I am a fanatic for funky, odd-shaped, quirky little cars. I adore the Mini, I adore the Veloster, I adore the Soul. I just hadn’t driven one yet. So I decided to fix it. Like my love for the Nissan Juke, my adoration of the 2016 Kia Soul fell flat on the ears of my friends and colleagues. But I don’t care; it’s still a cool little bus. I think that’s the appeal of the Soul – you buy it because you love it, not because others do.

With the Scion xB and the Nissan Cube now gone, the Kia Soul is the sole (ha!) remaining cube-shaped cargo-van-thingy for the youth and whatnot left in our market. And it’s adorable.

Especially in this guise. Despite the “SX” badge on the back, this was the SE Sport – a limited edition trim with special two-tone paint and colouring.

The 18-inch wheels are funky as hell, as is the black accenting on the rocker panels and around the grill. The two-town black on red paint really sets the car off. Inside, I was surprised to see the base UVO screen and radio on this trim, but it’s an elegantly simple unit that performs all the basic media functions well and kind of fits the simple-yet-fun motif.

The dash-top speakers add a little bit more stylistic flair to the cabin that is otherwise plain in black on black – Kia would get mileage out of a red stitched thread in that seat perhaps. The feature list is highlighted by my favourite thing: a heated steering wheel. You also get heated and cooled seats, automatic climate control and power-folding mirrors. As always, Kia found a way to pack rare, high-impact features into a relatively affordable car.

Of course, to get the available panoramic sunroof and eight-inch UVO screen with Nav you need to step up to the top trim SX plus Luxury package Soul. That’s only another $1,500 step-up over this trim’s $28,020 as-tested price but you’d have to forego these epic colours and striping. So no thanks.

The three-mode electric steering is light but not over-boosted in normal and slightly heavier in sport. Feedback through the wheel is almost non-existent but the car responds quickly to inputs nonetheless.

At only 1,287 kg the Soul is easily hustled up to speed by the stout 2.0L four with 164 hp and 151 lb-ft of torque – the engine isn’t overly harsh or rough and spools up quickly. The transmission is utterly unremarkable and that’s a positive.

Are you a fan of hands-free technology? Kia’s Autonomous Soul EV

This combination is rated at 9.8/7.5/8.8 L/100 km city/highway/combined – hilariously beating the smaller 1.6L engine at 9.8/7.8/8.9. I saw a tidy 10.1 L/100 km in my week of winter city driving.

If fuel economy is your primary concern we might direction your attention to the Kia Soul EV – which gives the gas powered Souls an epic spanking in that department.

The 10.4 m turning radius feels better than that number suggests and the wheels-at-the-corners stance makes the Soul a joy to park and maneuver in all but the ugliest of Costco melees. The tallness of the Soul impacts handling somewhat but you’ll find it surprisingly agile – even fun in some instances. Ride quality is a little wanting with some harshness especially over decent bumps and pot holes and the Soul takes more time than it ought to settle back down after a big rise.

There’s a generous 532 L of storage capacity with all seats in place and that balloons out to a very handy 1,402 L with them folded. You might be surprised as I was to learn that the seats don’t fold flat, in fact they’re angled quite high and that really affects the usability of the cargo space. The one bonus is an underfloor storage tray big enough for a small emergency kit, a tool kit or even a laptop computer. Still, if the Soul’s seats folded completely flat the boxy shape would make it one of the most practical and useful small rigs on the road. As it stands it falls ever so slightly short.

Warranty:
5 years/100,000 km; 5 years/100,000 km powertrain; 5 years/unlimited distance corrosion perforation; 5 years/100,000 km roadside assistance

Competitors:
Chevrolet Trax
Honda HR-V
Nissan Juke
Scion iM
Subaru Crosstrek

With the new crop of sub-compact SUVs popping up like daisies, the Kia Soul could consider itself one of the first of a breed. It offers excellent storage, funky city looks and solid driving dynamics – but fails to offer the one thing by which the rest of those units justify their existence: all-wheel drive. As a front driver, the Soul is a niche offering whose raison d’etre is pure form. If Kia sees fit to add AWD (and fix the seat fold thing), the Soul could lead the mini-CUV revolution.

Pricing: 2016 Kia Soul
Base Price: $25,995
Options: $200 – paint
A/C Tax: $100
Freight and PDI: $1,725
Price as Tested: $28,020

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