Funky and Fun – The Kia Soul Quantum reviewed

Cool & unique styling, high spec, great mpg

Could benefit from more power, no 4×4 option, some hard interior plastics

Kia Soul?

Kia Soul Originals Quantum review: at Hull marina

What I told the other guys I work with that I’d asked Kia to send their Soul to test, they thought it was a strange move. Why, they wanted to know, did I ask for it? Well, I’ll tells ya. I’ve seen a few around, and they’re pretty quirky-looking and different. And I like different. The Soul lands into a group of cars that are the next size up from the Supermini (ie; Renault Clio, Mini, Suzuki Swift etc) market, and competes with cars like the Skoda Yeti, Toyota Urban Cruise and Suzuki SX4.

Kia Soul Originals Quantum review: At night in front of a lit office

Exterior. Beauty or butt ugly?

The model Soul Kia sent through is the second-from-top in the line-up – the Kia Soul Originals Quantum, to give it its full name. When the Soul Quantum was delivered, opinions were divided instantly on its looks and the statements I got ranged from ‘cool’ to “it’s ugly!”. However, the Soul is a grower, and I told ’em so. Me, I defended the Soul’s looks, and now those dislikers are eating their words. Good.

So, what’s it like? Well, as already mentioned it is certainly different, and stands out from the crowd. The size is definitely deceiving because from the photographs and seen from say, across the street, the Soul looks smaller than it actually is. It appears to be Toyota Yaris sized, but in reality the Soul is nearly a quarter metre (9 inches) longer and wider by 10cm (4″).

Kia Soul Originals Quantum review: At the Hull Marina

I like all angles of the Soul Quantum, and made a few notes on the design as soon as the Soul landed on the drive. Whoever’s writing Kia’s press information has got it spot-on, because they described it much as I’d noted. The Quantum model comes only in Titanium Silver (I’d describe it as gunmetal grey) and for me it’s probably the best colour option because it adds an upmarket look to the Soul, and makes it look more grown-up. It comes with chunky five-spoke 18″ wheels in black – the thick spokes outlined in brushed aluminium. That’s another point as to why the Soul looks smaller than it is; those big eighteen inch alloys fit well under the wide arches of the Soul, and they too look smaller – I genuinely thought they were 16’s for a while!

The Soul is a stocky thing, and looks solid. As Kia describe in their press booklet, it is designed to look like a smaller version of an SUV, and it really does. Now, you’re going to shout at me and tell me that I’m wrong and question my mental health, but I’m saying this anyway – from a front three-quarter angle the Kia Soul Quantum (from the little grille on the side arch backwards) looks like a squashy version of a Range Rover Evoque. Now, stop cursing and being sarcastic and look closer at the photographs. Ha! You know I’m right. Every single person I said that to gave the same mocking reaction, until they looked longer and realised that I am in fact correct.

Look at more evidence; those black outset rounded A-pillars which sweep round in two lines to the side, pinching in slightly towards the rear. The roof sits an inch or two above the front windscreen and sides, and check out those little side-vents on the front wings! Squashed Evoque I tells you!

Kia Soul Originals Quantum review: At the Hull Marina

I’m spending a while on the Soul’s exterior design because I believe that’s what’s going to sell this car for the most part, and it’s most people’s main talking point. Let’s proceed. The chunky looks of the Soul come from the thick swage lines cutting across the side panels at the top and middle. The wide-cut middle line continues almost the whole way around the car, making the wheel arches bulge. The tailgate’s metal panel stands proud and heavy set from the rest of the surrounding bodywork – apparently a ‘backpack’ type design feature the team wanted to take from the Soul’s 2006 concept car, unveiled at the Detroit Motor Show.

Around the front of the Soul, there are huge front light clusters, on two levels. Within the lower section, there are two rows of LED’s, the top row being running lights and the lower for indicators. The running lights look super-cool and smart, and make the already-noticeable Soul even more distinct. The running lights cleverly dim when the indicators come on – a feature I love, as too many cars now have front indicators that can barely be seen when the lights are on.

Kia Soul exterior bodywork details

The Kia’s high bonnet has somewhat of a power bulge in the middle. Unnecessary in function as the engine sits well down in the bay, but it adds even more to the overall tough theme. The round front fog lamps are a feature which we laughed at when we first saw them, simply because they are so big. It’s like having a couple of Group B rally lamps incorporated into the bodywork!

