In all honesty, the new class of compact urban crossovers hasn't exactly been the sales success that their manufacturers had intended. The relatively high pricetags and small dimensions don't make them as convincing propositions as the "classic" compact SUV class of Tucsons, Outlanders and RAV4s.

Perhaps the new Kia Soul 1.6 can do something about it.

As a semi-base model, you would expect that quite a few things have been omitted. Over the Soul EX that we tested over a year ago, the only real differences are the absence of the 18 inch wheels in lieu of smaller 16-inch rolling stock, as well as the lack of the chrome fuel tank lid. The design is every bit as striking as before, with the aggressive front, detailed headlamps and a poised, boxy demeanor. Oddly enough, I do miss the cool body kit and decals of the first Soul I got to try out, but those decals are optional on every Soul for that funkier look.

Inside, much has changed over the 2.0L EX, as the interior panels are predominantly black, whereas the higher models have body contrasting colored panels. The center subwoofer will be missed as will the driver-side armrest and sunroof, though the ricey LED lighting effects on the speakers won't be. The audio system is the same as the top of the line model, and thankfully, it retains the iPod compatibility that makes using your iPod so much easier for the long drive. Again, I do like the well formed bucket seats and the control layout, as well as the decent boot space and easy folding seats.

Replacing the 2 liter engine is a new 1.6 liter motor from Kia, the same engine found in the new Accent from Hyundai. The new CVVT engine pumps out a healthy 124 metric horsepower, only 20 horsepower behind from the 2 liter version. Matched with it is a new 4 speed Shiftronic transmission and, for performance enthusiasts, now has a manual mode that allows you shift manually, something that the 2.0 liter Soul didn't have.

If you haven't noticed on the photos, I'm actually testing the Kia Soul in Cebu. Given Kia's success in the Queen City of the South, and in no small part the tightness and traffic in Cebu, a small, nippy urban crossover just might do the trick. Acceleration wise, the 1.6 engine is just right, and doesn't feel too different from the 2 liter version. Nipping in and out of traffic is easy, and even in automatic mode, the Soul's transmission intuitively kicks down a few gears for better acceleration. In terms of fuel economy, the Soul did 9.3 kilometers per liter over 6 days of city driving, and mind you, that's in moderate to heavy traffic.

In the ride comfort department, I thought it was just the Soul's sporty suspension settings at first, but seriously, Cebu's streets are just incredibly bumpy and absolutely riddled with potholes of all shapes and sizes. Even an S-Class's suspension must be completely overwhelmed here. The best road in the entire city has to be the SRP (South Road Properties), and gave a better benchmark for the Soul's ride comfort which is better than the 2.0 liter model, an improvement that can be attributed to the size of the wheels.

Once out of the city and onto the Trans Central Highway, the Soul's lively suspension was a great thing. Sharp on the corners and smooth on the straights, the Soul feels more car than SUV. It's relatively light to handle, though on the uphills the quench for more power is something that can't be ignored. Seriously, I want a CRDI engine in the Soul.

If there's one thing that the Kia Soul 1.6L addresses over the original 2.0L model, it's the price. In my opinion, the top of the line 2.0L is overpriced at PhP 1,320,000, as you should already be getting a compact SUV at that range. At PhP 875,000, however, the Kia Soul 1.6L is a much better deal. If you can do away with the unnecessary extra bits, then for a pricetag just higher than a top of the line subcompact car, then the Kia Soul, in 1.6 liter trim, has become an incredible bargain.

* Special thanks to Gateway Motors, Kia's Cebu dealer network *
  • Make: Kia
  • Model: Soul 1.6L
  • Engine: 1.6L DOHC 16-valve Inline-4 CVVT
  • Max Power: 124 PS @ 6300 rpm
  • Max Torque: 156 Nm @ 4200 rpm
  • Transmission: 4-Speed A/T Shiftronic
  • Price as Tested: