How Korean is “too Korean”? Much like Deauxma’s movies of questionable quality and plot lines, it’s never too much. The Kia Soul AM comes straight from the Korea/Japan region and it still tried its luck in Europe.

And, almost miraculously, it almost succeeded. The Kia Soul might not have been worthy of a top spot at a top table at Oktoberfest here in Europe, but in the USA it caused a sensation. And it all comes down to one word: marketing.

The Kia Soul AM was the same car in Europe, Korea, and America, with the only notable difference being that we had the 1.6 CRDi diesel, while Americans got the juicy but not so juicy engine because it was juicy in a literal sense, dripping of pistons and oil.

In North America, and especially in the USA they really went all in on the aggresive marketing and went for the youth who have never heard of Kia before. The Kia Soul AM was a true phenomenon at launch, with its arrival announced by Lady Gaga, Calvin Harris, Goldfish, Axwell, and even LMFAO with their Party Rock Anthem. Not to mention they applied the strategy Vauxhall would use in 2013 with the Vauxhall Adam, offering billions of possible combinations of features and colors, and a few hundred special editions. Essentially, the original Kia Soul was Hyundai/Kia’s first attempt to appeal to a younger audience. For a young 16-year-old girl, a Kia Soul is a very good car. And Americans had no issue buying it as a 16th birthday gift for their children, since a Kia Soul started at $13,995 in 2010, while the median household income in 2010 was $49,500 per year, and the top version with the 2.0 petrol engine and all the bells and whistles capped at $17,450. And we’re talking new, don’t even get me started on the used market.

And in Europe?

Maybe the Kia Soul AM didn’t catch on as well here as it did in the US, but then the second generation came to set things right. The first generation of the Kia Soul was a curiosity for us Europeans. It sat halfway between the Nissan Cube, which was too Japanese, and the Skoda Yeti, which was too European. We were in 2008, the point at which the Korean assault on Europe was just beginning. With the Kia Soul, the Hyundai i20 was also launched, targeting young people and thus capturing the European market from two directions. Reliable cars for the youth. However, in Europe, we don’t get our driver’s license at 16. And parents don’t gift us 14,000 pounds cars when we turn 18 and get our license. No, they ask themselves why do we need 7,000 pounds when 5,000 pounds are enough, so they think of giving us 4,000, but then again we can manage better with 3,000, so take these 2,000 pounds because otherwise, they might get angry and give you 1,000 euros, leaving you with 500 pounds for a budget.


Kia Soul AM front v2 autodrivel

Kia Soul AM Engines


  • 1.6 MPI Gamma II G4FG and G4FD of 126, 130 and 140 horsepower – Apart from sounding like a diesel, this gasoline engine shared with the Hyundai i30 is quite decent for our needs. It may indeed be a bit slow on the highway in the USA, but in Romania, you don’t need more. Also, the 140 horsepower is the GDi direct-injection version, so that comes with oil consumption and an personal vendetta against LPG conversions.
  • 2.0 Nu MPI G4NA and G4NC of 142 and 166 horsepower – Fortunately, the Kia Soul was not assembled in the Alablama plant so there’s no world class action lawsuit involved here, however the old Beta II engine comes with an optional 4 speed automatic which is sad, and the Nu variant that came after, came only with a manual transmission, which is even sadder. But not sadder than the moment when you call a ourangutan a “dumb animal” and then he replies by saying “you’re literally paying the goverment each month to stay out of prison”. Also, the 166 horsepower version is also a GDI engine, so no LPG and no oil if you don’t top up regularly.


1.6 CRDi D4FB of 126 horsepower – If you go for the automatic version, you only need to worry about the particulate filter. If you go for the manual version, you’ll also need to care for the dual-mass flywheel and the clutch. In any case, even with the automatic the oil needs to be changed regularly at 4 years or 37,000 miles. And no, the petrol engine didn’t get an automatic transmission.


Kia Soul AM interior autodrivel

Kia Soul AM Reliability Issues

  • The sound system is not the best, at least on the more standard versions. That is, if you care about the sound system. And if you want to change the amplifier, good luck.
  • Rear visibility is far from the best because you have that tiny rear window and those thicc pillars so make sure to fit some parking sensors.
  • Lack of a 6th gear on the manual gearbox and the fact that most automatics are 4 speed kind of take away the Soul’s ability to go fast on the highway and you will definatelly feel a need for speed…I mean one extra gear.


Kia Soul AM rear autodrivel

Kia Soul AM Verdict

But even without the US marketing, the Kia Soul DE was a real girl magnet. Like with the Suzuki Swift, I don’t understand the deal with girls and the Kia Soul. Generally, girls under 30 who wear their hair up, wear sunglasses indoors, have a keychain with 50 keys in one hand, and a phone and a coffee cup from their favorite Erewhon in the other. The Kia Soul AM seems to be the classic choice of normal girls with a minimal sense of fashion, but not fashion enough to constantly wear clothes two sizes too small and usually seen in an Evoque. But they’re neither a 300 pound muscle bound rug muncher, whom you’d imagine in a rusty Vauxhall Astra station wagon full of potatoes. Or an Subaru Outback, for the North American audience. 

Which engines do I recommend? For petrol power, the 1.6 MPI with 126 horsepower and for diesel, the 1.6 CRDi and it’s 126 horsepower. Be careful not to mix them up like a blind man mistaking a fish market with a gynaecologist’s office because they smell the same.