2010 Kia SoulEnlarge Photo
Kia, being a young company, is targeting Gen Y buyers with the all new Soul. I test drove the Kia Soul!, and no that’s not a typo: there are four Kia Souls, the base, the +, the !, and the sport. It’s just another way of marketing to a new generation of auto buyers.
The Soul reminds me of the boxy Scion xB and Kia would like to get a foothold into that growing market. The automaker is offering a variety of different options so that buyers can personalize their new Soul, with things like seats that glow in the dark and outside mirrors in different colors. In fact, there may not be two Souls that look exactly alike in any one city.
Inside, the Soul is uncluttered and functional. The front bucket seats are comfortable, and will be adequate for longer trips. There is plenty of storage up front and a trap-door compartment on the dash so things don't slide around. There are auxiliary, iPod, and USB ports, as well as two 12 Volt outlets for whatever technology you might have.
2010 Kia SoulEnlarge Photo
Rear-seat legroom is going to be tight for larger adults. When you climb into the back seat your knees hit the front passenger seatback, even if the seat isn’t pushed all the way back. The rear lift gate is light, and opens easily, and there's a compartment under the cargo space floor to store items out of view. The 60/40 rear seats fold flat easily and quickly. Interior passenger space is good, but it takes up some of the cargo area.
The particular model I tested, the Soul!, uses a 2.0-liter 16 valve four-cylinder engine producing 142 horsepower. My car came with an optional four-speed automatic ($16,950 as tested) and is EPA-rated 24 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway. The Soul has a front-wheel drive configuration and should do well in any part of the country. The 2.0-liter engine features CVVT, or continuously variable valve timing, and it had plenty of power as I went up I-70 into the mountains west of Denver. Now, with four adults, it may be a different story. The automatic is only a four-speed, but it did well for driving around the city, and out on the highway it's smooth on the up shifts and doesn't kick down too much. On inclines you can push a button and kick it out of overdrive and it seemed to do well.
The Soul comes standard with six airbags, ABS, and electronic stability control for safety. The Soul! comes with rear disc brakes, cruise control, remote entry, Bluetooth, steering wheel controls, and tinted rear windows. Also included are 18 inch alloy wheels, a premium audio package, a power sunroof, and premium hounds tooth accented cloth upholstery, as well as a leather steering wheel, gear shift, and metal-finish interior trim.
Dashboard - 2010 Kia Soul 5dr Wagon Auto +Enlarge Photo
Something we will be seeing more of in the future is a new category that is posted on the window stickers of the Soul: Environmental Performance. The Soul earned 8 out of 10 for its ‘Global Warming’ score, and 5 for its ‘Smog’ score. Kia says the shape of the Soul is a reverse wedge greenhouse, saying the Soul looks like it's wearing a pair of wraparound sunglasses. Because the rear windows are narrower than the fronts, there appears to be a downward rearward slope to the roof, but it's really an illusion, because of the rising beltline below the windows. There's a final and small third side window, an upside-down wedge to complete its unique shape.
The Kia Soul should be able to fill the niche that the Scion xB left behind, and with its unique styling and many customizable options, it will appeal to the younger generation and to those who wish they were still young.