Kia Soul Connect Plus 1.6 CRDi 126bhp 6-speed manual long-term review – A Five month test

Introduction to the second generation Kia Soul

Kia Connect Plus 1.6 CRDi 126bhp 6-speed manual long-term review-09

When we reviewed the first-gen Soul Quantum in 2012, we liked it for the funky styling, roomy and well-spec’d cabin, a decent drive plus a competitive price. While the high-spec Quantum’s LED running lights, neat alloy wheels, blacked-out rear glass and gunmetal paint have kept that particular car still looking fairly modern, some of the range now look distinctly outmoded.

The arrival of the second-generation Kia Soul in 2013 sees it benefit from completely fresh styling all-round; a 20mm longer wheelbase, a 15mm wider body, and the ride height lower by 10mm to give it a more sporty and purposeful look.

More updates include a 62 mm wider tailgate opening, 4% more storage space in the boot (354 – 1,367 litres), a revised interior with upgraded materials and a much more premium design. Interestingly, the new Soul no longer has a CD player, and instead as standard gets a DAB radio with USB and AUX ports. About time manufacturers moved away from CDs completely now, so it’s good Kia have done this.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Also standard is Kia’s ‘Flex Steer‘ variable power-assisted steering, air conditioning, power-adustable mirrors, electric windows front and rear, steering mounted controls and 6 airbags. That’s a good amount of kit considering the Soul starts at just £12,800!

The slightly bigger dimensions now mean more arm, elbow, head and shoulder room for those in the front, while the rears get more leg and knee space, and easier access/exiting due to lower step-in and hip points.

The cabin is also quieter, with a three decibel reduction in noise due to things like using expanding foam instead of foam blocks in the body cavities, a reinforced isolation pad in the boot, and polyurethane-layed carpeting.

The 1.6 litre petrol and diesel engines remain the same as the ones fitted in the second half of previous generation models, but the ride quality and road noise has been improved by using new suspension bushing, a suspension insulator at the front and revised suspension geometry at the rear.

Kia Connect Plus 1.6 CRDi 126bhp 6-speed manual long-term review-14

Specs and equipment

Model (as tested)  2015 Kia Soul Connect Plus 1.6 CRDi 126bhp 6-speed manual
Spec includes  17″ alloys wheels, tinted rear glass, auto headlights, electric adjustable, heated & power folding side mirrors, daytime running lights, front & rear fog lights, fabric seating, tilt & telescoping steering, auto air conditioning, cruise control with limiter, 8″ touchscreen satellite navigation with European  mapping & traffic messaging, 8-speaker Infinity audio system with external amp & subwoofer & front speaker mood lighting, DAB radio with USB & AUX ports & Bluetooth for phone & music, voice recognition, steering wheel controls  See website for more info
Safety  ABS with EBD & BAS, ESC, VSM, hill-start assist, TPMS, emergency stop signalling, 6 airbags (front, front side & curtain), ISOFIX top tether & anchor fixings, front seatbelt pre-tensioners & load limiters, impact-sensing auto door unlocking
Options fitted  Inferno Red metallic paint: £490.00
 Laggage capacity  Rear seats in place: 354 litres | Rear seats down: 1,367 litres
Price  (May ’15) £17,700 + £450 optional paint
Engine  Diesel, 1.6 litre CRDi, 4-cylinders in-line, 16-valves, variable-vane turbocharger (VGT)
Power, Torque  Power: 126 hp @ 4,000 rpm | 192 lb ft (260 Nm) @ 1,900 – 2,750 rpm
Drive, Gears (as tested)  Front wheel drive | 6-speed manual
Towing capacity  Braked: 1,300 kg (2,866 lbs) | Unbraked: 550 kg (1,212 lbs)
Top Speed, 0 – 60 mph, Euro NCAP  Max speed: 112 mph | 0 – 62 mph: 10.8 seconds | Euro NCAP rating: 4/5 stars
Fuel economy (UK mpg), CO2  Urban: 46.3, Extra urban: 64.2, Combined: 56.6 | CO2: 132 g/km
Weight (kerb) Min: 1,383 kgs (3,049 lbs) | Max: 1,538 (3,390 lbs)
Websites  Kia UK, Kia USA, Kia worldwide

