2010 Kia Soul

Some Soul from Seoul: Kia finally produces a car with character

2010 Kia Soul

Confession time: I’m in the target market for the Kia Soul and the vehicle’s engineers thought of something even I didn’t know I wanted.

FAST FACTS

1. Not the most powerful, or most efficient — but competitive; 142hp with 27 city / 35 hwy mpg.

2. Available in many trims to suit your budget

3. On even the most basic car, ABS, stability control, and power everything are standard

Front speakers that light up in tune with the music.

Seriously. It’s like being in a moving ambulance with the Crystal Castles cranked to 11.

Gimmicks aside, this $13,300 hatchback might just be the coolest thing to come out of Korea since the barbecue. On the base car, six airbags, active front headrests, power windows, power locks, AM/FM/CD/MP3 stereo with AUX and USB inputs, and air conditioning.

At that price, it’s hard not to like it. But let me make three things clear: the 1.6L engine on the base car is likely underpowered (they didn’t have any at launch to test), though standard are a huge number of features that are optional on other cars. Those not proficient with a manual transmission should take note: the base car is only available with a 5-speed manual transmission.

DRIVING

You know what? It drives pretty well. On winding and hilly roads, the car’s comparatively wide stance makes it feel solid, with little body roll. I drove the “+”, “!”, and “sport” trims — both automatics and a manual — and though quiet at steady speeds, passing prompted the ancient 4-speed transmission-equipped models to “Weeee” into third to make a pass. A five-speed automatic would work wonders for the car’s overall performance in hilly terrain.

The “sport” model I drove had “sport-tuned” suspension, 18-inch wheels, fog lights, a premium stereo with a subwoofer, a sunroof and the infamous “mood lamp” that beats in tune with the music. Why the mood lighting and not a 5-speed automatic? Or a telescoping steering column for shorter drivers? And why 18-inch wheels on a compact car that are expensive to fit winter tires to in colder climates — especially since many first-time buyers will gravitate toward this car.

INSIDE

Inside, a good mix of materials with a protruding center stack (reminiscent of the Volkswagen New Beetle) offer a good use of space. The glove box is huge, but the flat-folding rear seats and underfloor cargo tray are where the Soul earns practicality points. The rear underfloor tray is deep and large, and likely able to accommodate a shoebox at its center. Below the tray sits a spare tire.

Practicality is good for its class despite its diminutive exterior dimensions. It doesn’t look it, but the Soul is shorter than both the Dodge Caliber and Suzuki SX4. It feels more spacious inside than either, and although with the rear seats up there’s only space for two carry-ons, with the seats down it rivals the Toyota Matrix for cargo space.

SUPER PACKAGING POTENTIAL

Kia expects the better-equipped next-step-up 2.0L Soul “+” model to represent the most popular choice. At $14,950, it squares off at the soul (sorry, had to) of the compact car market, as the segment’s most desirable Korean import. Even Kia admitted that it would cannibalize sales from its Spectra5 model. Upgrades include alloy wheels, a more powerful 2.0-litre engine, disc brakes, a speaker upgrade, cruise control, keyless entry, Bluetooth handsfree connectivity, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, and body colored door handles and mirrors.

But how is it to drive? Compared with the compact class benchmark Honda Civic, the Soul also exudes a tied-down feel that’s rare in its class. Quick steering, coupled with good visibility meant I wished for more city streets to test the car’s undoubtedly in-town strengths. Kia told us during the presentation they had benchmarked the Dodge Caliber, Suzuki SX4, Scion xB, and upcoming Nissan cube — though for my money I’d also add the larger Pontiac Vibe and Toyota Matrix to the list.

ACCESSORIES

Kia said that the worst thing that could happen to the Soul is if it went “niche” — as in, if only computer repair technicians bought them. Helping their mission to get a Soul into the driveway of every buyer holding a check for 17-large is an aggressive marketing campaign that includes strange teaser commercials, and a boatload of accessories.

These include, but not limited to: a vinyl dragon that wraps around the Soul, a performance exhaust, lowering springs, q sport shifter, alloy wheel upgrades and chrome mirror caps. They hope buyers will be tempted into making their car a little more individual with dealer-installed upgrades, to further separate themselves from other owners.

