The Kia Soul’s unusual aesthetics often gets it a second look. This subcompact crossover SUV projects an aura of strength with its snub-nosed bonnet, cubed rear, and muscled wheel arches. This front-engine front-wheel-drive J-segment vehicle debuted in 2008 at the Paris Motor Show and was marketed the following year. It was released in 2009 and has roamed Australia since then until today, though not in great number.
1st Generation: AM (2009–2013)
The deviant style of the first-generation Kia Soul was aimed at young professionals and thus was loaded with both standard and optional features that include a suite of technology like a USB interface for iPods, multi-functional steering wheel with audio controls and Bluetooth connectivity, and Sirius satellite radio, among the multiple accessories and trims.
In its initial release in Australia, the five-door five-seat hatchback was offered in three trim levels and the following powertrains:
- 1.6L Gamma I4 petrol engine, attached to either a 4-speed auto or a 5-speed manual gearbox (91 kW, 156 N⋅m)
- 1.6L U I4 diesel engine, attached to either a 4-speed auto or 5-speed manual gearbox (94 kW, 260 N⋅m)
The base trim level was offered with the petrol engine only and fitted with 15-inch wheels. Trim level 2, which was fitted with 16-inch wheels, was available in both petrol and diesel engines and both 4-speed auto and 5-speed manual transmissions. Trim level 3 had 18-inch wheels on and was offered in either petrol or diesel engine but only available with a 4-speed automatic gearbox.
In 2011, new 6-speed automatic and 6-speed manual gearboxes replaced the previous 4-speed auto and 5-speed manual transmissions, respectively. Also, a new 2.0L Beta II petrol engine (106 kW, 186 N⋅m) was added to the existing powertrain choices.
In Australia, the new powertrain has these specs:
- 2.0L MPI 16-valve 4-cylinder engine mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission (113 kW, 191 N⋅m)
This engine has a fuel capacity of 54L and combined fuel consumption of 8L/100km. It was first introduced in 2011, along with the 1.6L petrol and diesel engines, and later became the sole engine offered from 2015 to the present.
The 2012 model year Soul was brought in with new trim levels and a new 2.0L Nu I4 petrol engine (122kW, 200 N⋅m), mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission. The existing 1.6L petrol engine was improved with a new stepped-up power of 96kW and torque of 157 N⋅m.
It received both interior, and exterior updates, including conventional pull-out door, handles, adjustable steering wheel (tilt/telescopic), cruise control, roof rails, trip computer, leather steering wheel, and traction control system. Overall, the 2012 Soul sported a more toned-down look and more subtle wheel arches than the last.
The first-generation Kia Soul was rated 5/5 stars by Euro NCAP in 2009, which makes it one of the safest cars in the B-segment category. On the other hand, the Australian-released version was rated 4/5 by the Australian NCAP.
The Kia Soul’s iconic look didn’t go unrecognised. In 2009, it was the recipient of the following awards:
- Red Dot design award
- WardsAuto’s Interior of the Year Winners award
- PETA’s Goody Animal-Friendly Advertising award
It also received recognition from:
- Fifth Gear – 4/5 rating
- Kelley Blue Book – listed in 5 Great Deals
- Texas Auto Writers Association – Best Value
- Kelley Blue Book – listed in Coolest New Cars Under US$18,000
- Kelley Blue Book – listed in Top 10 Back-to-School Cars
- La Tercera daily newspaper, Chile – Best Car 2009
- Time Magazine – listed in Most Exciting Cars of 2010
- Autoweek Magazine – listed in 10 Great and Safe Rides for Teens
- Popular Mechanics – 2010 Excellence Award
- Edmunds.com – listed in Top Recommended Vehicles for 2010
2nd Generation: PS (2014-2019)
The second-generation Soul is a Peter Schreyer design. It retained the upright rear in Mike Torpey’s design and the iconic gnarly “bear” face but incorporated minimalist elements on both the interior and exterior.
The Kia Soul was designed to have a longer wheelbase, an increased width, and higher torsional rigidity, and was built based on the same platform used for the second-generation Kia Cee’d. Some of the engines used for the US and European models were:
- 1.6L Gamma II GDI I4 petrol (97 kW, 116 N⋅m)
- 2.0L Nu I4 petrol (122 kW, 205 N⋅m)
- 1.6L U-Line II CRDi diesel (95 kW, 260 N⋅m)
In 2017, the 2.0L Nu engine was replaced by a 1.6L turbocharged petrol engine, mated to a 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox. This stepped up the max power output to 150 kW and the peak torque to 264 Nm.
However, these updates never made it to Australia, since sales of the Kia Soul have started to wane. The models that are available to date are fitted with the same 2.0L engine (113 kW) that was introduced in 2011.
3rd Generation: SK3 (2019-present)
The 2019 Kia Soul, coded SK3, premiered at the 2018 Los Angeles Auto Show. It is available in 1.6L turbo-four and 2.0L naturally-aspirated inline-four engines. It shares the same platform as the Hyundai Kona and the same powertrain as the Kia Niro.
Kia Motors revealed that their latest Soul lineup is packaged with robust powertrains and are designed with functionality and style in mind. It is the basis of the next-generation Soul EV, also called the e-Soul, which is the eco-friendly hybrid sister of the Kia Soul and which has been causing so much excitement in the automotive industry.
Indeed, the decade-old Soul metamorphosed from just being a funky car into one that’s relevant—from an internal combustion engine to a low-emission hybrid. What cool Souls these cube cars have become!
By Jeannette Salanga (JMSL)