2009 Kia Soul Samba 1.6 diesel from UK and Ireland

Faults:

N/A - test drive only.

General Comments:

Well, the Kia Soul's in the showrooms and I've had a drive of the manual Samba model, also going over it with the tape measure. I would buy the '2' automatic if I decide to have one, but the only demo in the Cambridge dealership was this one.

Firstly, it has the 18" wheels, which don't help the ride quality. Even so, I found it acceptable (although you can hear the suspension working hard), and I purposely went for the worst surfaced road I know!

I would think the '2', after the Lotus mods which they all now have, and having the smaller wheels, would ride OK. This has been the area most heavily criticised by the journo's.

I didn't think it was very powerful in the mid-range as you'd expect from a diesel, and the autobox would obviously blunt performance even more, but I actually would be OK with it. It's just that it needed a bit more throttle than you'd expect at 70mph. Perhaps they improve as the miles build up. Can't comment on the fuel consumption, of course.

You can certainly tell it's a diesel at start-up, and when pulling away, but on the move you don't notice it. Overall, it's not the quietest car - there is wind, road and engine noise - but it's quite acceptable in my opinion.

Handling I wouldn't like to give an opinion on - it steered and went round corners fine as far as I could see. But I'm not a 'professional' tester...

Inside, I have to say it's all a bit bleak in the '2' - a festival of dark grey! Only the top of the seat backs have a design on them (a 'Soul' logo) and the plastics are hard. It's got the usual equipment - 4 electric windows, remote locking, air con etc - but no luxuries like parking sensors, for instance.

Space is good, though, although the rear floor has a ridge running across it where your feet go. This steals a little space, but it's not crucial. Everyone sits high and the driver's seat has a 'proper' height adjuster. I am 5'11" and I found it comfortable. Visibility is good past the A pillars, and you get used to the lack of actual glass area fairly quickly.

The also-criticised boot seems a good size to me as long as you don't fit the dividing shelf. You need this for easy loading of long loads etc, but to leave in place permanently does cut the overall boot space quite considerably. It wins on width, though. At 110cms approx it's much wider than the Note.

So overall, I thought it OK to drive; comfortable but dismal to sit in, and the looks are Marmite! Hideous, according to my wife - not that that would stop me!

But the biggest snag is the price - approx £13.5k for the auto in a solid colour. For what is basically a tall Kia supermini, I'm not sure about that...

For those who aren't bothered about a brand-new car, I'd probably say go for a nearly-new 4x4 alternative if the high seating position etc is what you're really looking for.

Finally, if you do test-drive the Soul, make sure you've done your research. My salesman knew very little about the car (and seemed to care even less)...

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Don't Know

Review Date: 7th March, 2009