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Aaron Gold

First impressions: Kia Soul Diesel

By May 19, 2010

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2010 Kia SoulGreetings from Seoul, Korea! I've gotten a few requests to check out the diesel-powered Kia Soul, and today I got a chance to take a quick drive in one.

First, the details: The diesel Soul is powered by Kia's 1.6 liter CRDi common-rail turbodiesel engine. Output is 126 horsepower and 192 lb-ft of torque. The engine isn't as refined as Volkswagen's 2.0 TDI engine; it seems as if Kia has made little effort to quiet down the engine's clattery idle. Once on the move, though, it's no more obtrusive than the gas-powered Soul (which, admittedly, is a pretty obtrusive engine). That said, it doesn't shake, it doesn't smell, and while it's not exactly a rocket ship, the diesel's broad, flat torque curve is a good match for the old-tech 4-speed automatic -- while the gasoline engine feels flat and lifeless at low revs, the diesel always squirts ahead when you goose the accelerator.

Should Kia bring the diesel Soul to the US? I've been thinking about this all day. My initial reaction was no -- the CRDi engine isn't refined enough to overcome America's distaste for diesels. But then I got to thinking -- the Soul is designed for young buyers looking for an unconventional car. Might they be interested in an unconventional powerplant? Might they see the engine's noisy idle as a worthwhile trade-off for its fantastic fuel economy and excellent driveability? I think they might.

Will Kia bring the diesel Soul to the US? The answer is most certainly no. Diesel is a risky market in the US, and meeting America's strict diesel emissions requirements is an expensive proposition. I doubt Kia would be willing to invest the money for something that will sell in limited numbers, especially not in a small car designed to deliver strong value-for-money. Like their parent company Hyundai, Kia will be pushing direct fuel injection and 6-speed transmissions, technologies that I believe has a lot of potential. Don't get me wrong; as far as I'm concerned, the more diesel choices we have in the US, the better. But I can see why it would be difficult to build a business case for sending the diesel Soul to the US. Bummer. -- Aaron Gold

Photo © Aaron Gold

May 19, 2010 at 2:22 am
(1) Hawaiian Don says:

I disagree. Kia needs something more than just being a bottom feeding, low price brand with some cute designs. It lacks any cred as far as engineering. Having a diesel shows that they are innovative and cutting edge, like the few who have braved the diesel market like BMW, M-B, VW… pretty nice company, I’d say!!!

May 19, 2010 at 9:30 am
(2) agenttmike says:

I have to agree with Don. I think KIA needs to bring this car here. Right now every oil burner commands a premium price, and you can’t get one unless you order in advance. Tried to test drive a 335D, waiting list by appointment only because the dealership only had one. $4,000 over MSRP is what they were asking. Now I can’t compare the BMW to the KIA, but I think if more car makers bring Diesels to the market, it will combat the price gouging that appears right now. Question is, can KIA build a Diesel to American standards, and price it well?

May 19, 2010 at 9:30 am
(3) Brian says:

Regarding diesel emessions, they may might be able to pull off what VW did. If the engine is small enough, it might be able to run as-is with no emissions modifications (i.e. Ad-Blue, or whatever BMW calls it).

May 19, 2010 at 5:39 pm
(4) Rich says:

There are not enough affordable diesel choices in the US now. A diesel powered Soul in the US would perk up interest in an affordable diesel. I would buy one. Buyers would flock to buy something with really high mileage, compact, but roomy. The only thing now in a diesel for the lower end buyer for diesel is VW (Jetta and Golf TDI’s), which is a bit pricey. I hope Kia considers it. If Kia builds it and ships it to the US people will buy it.

May 19, 2010 at 7:09 pm
(5) Ross says:

Yes more diesels, but I’d rather a fiesta or focus diesel than a soul.

May 19, 2010 at 8:05 pm
(6) Hawaiian Don says:

You guys are absolutely spot on. All the diesels are priced at premium mark-ups. Dealers are quick to demand $1000 over MSRP on TDI Golfs! This little low-baller would at least put some pressure on VW.

May 20, 2010 at 5:06 am
(7) Peter Dejong says:

Nice initiative of Kia. Not a bad design I must say but a matter of taste as usual. Diesel is great that they bring it to the market. The more choice the better. Time Volkswagen brings in its 1.2 TDi 1.4 DI into their Polo and Lupo and other small cars they deliver in Europe, China and South-America. And with the Ad Blu additive emissions are nihil.

May 20, 2010 at 10:51 am
(8) eric says:

While you’re there tell Kia to bring over the 5 door variant of the new Optima. Thanks :P

May 20, 2010 at 5:27 pm
(9) lwatcdr says:

I would love t see more diesels. Frankly I think Honda blew it. An diesels civic or accord might not be big sellers but a diesel Element or CRV I think would have been huge.
Kia should bring diesels here and put them in the highest mileage car and maybe a small SUV for people that really need an SUV.
Maybe Crysler will bring diesels to the US. Doesn’t Fiat make a good diesel?