Update 1: 29th March – 1st May (2015)

Total milage at start: 619 | Test milage this update: 561 | Average UK mpg: City & Country: 45 Motorway: 48

Updated design gives the Soul a fresh look, stylish, comfortable new interior, even more room than before

No boot shelf (for false floor) included

With the previous long-term Suzuki S-Cross now gone back, it was time to choose something else. Decent economy, a comfortable ride and hopefully some decent gadgety stuff on-board would be nice. With only a brief drive of the Kia Soul undertaken a while back, we decided that was the way to go, and Kia obliged by loaning us a Soul Connect Plus 1.6 CRDi for a 3-month test term.

The Connect Plus sits in the middle of the Soul range, but it’s very well equipped and with the exception of stuff like front heated seats, leather upholstery and a panoramic roof, there’s little difference between it and the top ‘Maxx’ model inside.

Kia Connect Plus 1.6 CRDi 126bhp 6-speed manual long-term review-07

Looks-wise, it’s a positive vote from the majority of people who’ve commented on it up to now, with only the occasional “it’s a bit boxy” remark given. Aside from that, people seems to like its quirky, individual exterior, and they’re always really surprised by just how nice the interior is.

Personally, I love the back end of the Soul, with its giant integrated light clusters and black styling band running halfway through the boot lid. It’s actually interesting to look at, and there’s a funkiness to the overall design which makes it stand out from the crowd, and actually it draws more attention than I expected it would.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

With just 619 miles on the clock when it arrived, the Soul’s 1.6 CRDi engine isn’t really run in yet, so I’m expecting that after another 500 miles or so that it’ll loosen up more, and we’ll get slightly better fuel economy.

From the moment the car was delivered, I settled in it quickly. It’s one of those cabins that makes you feel welcome and relaxed almost immediately. Always a good sign, that. Sometimes it’s hard to put your finger on why it feels this way, but some of it could be down to the fact it’s spacious and airy, the seats are comfortable, and everything on the new dash layout is ergonomic for the driver and front passenger.

Kia Connect Plus 1.6 CRDi 126bhp 6-speed manual long-term review-0236

I like the cabin for its premium look and feel too. In some ways it gives off a classy vibe really, with details like contrast stitching on the seats, steering wheel and dash, a leather-trimmed steering wheel and gear gaiter, the generous use of piano black trim and satin chrome finished trim here and there complementing the overall stylish design. Things like the rubberised, soft-touch switchgear throughout finish things off nicely.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The first day I got the Soul though, I found something that I thought was a bit tight-fisted of Kia not to include: the bottom of the load area looked strangely deep, and you have to bend right down to put items in or get them out, and there are plastics rails at each side at the height when the boot lip/bumper sits. Clearly, these are where a ‘false floor’ should sit, so you can hide stuff underneath, or remove it altogether if needed for more room.

After enquiring with Kia, it seems you only get the false floor on the two highest ‘Mixx’ and ‘Maxx’ models, or you can buy it as an accessory (‘Luggage Board’) for £150.00. Surely it’d make more sense to simply add this into the price in the first place if they really can’t spare the money to put them in as standard.

Aside from that, up to now I’m enjoying the Kia Soul. Next update: drive and ride.

If you own a new 2nd generation Kia Soul yourself, let us know your thoughts by leaving a comment using the section below.

Next update coming later in May. Stay tuned!

Update 2: 2nd May – 1st June (2015)

Total milage on clock:  2288 | Test milage this update: 1108 | Average UK mpg: City: 35 – 40 / City & Country: 45 / Motorway: 49

An enjoyable drive, great long-distance cruiser, quiet cabin at speed, Soul continues to impress us

Brakes are way too sensitive and ‘grabby’ at low speeds

Kia Soul Connect Plus 1.6 CRDi 126bhp 6-speed manual long-term review - A 3 month review-1752

Well, at the end of the second month test period I’ve gotta say the Kia Soul is proving to be a rather likeable thing to live with.

