Kia’s still got Soul. In fact it’s back with a second generation version of its cubic little supermini-MPV.
The latest Kia Soul is a much-improved proposition. Granted, it needed to be to avoid being left behind in market sector stuffed with increasingly talented rivals, but in becoming a little bigger, much better finished, with slicker suspension and better refinement, Kia has equipped the Soul for success. As before, it offers a trendier take on supermini motoring.
The original Kia Soul was a great example of a car that looked great on paper but didn’t really cut it when you got behind the wheel. It didn’t ride very well, it wasn’t packaged as cleverly as it should have been and the interior design never lived up to the bold promise of that cubist exterior.
Kia as a company has come a long way in recent years and it doesn’t have room on its books for a nearly car, so to that end, the Soul has been replaced with a second generation model that’s new from the ground up.
Well, perhaps that’s a mild exaggeration, as it shares its chassis with the Kia cee’d but anyone who’s driven a cee’d will appreciate that this promises good things.
The Soul didn’t sell too badly but it could have made a much bigger impact. Kia’s confident that this current car will catch up and then some, putting the frighteners on small MPVs like the Fiat 500L and the Citro?”½n C3 Picasso.
Where the old Soul had a jarring ride, moribund steering and poor refinement, the latest model aims to offer a much more involving drive. A modified version of the cee’d chassis is tasked with improving the Soul’s ride and handling.
The front subframe utilises four bushings to improve refinement and reduce harshness. The shock absorbers on the torsion bar rear suspension have been turned vertically and lengthened, allowing for more suspension travel and improved ride comfort.
The engines comprise 1.6-litre petrol and diesel engines and a choice of six-speed manual or automatic transmissions.
Both engines are carried over from the outgoing model, but have been tweaked to offer improved efficiency and more competitive emissions.
Early signs look extremely promising for this second generation Soul. Its predecessor was a model that may have sold well in foreign markets, but it never really felt at home on our roads.
Nevertheless, there was clearly the kernel of an impressive car there if the ride, refinement and interior quality could just be improved. Kia has clearly been listening carefully to customer feedback because it’s exactly these three areas that this improved Soul targets.
Is it enough, in effect, to rectify the shortcomings of an oldish design and then expect it to be competitive henceforth?
That’s the question many buyers are going to be asking, but often it’s this steady, incremental process of improvement that results in a properly-honed product. The Soul might have missed the target the first time, but if there’s one thing we’ve learned about ‘new’ Kia it’s that it doesn’t tolerate mediocrity for very long, hence the confidence in the latest car. On first impressions, it looks well placed.