Around the back, the Quantum has large thin triangular light housings each side, which have LED’s running around each edge. When lit, they look like the Spiderman’s eyes on his mask turned sideways. Very cool. Plant your foot on the brake, and the lights glow so bright they physically hurt your eyes a bit. There’s also a high LED brake light in the top centre of the rear glass, adding to the already ludicrously- bright glare. Nice and noticable for you, bad from other drivers because their eyeballs will actually melt.
I cannot and will not describe the Kia Soul Quantum as ugly, or unattractive. It is cool, funky and stands out for all the right reasons. The design isn’t one you can really dislike either, for it grows on you and looks better the longer you stare. The Soul’s looks give the car character in a good way, and dammit, I’d even name mine if I had one. Do the right thing though, and order it in the Titanium Silver colour for ’tis the best without a doubt.

Four photos showing the Kia Soul at the Kingston-upon-Hull (UK) Marina

Interior. Neat or nowt special?

Kia Soul Originals Quantum review: driver and passenger area

The Quantum interior comes in decently high spec, and the level of it as a whole is good. The leather seats in the front have two-stage heating, and the rear seating is fairly comfortable and wide, although more shaping and contouring to hold you in a little better would be nice. Whereas some cars can feel claustrophobic and cramped and give tinned sardines a run for their money, the Soul is large and airy. The roof is miles away and the space surprises from the moment you step into the car. Even the width between the front seats, although not Hummer-huge, still feels wider than a lot adding to a sense of largeness.

Kia Soul originals quantum review: rear seats

Front and rear leg room is adequate, even with four adults, but the 360 litre boot lacks space so travelling with four big bags might be a problem. A small saving grace for the boot is the six deep hidden compartments under the boot mat, where you can store a good amount of gear. The rear seats can be folded if needed, which’ll give a decent 1,356 litres thanks to the high roofline.

Kia soul originals quantum review: boot area

Kia has come on in giant bounds in terms of quality with their vehicles, and there’s no more excuses to laugh when you get in one. With the Soul Quantum, it’s not a case of good and bad, but just good and less-good. The less-good trim pieces – like the tops of the door cards – are hard, but they’re well fitted and solid at least.
The dash and centre console, while quite dull and uninspiring, is well laid out and it’s easy to get to the buttons you need while you’re driving. Any who drove the Soul found the drivers display binnacle cool. The four clocks (speed, revs, temp. and fuel) are set back inside tunnels, giving a sense of depth, plus it makes them easy to read even in bright light. They’re nicely styled and easy to read at a glance.

Kia Soul originals quantum cockpit details

Going back to the centre console, there’s not a good deal to say. It’s practical, and that’s about it. No real features stand out, and I found the red displays felt slightly outdated, and look mediocre at best. The buttons are all silent and don’t click, which always makes things feel a little better. The Quantum comes with an 8-speaker system, including an amp and sub-woofer, and the sound from it is mighty impressive too. It gives deep, pumping bass if needed, while trebles are balanced well and the sound is clear and precise.

The steering wheel has controls for the cruise, stereo, phone and the voice activation system, which works quite well by the way. Giving voice commands for the phone, it recognised what I said decently well and was actually very useful for when I was concentrating on driving and wanted to make a call, or play my phone’s tunes through the Bluetooth.

Overall, you’re getting an interior which feels and looks well enough, and plenty of gadgety stuff to keep you happy.

Engine and gearbox. Sweet or sour?

The Soul comes with a 1.6 litre engine in either diesel or petrol form. We had the Quantum with the diesel unit, and overall it’s an okay engine. We’ve seen a review or two where they’ve complained of the diesel’s intrusive noise in the cabin, but myself and the other guys really don’t see the problem, and I would be happy enough if I’d bought it.

A Variable Geometry Turbo (VGT) is bolted to the four pot, sixteen valve 1.6 CRDi, which makes 126 bhp (94 kw) and a respectable 192 lbs ft (260 Nm) of torque. What do those numbers add up to on the road though? 0 – 60 mph is accomplished in a smidge over 10 seconds, which isn’t exactly seat of the pants now is it. The petrol does it in a third of a second faster, so no real-world difference there. Who cares though, you don’t buy one of these to thrash Evo’s from the lights.

Kia Soul Originals Quantum review: cornering on cobbles

A six-speed gearbox is standard on all Kia Soul models, and it makes a heck of a difference on a motorway run. In sixth gear with 70 mph showing, the engine will trundle along at just 2,000 rpm’s, meaning a quieter ride and less engine stress. I liked the gearbox – the throw isn’t too long, the gear change feels solid and precise, and the ratios have been well thought out. More on that in the road test section.

On-road fuel consumption for our manual CRDi Kia Soul Quantum ranges from 49 mpg up to a whopping 64 mpg! Saying that, driving in around 170 miles of slow town traffic the average mpg display read just 34 mpg. The ‘live’ readings told a different story though, and at a steady 40 mph in fifth gear it read 55 mpg. At 70 mph in sixth, I was still getting around 52 mpg. Our test car had done just three thousand miles, and the fuel consumption should get better as the engine beds in.