May 20, 2010 at 6:41 pm
(10) Ross says:

I’d like to add that what diesel really needs here is an economy option. All the diesel vehicles here are more expensive options, and many are marked up on top of that.

US diesels: BMW, Mercedes, VW… anyone else?

Some might say the Golf and Jetta are economy, but really they are expensive models compared to Aveos, Cobalts, Scions, Yaris, Corolla, etc.

February 4, 2011 at 3:27 pm
(11) owl sparrow says:

thank you for saying for me

May 20, 2010 at 6:43 pm
(12) Ross says:

*EDIT* I meant add to the discussion, not add like it was a new idea nobody here mentioned.

May 27, 2010 at 7:28 pm
(13) Noah says:

Do we have an option to buy this Kia from overseas? I love diesel cars and really want one of these.

July 20, 2010 at 2:56 pm
(14) Jim says:


I spoke with the US Kia Office in Orange County, Ca. recently, and they have NO plans to bring the diesel Soul to the US.
However, they sell the diesel Soul just over the US-Mexico Border at Tijuana. and I do not see why you can not buy one and have it regestered to one of the 90,000 US Ex-Pats. living in TJ ?
I have friends living just across the border in TJ and I am working on having one reg. to his condo in TJ…..with Baja Mx. plates, I can drive it in the US.

I have been across the US Border at TJ dozens of times in the past 6 yrs and I see Baja plated cars, in the US, all the time.


February 4, 2011 at 5:55 pm
(15) owl sparrow says:

please let me know how it goes my wife would like one

February 3, 2011 at 9:19 pm
(16) peter boone says:

Just bought Kia soul, the only thing needed is a diesel engine.

February 12, 2011 at 7:38 pm
(17) Cpbutler says:

I just came back from europe and drove a brand new kia six speed diesel and that car ran fine It was a standard six speed with plenty of pep. The feds need to get out of the way And these pipe dream hybrids and their 5000.00 Batteries and let the market go where it needs to

August 18, 2011 at 3:46 am
(18) Bigman says:

I disagree, I am a current owner of the diesel soul and it is a great car compared to the gas version. If KIA was to deliver this to America we could take it and redefine the engine to get even higher efficiency from it and build more power from the power plant much more then the gas version. In Korea it is not legal to do any of these changes and modification so they are limited on what it could be built into. In Korea they have a false understanding of Diesel thinking it is much worse than gas when the fact is it is much better than gas in many ways. Like I said I am an owner of this product and I know the potential for it as well, so America get off your but and request the diesel soul

December 31, 2012 at 11:07 pm
(19) Jiggs says:

Here we have the fallacy of north american (ie Canada and US) emissions measurement. North America is the only major jurisdiction in the world to use “concentration” based emissions measurements, rather than the more sensible “quantity” based measurement. What does this mean? In North America a 6.6 litre GMC duramax that gets 15 mpg is good to go, but a 1.6 litre Kia Soul that gets 60mpg gets the ix-nay.

The science: in north america its about parts per million. The rest of the world, its grams (of pollutant) per kilometer. The result – a 6.6 litre duramax can pump out as much urea enriched crap as possible, as long as its diluted on the way out. The base assumption of concentration based emissions standards is that the atmosphere is infinite in quantity, and complete dispersal of contaminants is instant. Neither of which are true.

In Europe, vehicles are measured by passenger capacity, interior size, and allowed to produce a given quantity of pollutant per rolling kilometre. It stands to reason the less fuel they use, the less pollutants they produce.

In North America its the opposite, the more fuel they use, as long as dilution to the specified parts-per-million is acheived, things are fine. The more fuel they use, the more able they dilute/pollute.

For the Kia Soul diesel, and other great vehicles (both diesel and gas) to come to Canada / US, the emission measurement must change from parts-per-million to quantity-per-mile. Lots of us have been to europe, rented BMW or Benz vehicles with 2.5 litre engines that zoom along the autobahn north of 200kph and still get 40 mpg. Europe has strict emissions standards, that most north american vehicles will not pass. The Chevvy Cruze engine came from Europe to North America and passed emissions with room to spare.

Who prevents this change…. maybe big oil???

December 28, 2013 at 11:50 am
(20) Rocco says:

The first KIA Soul I ever saw was in an Arizona Kia Dealership It was a Diesel with a manual transmission. could not sell it to the public due to EPA standards. Bring the Diesel over add all wheel drive a 6 spd stick and I will be the first one in line to buy one.

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