Over the course of the month, it’s been used almost every day on a mix of journeys and the sort of various tasks you’d normally use a car for, and it never disappoints in delivering as a genuinely good and capable all-rounder.

A trip to the recycling centre (otherwise know as ‘the dump’ in old English) with a boot full of carpets and stuffed bin liners showed just how easy the large rectangular entrance to the boot makes loading and unloading stuff. A super handy feature.

Large boot/trunk space on the Kia Soul Connect Plus

I’ve noticed the Soul gets a fair amount of attention from other drivers too. It’s quite an unusually-styled thing, so I guess it’s only natural it would. I had the full-electric Soul EV on test for a week this month as well, and that got even more heads turning, thanks to not only the individual styling but also those strange-looking wheels (the white sections you see are plastic), and the blue/white colour combo is certainly eye-catching. More on the Soul EV will appear in a separate review folks.

The more I drive the Soul CRDi, the more I like it. There’s a strange pleasantness to it, and I’m beginning to think this Kia is a real bargain at £17,700, for a lot of reasons. Let’s take a look at why I, and other guys who regularly drive it, enjoy it so much.

Good looking rear of the Kia Soul Connect Plus

Firstly, driving the Soul in town and city traffic is easy, thanks to a light clutch and the nice, positive 6-speed manual gearbox. The gear lever itself is well-positioned, which sounds like a strange thing to say, but it can make the difference between having an aching arm after a zillion changes in stop-start traffic, and not.

I’ve started using the different steering modes (Kia’s Flex Steer system) more often now, and have found that when weaving the Soul around tight little city streets, ‘comfort’ mode makes things so much more easy with its featherweight turns so light you can use one finger.

Once out into flowing traffic I press the steering-wheel mounted button again and select ‘normal’ mode, which is more weighted and gives better feedback, and makes things less sensitive and twitchy, and is good for that while still keeping things light enough for quick traffic-weaving manoeuvres.

At anything above 50 miles per hour, it’s usually best to flick over into ‘Sports’ mode as the steering takes on a weighted feel, and gives the most feedback for taking on winding country roads at speed, but it’s also good for motorway cruising as it takes the twitchiness out of the steering.

Kia Soul Connect Plus

The Soul’s 1.6 litre CRDi turbo-diesel engine is fairly smooth for a 4-cylinder, but there’s always going to be the unfortunate noise they make when you’re stood outside the car. However, Kia have done superbly well with the sound-deadening and keeping that familiar diesel chug from invading the cabin and spoiling things.

This month, I took a trip the Millbrook Proving Grounds in Bedford – a 300 mile round-trip using motorways – and the Soul did nothing but impress me (and my passenger) further. While around town the CRDi provides good low-down torque, out on the motorway at 70+ mph the engine seems settled and more relaxed than you may expect, and overtaking acceleration is absolutely fine with easily enough power to do so at those speeds.

Wind and road noise is impressively well-dulled too, and you can have a conversation at higher speeds whilst barely raising your voice. I’ve reviewed cars before that cost a good few thousand pounds more than the Soul, and they’ve not been anywhere near as hushed as the Kia.

Over that 300+ mile trip the Soul 1.6 CRDi averaged between 47 and 50 mpg, which I thought was good enough. I don’t really go out of my way to drive with fuel economy in mind, but the Soul still managed an estimated 414 miles from a full tank (54 litres), which is an average 42 mpg overall. If I drove it in a more easy-going manner, this would rise significantly too. But I’m not going to.

Kia Soul Connect Plus in the country

In amongst all this positivity though, there’s an irksome point: the brakes. It’s not just myself who’s found the following point, and it’s certainly not me just being fussy for the sake of it. Above 40 miles per hour, the brakes feel fine. However, below 30 mph they are so sensitive and bite so hard that I find myself having to be much more gentle with the pedal than I should really have to.

There’s a very, very thin line between the brakes slowing the car down in a normal, smooth manner, and them biting so aggressively that you are thrown against the seatbelt. Both myself and the other test driver have both had passengers commenting on this, and asking us to be more steady on the brakes, but it’s genuinely difficult to at low speeds – car parks are a nightmare to drive in with the brakes like this!