Ready to roll? Let’s drive this thing!

To fire up the engine on the Soul, the clutch pedal has to be depressed fully before it’ll start. A good feature. Many times I’ve seen cars bunny-hopping forward as the driver panics when they try to start the car in gear. It’s hilarious to onlookers, but very embarrassing for whoever it’s happening to. Ohhhh the shame!

Turn the key, and the 1.6 CRDi fires into life instantly, and with zero hesitation. Although it’s noisy when cold, strangely, from within the cabin I found it quieter than the Kia Sportage’s 2.0 diesel. Kia say they’ve worked hard to reduce road and engine noise within the cabin, and I believe ’em.

Kia Soul Originals Quantum review: cornering on cobbles

I found the Soul to be a relaxing place in traffic, its light clutch and well planned gear ratio’s makes the drive easy. Should you want to accelerate with a bit more vigour, it’ll go from gear to gear nicely, smoothly, and even when you’re giving it the beans it won’t jump and bounce when you select that next cog. It’s not a fast car, but the urban-traffic pace is good enough, and what you’d expect from a small diesel engine, that decent lump of 192 lbs ft of torque giving a nice turn from twenty to forty-five miles-per-hour.

Motorway runs are fine, and as mentioned the engine is very much un-stressed at 70 or 80 mph. Accelerating up from fifty to eighty isn’t a quick affair though, and you’ll have to drop it into fourth and push the Soul hard to get it up there at anything like a decent rate. Once you’re at motorway speed, you will have to drop it into fifth to accelerate past traffic, as 6 is almost just a cruising gear, with very little going on in the way of speeding up.

Kia state they specifically set up the U.K Soul’s suspension to our road conditions, taking into consideration both motorway conditions and the large amount of twisting roads we have here. For the most part, the Soul rides well, and feels safe and stable at speed and not like small car in the least. That’s mainly down to the wide track and wheels that are pushed close to each corner.

Kia Soul Originals Quantum in motion

The run around town can feel a little jolty when the road starts to get badly maintained, the large 18″ rims with low profile 225/45 R18 tyres on the Quantum probably not helping that, but the ride is far from harsh and the comfortable seats cushion a lot of it. Handling cannot be compared to a hot hatch, and why would you – it’s clearly not meant to be. However, the Soul doesn’t wallow or list either, and I found it swept around winding streets with a nice positive feel. It’s not a car designed to be pushed hard around winding country lanes, but it is one completely suited to city and motorway roads. It flows well through traffic, and that dollop of torque from 1,900 rpm lets you surge your way forward and slip into gaps in the traffic with ease.

The steering – which is rack and pinion mated with motor-driven electronic assistance – didn’t seem overly light, and there was enough feedback to be happy with. Again, I stress this isn’t some fast hatch aimed at getting around the Nürburgring as fast as possible, so there is zero point in referring to it. What the Soul does have is a whole heap of gadgetry to keep you as safe as possible on the road, and includes brakeforce distribution, brake assist, stability control and stability management. Basically, if you’re Soul starts to get a little out of sorts, the electronics will more than likely set you right.

Go test drive the Soul, especially a model with the 18″ wheels, and you’ll be happy enough with the handling – I was.

Kia Soul Originals Quantum in motion

Kia Soul Quantum Verdict & overall score

Styling 8
Interior 7
Engine 7
Gearbox 7
Drive & ride 7
Overall Score 7.0 /10

I really liked my time with the Kia Soul Quantum. It’s got character – something that certainly cannot be said about most modern cars. The Soul has unusual looks, but its tough mini-suv styling is cool and funky. It will suit all ages too, the younger gen enjoying the neat styling and low insurance, and the erm… more mature ones let us say, will like the economy and space inside. Price-wise, the Soul Quantum’s trim and gadget level is higher than the direct competition, so you do get more your bucks. Is there anything I think the Soul needs? Yes, a 4×4 version like the Skoda Yeti has – then it would be brilliant.

