The impact of assimilating near-surface soil moisture into the SAFRAN-ISBA-MODCOU (SIM) hydrological model over France is examined. Specifically, the root-zone soil moisture in the ISBA land surface model is constrained over three and a half years, by assimilating the ASCAT-derived surface degree of saturation product, using a Simplified Extended Kalman Filter. In this experiment ISBA is forced with the near-real time SAFRAN analysis, which analyses the variables required to force ISBA from relevant observations available before the real time data cut-off. The assimilation results are tested against ISBA forecasts generated with a higher quality delayed cut-off SAFRAN analysis. Ideally, assimilating the ASCAT data will constrain the ISBA surface state to correct for errors in the near-real time SAFRAN forcing, the most significant of which was a substantial dry bias caused by a dry precipitation bias. The assimilation successfully reduced the mean root-zone soil moisture bias, relative to the delayed cut-off forecasts, by close to 50 % of the open-loop value. The improved soil moisture in the model then led to significant improvements in the forecast hydrological cycle, reducing the drainage, runoff, and evapotranspiration biases (by 17 %, 11 %, and 70 %, respectively). When coupled to the MODCOU hydrogeological model, the ASCAT assimilation also led to improved streamflow forecasts, increasing the mean discharge ratio, relative to the delayed cut off forecasts, from 0.68 to 0.76. These results demonstrate that assimilating near-surface soil moisture observations can effectively constrain the SIM model hydrology, while also confirming the accuracy of the ASCAT surface degree of saturation product. This latter point highlights how assimilation experiments can contribute towards the difficult issue of validating remotely sensed land surface observations over large spatial scales.