At first I thought it was because the car had only a few hundred miles under its belt, but now it’s done well over 2,000 and the problem is the same, I’m beginning to think there may be an issue with them, so I’ll get onto Kia about it. The brakes are perfectly safe though, but just really over-sensitive.

Aside from that, a really satisfying car to drive and ride in, and a good all-rounder too.

Update 3: 2nd June – 1st July (2015)

Total milage on clock:  2901 | Test milage this update: 613 | Average UK mpg: City: 42 / City & Country: 45 – 47 / Motorway: 49

For this update, rather than a written article, I decided to show you what the Soul 1.6 CRDi is like to drive, to give you a ‘tour’ of the cabin, and show some of the highlights I like. Reading about cars is fine, but to physically see for yourself how the car is physically just adds that extra element of help, should you be looking at buying the Soul.

Hopefully, this 30-minute video will give you a good idea of the Soul 1.6 CRDi’s acceleration, what the gear changes are like, how much wind and road noise pervades the cabin at higher speeds, how comfortable it is, and what sort of room the boot offers. I hope you enjoy the video, and please feel free to leave comments using the section below the article.

Note: we had to pump up the volume on the video in post-editing, due to me not having a mic wired up, so the cabin noise actually sounds louder than it really is. I’ll remember that mic next time!

If you’ve got a second-generation Kia Soul, have you found a similar issue with your brakes? Let us know by commenting using the section below.

Update 4: 2nd July – 1st August (2015)

Total milage on clock: 3,955 | Test milage this update: 1054 | Average UK mpg: City: 42 / City & Country: 45 – 47 / Motorway: 45 – 55 (depending on amount of passengers)

Friends & family love the Soul, super-effective A/C for summer, reverse cam makes parking ridiculously easy

Bluetooth device can’t be added on the move, no CD player (does that matter anymore?)

Okay, so it’s taken about three months for me to realise the Soul has no CD player. Bit random that, but it was only when a passenger said they had a CD they wanted to put on that we noticed it doesn’t have a player. In my defence of this, I use either my iPhone or USB sticks for playing music, and the only CDs I own are in the multi-changer of my ’98 Lexus LS400, which is mostly sat under a cover, so I’d never actually had any reason to look for a CD slot on the Kia. Do we need them in new cars anymore? Not really, when even super-basic cars such as the Dacia Duster have AUX and USB ports and Bluetooth.

Actually, while we’re on the Bluetooth theme, a ruddy annoying issue we found on the Soul whilst with same passengers was that while travelling, you can’t connect another Bluetooth device. When we tried to disconnect my iPhone and add theirs, a message popped up on the car’s touchscreen stating we had to stop first before swapping devices.

Driving the kia soul 2015 connect plus crdi manual

Ahh, pardon moi, Kia designers, but that has clearly not been thought through properly. A passenger wants to play their music using their device, and yet it assumes the driver wants to swap the phones over and blocks it on that assumption. Eh?? When you’re travelling at 70+ mph on a motorway, it’s going to be a little hard explaining to the police that you’ve used the emergency lane in order to play your mates tunes. A very daft setup indeed.

One more bad point on the Kia is the voice recognition system. It’s utterly useless. I know they rarely work very well, but this one is particularly bad, and basically ignores or gets wrong any commands spoken. It is so bad I’ve given up on it, in fact.

Right, onto this month’s use of the Kia Soul 1.6 CRDi ConnectPlus. I’m still enamoured with it, even with the little annoyances here and there. It’s a great car, and after these four months I’m neither bored or tired of driving it. On occasion, the Soul is driven by friends and family, and when I ask for honest feedback they come back with hugely positive remarks: “loved the Soul“, “so comfortable“, “loads of room inside“, “great tech spec“, “nice sat nav“, “made a 4-hour motorway journey seem more like a trip to the shops“.

Honest opinions do include the occasional drawback point, such as “boot space isn’t as good as I’d expect“, “cruise control was a faff” (although personally I find the cruise fine to set up) but aside from a very few slight negatives, people who either drive the Soul or are a passenger in it really, really like it.