Stats

Model (as tested)  Kia Soul Originals Quantum 1.6 CRDi manual
Spec includes  18″ alloy wheels, all-round power windows, full leather upholstery with two-stage heated seats in front, Bluetooth for phone and music, 8-speaker sound system connectivity, voice control, heated & folding wing mirrors, automatic lights
Price  £16,995 on the road
Engine  Diesel, 1,582, 4 cylinder, 16 valves, common-rail fuel injection, variable geometry turbo
Power, Torque, CO2  126 bhp (94 Kw), 192 lb/ft (260 Nm) | CO2: 137 g/km
Drive, Gears  Front wheel drive | 6 speed manual or automatic
0 – 60, Top Speed, NCAP  10.3 seconds | Max speed: 112 mph | 5-Star Euro NCAP rating
Fuel economy (mpg)  Urban: 49.6, Extra Urban: 64.2, Combined: 57
Weight (kerb)  1,345 kgs
Luggage space  Boot: 340 litres, Rear seats folded: 1,356 litres
Websites UK: Kia.co.uk, America: Kia.com, World: Kia.com

Words: Chris Davies | Tested by: Chris Davies, Nath Fielder | Photography: Chris Davies, Jason Fanthorpe, Matthew Davies

12 responses to “Funky and Fun – The Kia Soul Quantum reviewed”

  1. Callan

    Love the reviews! Always so informative and fun to read! 🙂

  2. The Magic Rat

    Chris, thanks for this insightful and accurate review. Based mostly on this and an American YouTube review (as well as a few others) I purchased a 6 month old Quantum without even driving it first. I travelled by train to Stafford to collect it from a well known Motorstore, I thoroughly enjoyed my journey back and my wife loves it! (she was driving some expensive German metal previously which was too large and impractical). This is stage one of our move to Kia vehicles (THE WARRANTY… grinning) so please review the new Carens when it launches as my faithful Mitsubishi Grandis is due a change

  3. Stuart Rogers

    Great review Chris, I have a Kia Soul Crdi 2 2009 33.000 miles in georgous Cocktail Orange.
    Brill motor never does under 50 mpg, honest, absolutely luv it.
    I need an Auto next due to my back and knee probs and have an eye on a Quantum
    6 speed auto 2012 revamp model for around £9995 or less?Hopefully.
    Only thing is the road tax at £180, Kia have slipped up there and no doubt
    will lose buyers because of it. It is the same with the New Soul. It needs a lower
    co2 emission diesel engine and soon.
    Have looked at equivalent autos, C3 Picasso, Qubo (low tax good economy) dated tho
    and not all good comments.
    So sticking with the Kia Soul and to hell with road tax costs. Now where was
    that low mileage Kia Soul Quantum Crdi Auto !!!!! Can a deal be done.
    Watch this space.

  4. Stuart Rogers

    Hi, anyone driven the 6 speed automatic version of the Kia Soul Quantum ? Or any of the models with this Auto box?
    Any advice would be most welcome, as due to back and knee problems I think I need to get the auto version soon. My only gripe would be £180 road tax, still needs must.
    Tks in anticipation.

  5. Stuart Rogers

    Hi,
    Thanks Chris, much appreciated. Currently checking out
    service history/warranty with Trade dealer and Kia.
    5,000 miles + £9995 Quantum auto 2012 (July) best nearly
    New!!! Deal to date. Would like a bit newer so still looking.
    No rush. This one has to last me. Want the Quantum for kit/comfort/
    good looks.
    Tks again.
    Best Regards
    Stuart Rogers

  6. Stuart Rogers

    Tks again Chris, I do like the new Soul, and yes the interior is superb in comparison, just don’t like
    the rear end (yet!!!).. Kia have come back to me re the Quantum, service 12500 miles or 12 months. So need to check history and ensure service is correct and up to date. Maybe I will wait till after September and see what is available. I got my current Soul 2 18 months old under £9,000 so there`s always deals to be had. I would want a connect plus in the current Soul II model. Out of my price range especially the auto which I want.
    I’m 60 now so my next vehicle will have to last me til I get my Full pension !!! Then if I’m still
    here I can get what I want. Just think the Quantum is a good model with great kit, heated seats for my back , good heh? Very low mileage too. Will see. Depends what I get for mine, or how far I can get the price down.
    Tks again, let you know how I get on,
    If you have anymore ideas/info let me know.
    Best Regards,
    Stuart Rogers

  7. The Magic Rat

    So the wife’s 2012 Soul Quantum CRDi manual has been with us for just over three years now. We have taken it from around 2,500 miles to just under 25,000. The verdict is… it’s BRILLIANT! My wife’s view as well, not just mine. Even on the shortest stop start journeys (a mile or so) we still get 45mpg, anything over a few miles and you are quickly into the high 50’s.

    It’s so funky it hasn’t dated and even the latest model is not a massive deviation in shape from the original. It has a small footprint on the drive yet we can easily get five adults in very comfortably. An honest, no nonsense, versatile car that performs so many roles, exceptionally well.

    It’s easy to see why Kia are so confident in offering their seven year warranty. Our only issue was not really linked to the car, a tiny pin in the key fob snapped so the flick out key blade came loose, all sorted out for free by the local Kia dealer. This is our faithful urban warrior and will be a long term keeper, even past the seven year warranty. I can only see it being replaced with another Soul as and when the time comes.

Leave a Reply