CONCLUSION

My favorite Soul was the “!” trim, only available in cream white, navy blue, silver, or black. Its two-tone beige and black dash may not suit everyone’s tastes, nor will its houndstooth-patterned seats. After posting an image of the seats on Facebook, a friend commented on why Kia would use “leftover 80’s fabric.” I hadn’t the heart to say it had made a comeback…three years ago.

That’s the sort of discussion Kia hopes to generate with the Soul. Unless you sew your own seats, there’s no way to find a Toyota Matrix with such an eclectic interior. Compact cars are a more common sight on our roads, and the Soul seemed in my short drive to generate at least some positive attention from passing motorists.

A lady in her 50s even took the time to roll down her window and say the car was, “So cool.”

She was just about the age to appreciate mood lighting, too.

PLUS

Character Feels like a larger car inside Long options list

MINUS

Styling not for everyone Can Kia really sell, say, the image of a MINI-type vehicle? The base model is just sold to show people an “attractive price”

  • Jinglesrimbold

    where’s the spare tire!?!?

« Back
SWEEPSTAKES – OFFICIAL RULES, TERMS AND CONDITIONS

AutoGuide.com’s Monthly Overlay Newsletter Signup – By subscribing to our email newsletter, Entrants are eligible to win one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card (value of $100.00 USD). One (1) winner will be chosen every month at random and contacted by VerticalScope Inc.’s staff. *Amazon.com is not a sponsor of this promotion. Except as required by law, Amazon.com Gift Cards ("GCs") cannot be transferred for value or redeemed for cash. GCs may be used only for purchases of eligible goods at Amazon.com or certain of its affiliated websites. For complete terms and conditions, see www.amazon.com/gc-legal. GCs are issued by ACI Gift Cards, Inc., a Washington corporation. All Amazon ®, ™ & © are IP of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates. No expiration date or service fees.

1. NO PURCHASE OR PAYMENT OF ANY KIND IS NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN THIS SWEEPSTAKES. AGE/RESIDENCY RESTRICTIONS, VOID WHERE PROHIBITED.

2. PRIZE: One (1) Winner will be randomly selected every month to each receive: one (1) $100.00 Amazon.com Gift Card (the “Prize Supplier”). Total approximate retail value of all prizes is approximately $100.00 USD. Prizes are not transferable and no cash or prize substitution is allowed. Prize package is awarded "as is" with no warranty or guarantee, either express or implied.

3. ELIGIBILITY: From the time of entry through the final date of prize fulfillment, each contest entrant and selected entrant must be a permanent lawful citizen and resident residing in the 50 United States or the District of Columbia or in Canada, and be twenty one (21) years of age or older. VOID IN PUERTO RICO, THE U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS, IN ALL FOREIGN COUNTRIES OUTSIDE OF THE UNITED STATES, AND ALL OTHER U.S. TERRITORIES OR CANADA AND POSSESSIONS AND WHERE PROHIBITED OR RESTRICTED BY LAW. Employees, officers, directors, agents and representatives, of the Sponsor and the Prize Supplier and each of their respective parent companies, affiliates, subsidiaries, advertising and promotion agencies, promotion partners and any entity involved in the development, production, implementation, administration or fulfillment of this Sweepstakes, and the immediate family members (e.g., spouse, mother, father, sister, brother, uncle, aunt, nephew, niece, grandparent, in-law, daughter and son, regardless of where they live) and persons living in the same household (whether or not related) of such individuals are not eligible to participate or win. Only one selected entrant per household. All decisions of the Sponsor with respect to this sweepstakes are final. The Sponsor shall have the right at any time to require proof of identity and failure to provide such proof may result in disqualification from the Sweepstakes.

4. ENTER BY INTERNET: You may enter this sweepstakes via the Internet by logging onto AutoGuide.com and subscribing to our email newsletter via the pop-up overlay.

5. SELECTION OF WINNER: One (1) Entrant will be selected by random selection who have subscribed to our email newsletter. The winner may be announced publicly on AutoGuide.com and will be contacted by VerticalScope Inc.’s staff. The winner will be required to provide a mailing address (that is not a P.O. box) to receive the prize which will be shipped free of charge.

