Greetings 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