Driving the kia soul 2015 connect plus crdi manual

Between each update, the Kia is used on a wide variety of journeys, roads and speed limits, including a work commute taking in a mix of winding country roads and motorways, a load of trips in dreaded stop-start rush hour city traffic, visits to ding-city supermarkets (no dents as yet, thankfully) and super-tight multi storey car parks, plus excursions to the recycling centre with a boot full of random stuff which has been filling the garage unnecessarily for years.

All of which the Soul doesn’t just undertake, but does it with a kind of positivity, because as well as being a superb motor for all the everyday tasks, the Soul ConnectPlus is actually a fun car to be in, whether you’re driving or not. Some examples: the 8-speaker Infinity audio system (which includes a subwoofer and amplifier) is impressive considering the cost of the car, and even at higher speeds it’s still nice and clear – always a good sign of a decent setup.

Get in on a really hot day (which is 30˚C for us in the U.K.), and within about 20 seconds the super-effective automatic air conditioning is blasting out a refreshingly ice-cold breeze. The Soul will take three in the back with comfort, thanks to its flat central seating position. While there’s no armrest, the person sat in the middle will be thankful for that as there’s no hump prodding into them, as you usually get on car with an armrest.

Steering wheel of the kia soul 2015 connect plus crdi manual

The Steering wheel can be adjusted up and down, but it also telescopes out unexpectedly far too. That sounds like a small thing to point out, but it means you can get your driving position just so, making it a better experience on longer journeys.

While the Soul isn’t exactly Bentley-sized in length, the reverse camera (which has good picture definition) and its guidance lines just makes parking the Kia so much easier, and takes the stress out of squeezing into that multi-storey space or last tight spot down the street.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The ConnectPlus is around £1,100 more than the Connect spec Soul, but gains the rather brilliant sat nav, Infiniti sound system and automatic air conditioning. Is it worth it? I believe so. Yes, you can buy a good separate nav for £180, but the Kia’s is an exceptional one and displayed on a large 8-inch screen, and if you’re into your music the sound from the Infiniti system just makes for more enjoyable journeys. These sort of goodies will make for a better resale value in the future, remember.

Please follow us on Twitter and Facebook for regular updates and images on our long-term Kia Soul.

Final update: 2nd August – 30th September (2015)

Total milage on clock: 5,587 | Test milage this update: 1,592 | Average UK mpg: City: 41 / City & Country: 45 – 47 / Motorway: 45 – 55 (depending on amount of passengers)

Friends & family love the Soul, super-effective A/C for summer, reverse cam makes parking ridiculously easy

Bluetooth device can’t be added on the move, no CD player (does that matter anymore?)

kia soul connect plus 1.6 crdi 126bhp 6-speed manual long-term review update 5-0293
So, it’s the last update of the long-term Soul. I did warn Kia’s PR people that the driver who was coming to collect the Soul may actually have to prize the key from my clenched fist. Thankfully, a scuffle never happened, as I was out when the car was taken away.

A little bit of my heart was pinched when the little boxy Kia Soul went back, because this is a car that both myself and the others who drove it had genuinely grown attached to. It’s an easy thing to be fond of, because it’s way more quirky and characterful than most others out there.

So, what have I got to report in this final update? Firstly, over a few days on the previous update, I used the Kia to ferry a couple about on a trip, covering around 360 miles all told. One of them was insured to drive the car, and they praised the Soul for its interior quality, high spec, great ride, good fuel economy and surprising price.

In fact, they liked it so much that one of them chose the exact same ConnectPlus 1.6 CRDi manual spec for her next company car (in Quartz Black metallic), which they have now taken delivery of and absolutely love. And rightfully so, for it’s a superb car.

What else. Oh yeah, I managed to get a big leather office chair in the back of the Soul with plenty of room to spare. What’s so special about that, you ask? Well, yet again that big square-shaped boot opening and high headroom  allows you to put stuff in that you simply would either struggle or fail to on a normal hatchback.

kia soul connect plus 1.6 crdi 126bhp 6-speed manual long-term review update 5-0311

This particular office chair was pretty large – a lot bigger than the average size one you get – and actually I didn’t think it’d go in the back, and I was taken aback when – after dropping the rear seats – the chair slid straight in without me having to remove its armrests or wheel section. In fact, it wasn’t even touching the headlining and easily had a good five inches or so of room left.

