New 2012 Kia Soul on sale now

The Kia Soul is a small, hatchback-size SUV with a distinctive box-like rear end designed to offer more space in the back and give it a unique road presence.

Kia’s crossover-style cars have proved popular in the UK, but the Kia Soul has often been outshone by the larger Kia Sportage.

However, in 2012 the Kia Soul will re-emerge with a less rounded and sharper exterior design. With ex-Audi designer Peter Schreyer on board, Kia has become synonymous with good-looking cars and a recent prestigious red dot design award for the Soul indicates the crossover is no different.

New front lights, bumpers, air intakes and bodywork widen the appearance of the car and, according to Kia, give it a more upmarket look.

Where the brand has fallen down in the past is interior quality, but a completely redesigned dashboard, new cloth for the upholstery and extra colour options bring the Soul in line with traditionally more upmarket rivals.

Available in two trim levels, simply called Soul 1 and Soul 2, the Kia Soul adds extra touches such as LED lights, body-coloured door handles and top-tinted windscreen.

Soul 2 models also get iPod connectivity, steering mounted audio controls and Bluetooth as standard.

Under the bonnet, the five-door Kia Soul is now greener than ever. A 1.6-litre petrol engine boosts power from 124bhp to 138bhp without a significant effect on fuel economy, but the biggest improvements come in the form of a new 1.6-litre diesel engine.

The new 126bhp diesel engine comes with a choice of manual or automatic gearbox and despite being quicker than its predecessor (0-60mph in 10.3 seconds), it boasts an improved fuel economy of 57.6mpg.

It also cuts CO2 emissions to just 129g/km, meaning it qualifies for free first year road tax for the first time.

The new 2012 Kia Soul is on sale now from just £12,495 for petrol models. Diesel versions start from £14,695.