauling a 1250 kg car, its performance is really marginal. Therefore American buyers may prefer the larger 2.0-liter Nu engine. It gains GDI to keep output at 165 hp and 151 lbft. Mated with a 6-speed automatic gearbox, it accelerates from 0-60 mph in about 8 seconds. Those wanting to shift by themselves may be disappointed though, because the new car has dropped manual gearbox from the 2.0 engine as very few buyers opted for that in the last generation. European version is yet to be introduced, but I expect the old 1.6CRDi turbo diesel with 128 hp will be carried over, as it is also present on Cee'd.



Inside, the new Soul gets an upgraded interior. The design is less funky but more matured and better organized than the old one. Soft touch plastics cover the most accessible surfaces on the dash top, console and door panels, while piano-black treatment is used on the center console to deliver an extra sense of expensiveness. Needless to say, it gets a new Android-based infotainment system to satisfy the young buyers. The new seats are more comfortable, and the already spacious cabin gets slightly more front (20mm) and rear (5mm) legroom. The boot is also larger.

Thanks to the dramatically improved refinement and an even more stylish exterior, the new Soul is almost certain to retain its top spot in the class. While it is no match to the best European superminis for driving dynamics, it is no less desirable, albeit for different reasons.
Verdict:
Specifications





Year
Layout
Chassis
Body
Length / width / height
Wheelbase
Engine
Capacity
Valve gears
Induction
Other engine features
Max power
Max torque
Transmission
Suspension layout

Suspension features
Tires
Kerb weight
Top speed
0-60 mph (sec)
0-100 mph (sec)
Soul 1.6GDI
2013
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4140 / 1800 / 1600 mm
2570 mm
Inline-4
1591 cc
DOHC 16 valves, DVVT
-
DI
130 hp
118 lbft
6-speed manual
F: strut
R: torsion-beam
-
215/55R17
1258 kg
115 mph (c)
9.1*
26.3*
Soul 2.0GDI
2013
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4140 / 1800 / 1600 mm
2570 mm
Inline-4
1999 cc
DOHC 16 valves, DVVT
-
DI
165 hp
151 lbft
6-speed automatic
F: strut
R: torsion-beam
-
235/45R18
1305 kg
122 mph (est)
8.1*
24.9*
Soul 1.6T
2016
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4140 / 1800 / 1600 mm
2570 mm
Inline-4
1591 cc
DOHC 16 valves, DVVT
Turbo
DI
204 hp
195 lbft
7-speed twin-clutch
F: strut
R: torsion-beam
-
235/45R18
1452 kg
127 mph (est)
6.5*
18.2*




Performance tested by: *C&D




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