After a drive to the airport around two hours away, the Soul yet again reinforces just how much of a good all-rounder it is. Three adults, one suitcase and two pieces of hand luggage at maximum weight, and the 1.6 CRDi still returned almost 45 miles per gallon, and that run takes in the long climb up the highest motorway in England – the M62.

With about two hours each way and only a brief stop in-between, there’s no ache in the back of your thighs – as you get on cars with shorter seats – and no back ache or tired shoulders, because you can get the seat in just that right position where you arn’t scrunched up. Those rear seats are actually very spacious all-round too, and even if you have taller people both front and back the leg room is still fine and head space is excellent thanks to that box-shape.

kia soul connect plus 1.6 crdi 126bhp 6-speed manual long-term review update 5-0306

The Soul is remarkably quiet to travel in as well, as noise from the engine, tyres and wind is superbly muted, to the point of it seeming as quiet as cars whose price tags are way beyond the Kia’s.

I’ve said this before, but the power and torque of the 1.6 CRDi turbo-diesel in the Soul feels the equivalent of a slightly older two litre TD. Even loaded up, the Kia’s diesel engine doesn’t struggle, and the low-down torque and decent spread of power across the rev range make for wonderfully smooth acceleration going up through the gears. It’s absolutely the engine to go for, and I absolutely recommend it over the weedy non-turbo 1.6 petrol offering.

On the final day of the Kia Soul going back, I pulled into the driveway, turned off the engine and shut the driver’s door for the last time, admittedly a tiny bit sad. Looking back at the Soul, I’m surprised by how attached I got to the thing. It’s rare, after all, to find a modern car with character and, well… soul.

So, in summary here’s a list of what I liked and thought could be improved on the 2014 Suzuki S-Cross SX4 1.6 DDiS ALLGRIP SZ5:

Summary

Liked

  • Updated design gives the Soul a fresh look, stylish, comfortable new interior, even more room than before
  • An enjoyable drive, great long-distance cruiser

  • Fun to drive, with a nice combination of decent stability in the bends, and a cushioned ride over bumps
  • Friends & family love the Soul for its roominess
  • Super-effective A/C for summer
  • Quiet cabin at motorway speeds
  • Reverse cam makes parking ridiculously easy
  • 3-mode ‘Flex Steer’ is actually a good thing
  • Infinity sound system powerful & clear
  • Kia’s satellite navigation system has great graphics and is super-easy to use
  • Interior build quality is to a high standard, and the cabin design is funky and characterful
  • Square boot opening and high roofline means the Soul can fit loads in with the seats down

Needs improvement:

  • No boot shelf (for false floor) included
  • Brakes are way too sensitive and ‘grabby’ at low speeds
  • Bluetooth device ridiculously can’t be connected on the move
  • No CD player (does that matter anymore?)
  • No rear armrest – middle seat is comfortable though, so that makes up for it

kia soul connect plus 1.6 crdi 126bhp 6-speed manual long-term review update 5-0296

Words: Chris Davies | Photography: Chris Davies, Matthew Davies

3 responses to “Kia Soul Connect Plus 1.6 CRDi 126bhp 6-speed manual long-term review – A Five month test”

  1. David Houghton

    Hi. I have a Soul Mixx 1.6CRDi, 64 plate, just clocked up 10500 miles. I too have the same problem with the brakes being too aggressive at low speeds. Also I feel that the car dips excessively when braking which some passengers find a bit scary. My previous car a Nissan Qashqai rode nice and flat even under severe braking. Wish I could get 50+ mpg on my Soul. Really regret buying this car.
    Thanks

  2. Bob Steadman

    I purchased a kia soul plus 66 plate and was very very angry that the car as as illustrated in the latest brochure was not the vehicle that was delivered. I would urge all potential customers to ensure ( in writing ) that the car being ordered would be the car which was delivered

Leave a Reply