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Kia Soul in depth

We take a close look at the interesting and practical elements of the first Kia, not suitable for shrinking violets.

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Derek Fung
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1 of 41 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Historic

We take a close look at the interesting and practical elements of the first Kia, not suitable for shrinking violets.

Previewed in a series of concept cars, the production Soul was launched in Australia in early 2009.

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2 of 41 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

In between

The Soul is sized between the smaller Honda Jazz and larger Toyota Rukus.

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3 of 41 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Target

The Soul is targeted at the young, or young at heart, who like individual-looking cars. They may also be interested in blinging their car up with decals, wheels and paint jobs.

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4 of 41 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Eyeliner

The Soul³ comes with a plastic eyeliner for the indicator lights.

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5 of 41 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Like a tiger

Since the company hired the designer of the original Audi TT, Peter Schreyer, all Kia vehicles feature a corporate grille dubbed the "tiger nose".

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6 of 41 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Cash money

The Soul starts from AU$20,990 and rises to a rather steep AU$32,890 for the Soul³ pictured here.

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When I was 18

The Soul³ comes fitted with a fine pair of 18-inch alloy wheels.

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8 of 41 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Room with a view

The Soul marks Kia's emergence from being just a purveyor of cheap cars loaded with tonnes of kit.

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9 of 41 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Let it all out

Side vents are all the rage now, from the high-priced Jaguars to everyday Commodores. The ones on the Soul are purely cosmetic.

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10 of 41 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Look at me, look at you

When you're as extroverted as the Soul, you may as well go all out and have a chrome fuel filler cap.

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11 of 41 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Spoilt

A contrasting black spoiler sits atop the rectangular tail-gate.

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12 of 41 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

A moment of reflection

Who would've thought a few years ago that a Kia would have as much on-road presence as the Audi R8 or the Volkswagen Karmann coupe seen in the reflection?

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13 of 41 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Wrap it real good

The Soul has blacked out windscreen pillars to fool us into thinking the windscreen wraps around.

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14 of 41 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Haven't I seen you before?

The rear tail-lights remind us a lot of the dearly departed Skoda Roomster's.

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15 of 41 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Slippery customer

All too often the door handles slipped from our grasp with a thud, revealing a door still closed.

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16 of 41 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Sight for sore eyes

The dashboard is nicely designed, with the two-tone colour scheme particularly pleasing. Shame it reflects badly in bright sunlight.

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17 of 41 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Let me think

The Soul³'s fold down arm rest for the driver aids languid driving.

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18 of 41 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Booty talk, part I

Not particularly deep, the tall boot suffers from having a high load lip.

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Booty talk, part II

Underneath the boot floor is a set of concealed storage compartments.

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Saving space

Underneath the hidden storage space is a space-saver spare wheel.

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Booty talk, part III

Loading room is greatly increased when the rear seats are folded down. Unfortunately, they don't quite lie flat.

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In the rear

Rear-seat space is adequate, even behind a tall passenger. The bench is too flat, though.

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23 of 41 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Split level

The glovebox features two levels, the bottom of which doubles as the lid and could crush items if one isn't careful.

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24 of 41 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Grainy

It's nice to see that the designers have paid attention to the little things, like making sure that the grain of the dashboard and door trim match up.

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25 of 41 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

There's no other store?

Can't say we're a fan of the seat trim, which does its best to remind us of the department store that isn't Myer.

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26 of 41 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Odd spot

There's leather for the door trim, steering wheel and gear knob, but not the seats. The door pulls have a nice rubber feel to them.

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Simple touch

Instrument lighting is clear and classy.

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Hiding hole, part I

This cover is particularly difficult to open...

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Hiding hole, part II

...but is a good space to store a pair of sunglasses.

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30 of 41 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Cold air

Air conditioning is standard throughout the Soul range, but unfortunately not even the AU$30k Soul³ diesel has climate control.

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31 of 41 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Louder!

Steering wheel audio controls are intuitive enough to use by feel alone.

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32 of 41 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Cruise on through

The cruise control, umm, controls are similarly well thought out. Dashboard lights inform you of when the system is on and also when it's regulating speed.

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33 of 41 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Shifty

A five-speed manual transmission is available on lower spec models, but the Soul³ comes exclusively with an old-school four-speed auto.

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Sounds simple

The sound system is easy to navigate, even when scrolling through large lists with the Tune dial.

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Nothing on

Silence is accompanied by a clock and an outside temperature gauge.

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Mr Squiggle

Yet more neat work by the guys and girls in Kia's design department.

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37 of 41 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Digital connections

An auxiliary jack and USB port are standard across the Soul range, but you'll have to pay extra for a Hyundai/Kia cable that allows to you to access and charge your iPod/iPhone/iPad.

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Let's get it on, part I

This dial underneath the Soul³'s steering wheel...

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39 of 41 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Let's get it on, part II

...controls the light rings around the speakers. The lights can be set to on, off, a throbby mood light or to beat half-a-second out of time with the music. The rings only light up in various intensities of red.

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40 of 41 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Bass boot

The boot holds a subwoofer and a 12V power point.

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41 of 41 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Unhappy mood

The rear speakers are strangely not graced by light rings.

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