6. ODDS OF WINNING: Odds of winning a prize are determined by the total number of eligible entries received.

7. RESTRICTIONS: The prize package consists of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card with an approximate value of $100.00 USD. If prize cannot be awarded due to circumstances beyond the control of the Sponsor or Prize Supplier, no substitute prize will be awarded due to the unique nature of the prize. Sponsor and Prize Supplier shall not be liable to the winner or any person claiming through winner for failure to supply the prize or any part thereof, by reason of any acts of God, any action(s), regulation(s), order(s) or request(s) by any governmental or quasi-governmental entity (whether or not the action(s), regulations(s), order(s) or request(s) prove(s) to be invalid), equipment failure, utility failure, internet failure, terrorist acts, threatened terrorist acts, air raid, blackout, act of public enemy, earthquake, war (declared or undeclared), fire, flood, epidemic, explosion, unusually severe weather, hurricane, embargo, labor dispute or strike (whether legal or illegal) labor or material shortage, transportation interruption of any kind, work slow-down, civil disturbance, insurrection, riot, or any other cause beyond Sponsor's or Prize Supplier's control (collectively, "Force Majeure Event"). Sponsor shall not be responsible for any cancellations, delays, diversions or substitutions or any act or omissions whatsoever by the performers/events, other transportation companies or any other persons providing any of these services and accommodations to passengers including any results thereof such as changes in services or accommodations necessitated by same.

8. CONDITIONS: By entering the Sweepstakes, entrants agree to be bound by the Official Rules, Terms and Conditions and that Sponsor has the irrevocable right to use in perpetuity entrants' names, user names, likenesses, photographs, voices, home mailing address, biographical and prize information, and entry materials, without notice to entrants and without compensation or obligation, in any and all media now or hereafter known throughout the world, in any manner whatsoever, to advertise and promote Sponsor, its products and services, the Sweepstakes, and for any other purpose except where prohibited by law. Entrant waives the right to assert as a cost of winning a prize any and all costs of verification and redemption or travel to redeem said prize and any liability which might arise from redeeming or seeking to redeem said prize. Sponsor is not responsible for fraudulent calls or emails made to entrants not by the Sponsor. If the Sweepstakes is not capable of running as planned by reason of damage by computer viruses, worms or bugs, tampering, unauthorized intervention, fraud, technical limitations or failures, any Force Majeure Event or any other cause which, in the sole opinion of Sponsor, could corrupt, compromise, undermine or otherwise affect the administration, security, fairness, integrity, viability or proper conduct of the Sweepstakes, Sponsor reserves the right, in its sole and absolute discretion, to cancel, terminate, modify or suspend all or any part of the Sweepstakes, and to select a winner from among all eligible entries received by Sponsor up until the time of such cancellation, termination, modification or suspension, as applicable. Sponsor reserves the right in its sole discretion to disqualify any individual that (i) tampers or attempts to tamper with the entry process or the operations of this Sweepstakes in any manner, (ii) violates the Official Rules, Terms and Conditions or (iii) acts in an unsportsmanlike or disruptive manner, or with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass any other person. CAUTION: ANY ATTEMPT BY AN ENTRANT OR ANY OTHER INDIVIDUAL TO DELIBERATELY DAMAGE OR UNDERMINE THE LEGITIMATE OPERATION OF THIS SWEEPSTAKES IS A VIOLATION OF CRIMINAL AND CIVIL LAWS. SHOULD SUCH AN ATTEMPT BE MADE, SPONSOR RESERVES THE RIGHT TO SEEK CIVIL AND/OR CRIMINAL PROSECUTION AND/OR DAMAGES FROM ANY SUCH PERSON TO THE FULLEST EXTENT PERMITTED BY LAW. Any expenses and receipt and use of the prize and federal, state and local taxes and fees applicable in connection with the prize awarded are the sole responsibility of the winner. An IRS Form 1099 will be issued in the name of the winner for the actual value of the prize received. This Sweepstakes is subject to all federal, state and local laws of the United States. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED. Sponsor, Prize Supplier, and their respective officers, directors, parent companies, affiliates, subsidiaries and advertising and promotion agencies, employees, representatives and agents are not responsible for and shall not be liable for (i) any injuries, losses or damages of any kind caused by a prize resulting from acceptance, possession or usage of the prize, or (ii) printing, distribution or production errors. Sponsor or its affiliates may rescind any promotion found to contain such errors without liability at its or their sole discretion.

9. SPONSOR: The Sponsor of this contest is VerticalScope Inc. (the owner and operator of AutoGuide.com), 111 Peter Street, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario, M5V 2H1.

Subscribe to our email newsletter and automatically be entered to win.
*Restrictions apply. See offer for details

Get Breaking Automotive News, Reviews and Video in your Facebook Feed!

Already Liked