Models Covered

5dr Small SUV (1.6 petrol, 1.6 Diesel)


The second generation Kia Soul was a much-improved proposition, as it needed to be back in 2014 to avoid being left behind in a growing market sector for small Crossover models that was increasingly becoming stuffed with talented rivals. In becoming a little bigger and much better finished, with better refinement, extra equipment and the option of a clever all-electric EV model, Kia threw down the gauntlet to the market leaders in this segment. If you’re looking for a small, stylish SUV from the 2014-2020 period, here’s yet another way towards a trendier take on supermini motoring.

The History

If one car could be said to have started the design-led revolution which has completely transformed the way that people see Kia, it was the original version of this model, the Soul. Fresh, funky, original and bold, it was launched back in 2008 to demonstrate that Kia really could design and engineer cars that were out of the ordinary, cars that were more than merely a means of getting from A to B. Cars if you like, with ‘soul’.

Today, the motor industry’s constantly bringing us supermini-based Crossover contenders copying the market segment Kia pioneered with this model – that of the go-anywhere SUV lifestyle look packaged into a small, light but versatile 2WD urban runabout. The company’s Californian design studio created the concept to appeal to US college students and the brand hoped the same approach would open up a younger demographic here in Europe too. It didn’t. As it turned out, the majority of buyers of the first generation model were more likely to be collecting pensions than college degrees. A re-think was needed then - and it brought us this much improved second generation version in the Spring of 2014.

Kia knew this MK2 design would face much tougher competition than its predecessor, so would need more universal appeal. But at the same time, the company was reluctant to lose the Marmite ‘love-it’ or ‘hate-it’ feel that with the original model did so much to change the way people thought about the brand. Eventually, the development team settled on the model we’re going to look at here, retaining much of the previous look and feel but building on it in the creation of a car that was a touch larger, a little more practical and a lot better finished inside. They developed the drive dynamics too. With this MK2 Soul, we were promised a more involving and much quieter drive, even though the 1.6-litre petrol and diesel engines on offer turned out to be little different from those available before.

Partly that was because much of the second generation model’s development budget was devoted to the inclusion of an all-electric EV version in the line-up – Kia’s first. It was another example of the kind of leadership in this segment the brand wanted to maintain, at least in terms of technology. For greater sales though, more conventional versions of this Soul needed to appeal to the fashionable single folk and small families being targeted by this class of car. They didn’t. Sales were slow, despite a light facelift at the end of 2016. The EV model became rarer than hems teeth and the Soul’s fate was sealed when Kia launched its more appealing Stonic small SUV a couple of years before production of the MK2 Soul ceased in 2019. We did get a third generation Soul in the UK, launched in 2020, but that car was only available in full-electric EV form.

What You Get

The earliest versions of this Kia were based on the brand’s Rio supermini. This MK2 car, in contrast, sat on the underpinnings of the company’s larger cee’d Focus-sized family hatch. What the cee’d stuff did was to give this design a bit more space to breathe – to express itself. Specifically, that meant a sharper edge to the front of the bonnet and much more purposeful penmanship in terms of the lower grille opening, the bumper, the fog lights and the wheel arches.

And at the wheel? Well, this MK2 Soul’s front-of-cabin experience was certainly an improvement from the brittle, plasticky atmosphere of the original version. You’ll certainly perceive this to be a more expensive car than before, thanks to a better choice of materials, increased storage and a larger 8-inch central infotainment screen fitted to all variants save the entry-level model. The front of the cabin was more spacious too. Talking of extra room, the 20mm wheelbase increase of this MK2 Soul design suggested that the back seat might be a little more usable. Sure enough, it was. Out back, there’s a 994-litre boot.

What To Look For

Almost all the Soul owners in our surveys loved their cars from the point of view of quality and reliability. As usual with family cars, look for child scuffs in the interior and scratches on the alloy wheels. And of course, insist on a fully stamped-up service history. Otherwise, there’s not a great deal to worry about, unless the variant you’re looking at is a diesel and hasn’t been used on enough highway runs to unclog its diesel particulate filter. There was an issue with steering for MK2 Souls built between January 2014 and September 2015 that could possibly result in a lack of directional control; make sure the car you’re looking at has had the product recall for that.

On The Road

This MK2 Soul rides firmly so it’s quite sporty; but has rather vague electric steering (which isn’t). And on the highway? With the conventional powerplants, there was a choice of either a 130bhp GDI petrol unit or a 126bhp CRDi diesel. Or you could seek out the rare all-electric EV variant which has a 27kWh battery with a claimed 80-100 mile driving range. When it is time to plug in, that process will occupy around five hours from a domestic socket, though if you’re fortunate enough to find - or have regular access to - a rapid charger, then that’ll juice a flat battery to 80% capacity in around 25 minutes.


This Soul isn’t for everyone of course: it isn’t supposed to be. Some will see its quasi-military SUV-style looks as cutting edge and right up their street. Others simply won’t get it. Most important though, is the way that the Soul has established Kia as a far cooler brand – and it’s hard to put a price on that. If you’re looking for a small but practical car with a big personality, then try one. Who knows? You may well agree that you gotta have soul.