Kia Soul (2008 – 2014) Review

Kia Soul (2008 – 2014) At A Glance

Honest John Overall Rating
The Kia Soul is a practical, distinctive small hatchback. It showed that style and clever design could live under a budget blanket, and proved a doddle to live with.

+Quirky design inside and out. Good rear passenger space.

-Boot space limited. Feeble petrol engine.

Insurance Groups are between 14–19
On average it achieves 85% of the official MPG figure

The Kia Soul first appeared in the UK early in 2009. Targeting buyers who wanted something cheap but a little different to the run-of-the-mill small hatchback, it remains almost as impossible to pigeonhole now as it did then, as this Kia Soul review will explain.

Kia called it an urban crossover at launch, others lobbed it into the small hatchback category, and you could even describe it as a diminutive SUV.

Indeed, despite being front-wheel drive, you can certainly tick off enough off-road styling cues – chunky bumpers, flared wheelarches, a hint of plastic nappy, even the Land Rover-style vent behind the front wheel – to award the Kia Soul ‘baby 4x4’ status.

To that end, a list of rivals for the five-door Kia Soul would comprise the ever popular Fiat 500 and another perennial favourite, the MINI as well as the occasional oddity, such as the Skoda Roomster and hard-to-find Daihatsu Materia.

There was also the blink-and-you’ve missed-it Toyota Urban Cruiser, as well as more conventional efforts like the Ford Fusion, the mini-MPV Vauxhall Meriva, sensible Honda Jazz and even the Citroen C3 Picasso.

Whichever way you cut it, the Kia Soul is a respectably rugged, entirely practical small family car. The interior is well screwed together, the seats are perfectly comfortable, and that boxy shape means there’s plenty of rear passenger space.

The boot space isn’t great, but then when was it ever in something of the small hatchback class?

Under the bonnet, there’s a straightforward choice between 1.6-litre petrol and 1.6-litre diesel units. The former’s lack of torque means the latter is a far better proposition for overtaking.

Fuel economy of 54.3mpg in the 1.6-litre diesel model is not going to send shivers down your wallet’s spine, but nor is it on a par with the best in the  sector.

Lotus was called on to help make the Kia Soul drive as appealingly as possible on UK roads, and it shows – something that’s actually fun to drive in a part of the market not renowned for entertaining drivers.

And it tackles motorways with respectable aplomb. However, the 18-inch wheels of top-spec models can make for a lumpy ride on our bombed-out boulevards, so best to stick to smaller 16-inch wheels with their deeper tyre walls for better comfort.

The Kia Soul launched in two versions, handily dubbed 1 and 2, with three different limited editions: Samba, Shaker and Burner – reflecting its youthful image.

The Burner is hilariously decked out with red details, and lipstick, on black bodywork and silver dragons stickered to the car sides. Kia appears to have livened up the interior by the simple expedient of lobbing in a red paint grenade and retiring to a safe distance. Even the front door loudspeakers throb red to the music on demand.

When it first appeared, you could buy a Kia Soul for as little as £10,495. In January 2010, the standard warranty on new models was upped from three years to seven years, making it even better value.

If you’re looking for a new version, check out our review of the latest Kia Soul here.

Ask Honest John

How do I unclog my windscreen washers?

"I have a 2009 Kia Soul and the windscreen washers are very weak. The pump is working and the rear washer is fine, will adding a limescale to the water bottle help to free up the water flow? "
Usually these kinds of failures are caused by the windscreen washer system becoming clogged and this can occur anywhere from the pump to the washer jets themselves. The most thorough approach is to unplug the system and flush it through with clean water, or you can buy specific tablets designed to be added to the washer bottle to help clean the system. It is advisable not to use general purpose cleaning products as these can damage the vehicle's paintwork.
Answered by David Ross

Does my car have a DPF?

"My friend has ownes a 10-plate Kia Soul diesel automatic for years, he drives around town all the time and never has any DPF problems, so he thinks that his car does not have one, but I think it does. Can you settle the argument?"
It would not have to have one. They did not become compulsory until January 2011.
Answered by Honest John

Diesel or petrol?

"My commute to work is four miles there and the same four miles back. I do this twice a day. I'm looking at buying an 09-ish Kia Soul but can't decide between petrol or diesel. Since this model I believe did not have a DPF (pre 2010) which one - petrol or diesel - would use the most fuel for this rather short journey?"
I'm not sure that a 2009 didn't have a DPF. Test and video of exactly that car here: Every diesel had to have a DPF from January 2011. Old models tended to get thme by around mid 2010. But new models introduced in 2008 could have had them from the start, in anticipation of the new legislation. No reports of DPF problems. Actually, no problems reported at all other than recalls:
Answered by Honest John

Should I buy a pre-registered Kia Soul?

"I currently have a 2004 Nissan Almera 2.2 Diesel. I've had it from new and it has been very reliable but I'm worried it's going to start getting expensive soon. I don't do a lot of mileage in it (4000 a year) as it's become our second car. I have seen a number of old model Kia Soul 1.6 petrols for about £10,000, plus a smaller number of diesels. These are all registered, but Kia Approved so with seven years warranty. Do you think this is a good buy?"
If they are old models they are actually two years old, whether they have been registered and/or used or not. I don't think £10,000 is a very good deal. It was when the cars were on runout and actually new a coupe of years ago, but not now.
Answered by Honest John
More Questions

What does a Kia Soul (2008 – 2014) cost?