Kia Soul 1.6 CRDi Connect Plus, motoring review: This car makes my head hurt to look at but it does stand out from the crowd

  • @Jamie_Merrill

PRICE £17,500
ENGINE CAPACITY 1.6-litre turbodiesel
POWER OUTPUT (BHP @ RPM) 126 @ 4,000

It's not often that I drive a real stinker of a car any more. Oddly, I quite enjoy the process of testing a rattletrap, but sadly for me most car manufacturers have, at the very least, cracked the art of making an adequate enough family car.

Imagine my delight, then, when the new Kia Soul arrived on my drive. As a rule, I tend to avoid making judgements on how a car looks (you have your own eyes for that), but I can't resist with the Soul. It must have hit every robotic arm on the ugly production line at the firm's Gwangju factory in South Korea.

Kia has been taking Europe by storm since the financial crisis with a strong range of affordable, attractive and capable cars, but something has clearly gone wrong here.

Kia reportedly tried to soften its unconventional looks from the last-generation model, but the Soul is still far too top heavy, oddly squared off and in the lime green of my test model, looks like a squashed vegetable stock cube.

Put simply, it makes my head hurt to look at. And it baffles me why a reviewer from a prestigious car magazine – one that gets excited about new cup-holder technology – called it "stylish". On the road, things get worse still with overly light steering, a mushy ride, vague brakes and the constant feeling that I'm slightly disconnected from the road. The only redeeming factor is the 1.6-litre diesel engine.

For all my complaints, though, there was something fun about driving this Kia for a week; wherever I went, from supermarket car parks to motorway service stations, I got admiring glances and even hushed compliments from retired couples and young parents.

As far as I can tell, these are exactly the sort of people that usually buy terribly named crossovers, such as the Nissan Qashqai and Vauxhall Mokka. These are cars that look (and drive) like damp tea-towels that have been discarded on the kitchen floor. I can only assume the aforementioned magazine reviewer was one of these people too. But I've broken my first rule of car reviewing and I suppose, I should (grudgingly) admit that in a car park of bland-looking cars, the Soul does stand out from the crowd. But I still don't like it.