The Kia Soul is the Korean automaker’s answer to the rather bland boxcar marketplace. Competing for more juvenile car buyers against vehicles like the youth-targeted Scion xB, the New Nissan Cube and the aging Honda Element; the Kia Soul is an almost unexpectedly stylish, solid and even fun to drive option from that other car building country on the other side of the Pacific. With trim levels named “+”, “!” and Sport, featuring options like a Sound Sensitive Mood Lighting system, a place to hook up your iPod and optional 18 inch wheels is just what the kids are asking for. With its hearty 2.0 Liter four making 142 HP while getting an estimated 30 MPG on the highway, this Soul! is the Kia you will be proud to be seen in.
Starting at just over $13,000 the Kia Soul offers tons of options: like a factory body kit, Soul license plate frames, sport shift knobs, rear spoilers, interior lighting, remote start, touch up paint, first aid kit and all sorts of roof racks; perfect for an action sports inspired market. The Soul is the perfect option for a car buying public who like to feel unique when behind the wheel and don’t want to sacrifice performance or reliability for lots of style at a reasonable price.
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The Kia Soul is unlike anything that the Korean automaker has built before, once the compact crossover catches your eye, you can’t help but keep looking. Park it besides a modern day Mini, and the English car will start to look dated, and if there weren’t any Kia badges, you wouldn’t know who made it.
The whole car is new; the designers at Kia’s California laboratory did an excellent job creating the Soul’s outward appearance. The bumpers, headlights, rims and even the roofline are very appealing, unlike any vehicle to date. Everything from the vents in the fenders to the blistered wheel arches, the Soul’s exterior screams sporty, especially the 18-inch rollers that came bolted to our test car. The Soul Sport features the same 5 spoke wheels as our “!”, but has a complete set of black plastic moldings that make it look lower to the ground and subtly much more aggressive. The taillights are an especially nice touch, their clear plastic cover and multicolor lenses add to the well-finished, stylish exterior.
As part of their youth oriented advertising campaign, the Soul is offered in colors like Alien green, Java brown, Shadow black, BrightSilver and Molten red. However, the automaker believes that most of the new cars sold in the U.S. will be covered in this cream colored Dune paint like our well-equipped Soul! The Kia is compact, measuring in at 161.6 inches long, 10.3 inches wide and 63.4 inches tall the Kia seems like a Cube, but the way it tapers in as the body rises makes the Soul look solid because of its wide base. This is something that not even Scion can do with the more aerodynamically restyled xB. This may sound like sacrilege, but the blacked out B-pillar and slope of the roof, makes the Soul’s top half resemble a GT-R when viewed from the side, quite a compliment for any automobile.
The interior of our Soul! Is just as impressive as the vehicle’s exterior, coming standard with Bluetooth, leather wrapped steering wheel with audio and cruise control, sunroof, Hound’s tooth seat inserts and the 8 speaker sound system standard. Other creature comforts on our Kia included power everything, not one but two 12 Volt outlets and USB/accessory inputs for your iPod.
Unlike most compacts, the Kia feels spacious inside. Our Soul came equipped with a combination of Sand and Black interior, but the most interesting feature were the seat inserts covered in a print that Kia calls Hound’s tooth. The second best feature was the Sound Sensitive Mood Lighting, a system that lets you adjust the in speaker lights to either be on all the time, glow and then fade in the “mood” setting, or flash with the beat of the music, but sometimes its nice to turn it off.
The steering wheel was comfortable, and it was convenient to have all the accessories mounted on it. Behind it the gauges are easy to read and can glow bright enough to look like they came from a more expensive vehicle. The center stack is simple and attractive; it combined the radio and climate controls in an easy to reach location; so you won’t have to worry about swerving off the road while changing satellite radio stations. There is also a convenient covered storage space on top. Speaking of storage, despite the Soul’s compact nature there is 19.3 cubic feet of storage space underneath the optional storage shelf, and as much as 53.4 cubic feet with the rear seats folded flat.
The first thing any driver with Soul will notice is how well this Kia crossover handles. Despite the low profile tires on the 18 inch rims, the ride was softly dampened and comfortable. The vehicle can ride this way because the Korean engineers spent countless hours developing a stiffer chassis. This reinforced steel shell exhibits less torsional rigidity, which means it won’t twist as bad over bumps, won’t sag over time, and equates to a better resale value. This new safety bubble means a much more solid feeling Kia than you are used to.
Our upgraded Soul! came with a 142 HP 2.0 Liter four banger with Kia’s Continuously Variable Valve Timing, combined with our four speed automatic transmission got an EPA estimated 30 MPG on the highway. While the base Soul comes with a 1.6 Liter engine that makes a reasonable 122 HP and 115 lb-ft of torque. Like all four cylinder engines, it works best higher in the rev range. The 137 lb-ft of torque in our Soul! Was more than enough to move the 2800 pound vehicle.
One of the things that surprised me is that the soul has 4 wheel disk brakes; a reassuring safety feature normally comes with a more expensive price tag. Just like our cars cabin with the glowing red lights and Hound’s tooth seats and boatload of options was a fun environment just to be a passenger in, the Soul! is equally as fun behind the wheel.
Why to Buy
If you are young, like to have fun and don’t mind having people look at you, think about a Soul. If you want a more engaging boxcar with a stiffened chassis and six standard airbags, test drive a Soul. If you have between $14,000 and $19,000 and want your money to go far, buying things like a reliable power plant with plenty of pep and a chassis that can take more and countless accessories buy a Kia Soul!
Why not to Buy
If you just can ‘t bring yourself to drive a Kia or any other Korean car, but still want to live the boxcar lifestyle then go buy a Scion or Nissan, but at least test drive the Kia before you make a down payment.
Our Kia Soul! came in at $18,595 so if that is too pricey, check out the “+” or base model, you can ride around on steelies and shift a five speed manually for around $13,000. Sure you don’t get the 18s, but you can still throw a disco in your car.
Top Speed Final Verdict
Korean cars are coming up in the world, offering a 10 year/100,000 mile warranty, getting 24/30 MPG on the city and highway in a time of economizing all with fresh new styling. The Kia Soul is the perfect vehicle to spice up the youth oriented boxcar segment. It is truly a Kia that people will aspire to own. Now our Soul! came in at a little over $18,000; a considerable amount more then the base model, but was it worth the couple of thousand extra? If you want a personally tuned ride from the factory and a great warranty then yes.
If the Korean automaker can get car buyers thinking Kia and into their showrooms they will do O.K. Once you test drive a Soul, you will most likely buy it. Hyundai will have to watch out if Kia decides to put this same amount of attention into a rear wheel drive sports coupe.