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.
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.
Since the company hired the designer of the original Audi TT, Peter Schreyer, all Kia vehicles feature a corporate grille dubbed the "tiger nose".
The Soul starts from AU$20,990 and rises to a rather steep AU$32,890 for the Soul³ pictured here.
The Soul marks Kia's emergence from being just a purveyor of cheap cars loaded with tonnes of kit.
When you're as extroverted as the Soul, you may as well go all out and have a chrome fuel filler cap.
A contrasting black spoiler sits atop the rectangular tail-gate.
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?
The Soul has blacked out windscreen pillars to fool us into thinking the windscreen wraps around.
The rear tail-lights remind us a lot of the dearly departed Skoda Roomster's.
All too often the door handles slipped from our grasp with a thud, revealing a door still closed.
The dashboard is nicely designed, with the two-tone colour scheme particularly pleasing. Shame it reflects badly in bright sunlight.
Not particularly deep, the tall boot suffers from having a high load lip.
Underneath the boot floor is a set of concealed storage compartments.
Underneath the hidden storage space is a space-saver spare wheel.
Loading room is greatly increased when the rear seats are folded down. Unfortunately, they don't quite lie flat.
Rear-seat space is adequate, even behind a tall passenger. The bench is too flat, though.
The glovebox features two levels, the bottom of which doubles as the lid and could crush items if one isn't careful.
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.
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.
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.
Instrument lighting is clear and classy.
This cover is particularly difficult to open...
...but is a good space to store a pair of sunglasses.
Air conditioning is standard throughout the Soul range, but unfortunately not even the AU$30k Soul³ diesel has climate control.
Steering wheel audio controls are intuitive enough to use by feel alone.
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.
A five-speed manual transmission is available on lower spec models, but the Soul³ comes exclusively with an old-school four-speed auto.
The sound system is easy to navigate, even when scrolling through large lists with the Tune dial.
Silence is accompanied by a clock and an outside temperature gauge.
Yet more neat work by the guys and girls in Kia's design department.
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.
...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.
The boot holds a subwoofer and a 12V power point.
The rear speakers are strangely not graced by light rings.