2012 Kia Soul Review

Kia adds more character to a car that already had plenty

2012 Kia Soul Review

Kia’s history thus far can be divided into two parts, the time before Peter Schreyer, and the time since he joined the firm in 2006.


1. A new 1.6L 4-cyl delivers 138-hp and get a 27/35-mpg rating. A more powerful 2.0L generates 164-hp and is rated at 26/34-mpg.

2. Along with updated styling, the 2012 Soul gets an optional UVO voice-activated infotainment system.

3. The 2012 Soul is Kia’s second model to get the brand’s Idle Stop and Go (ISG) start-stop system. Models so equipped get 29/36-mpg for the 1.6L and 27/35-mpg for the 2.0L.

4. Soul models start at just $13,900.

Before Mr. Schreyer got to this Korean manufacturer, all its models had rather dull styling, even though on the engineering side they were improving at a steady pace. So what they needed were some attractive designs and that’s when Mr. Schreyer stepped in. His first design was a funky hatchback called the Soul.

The 2009 Soul was the first production Kia under the new design theme, and now pretty much the brand’s entire line-up has followed in its footsteps. Since the Soul has been in the market for a few years, it was about time it got some new clothes. So for 2012, the Soul has received styling updates, along with some new mechanical bits.

The new styling is not dramatically different from the original, think of it as just more enhanced, Hollywood style. So the headlights are bigger, the mouth (we mean grilles) are bigger, and fog lights have been enlarged as well. The side profile looks very similar to the old model, but from the rear, you’ll notice the new bumper and taillights and that’s about it.

2012 Kia Soul UVO Entertainment System 2012 Kia Soul Interior

Open the door, and while the interior hasn’t grown in its proportions, it does seem to be put together with slightly better materials now. The cabin gains a UVO entertainment system with a 7-inch touch screen that also comes with satellite navigation and an Infinity sound system. Mind you, these goodies we just mentioned are optional extras and will cost you quite a few shiny pennies.


Depending on your budget, you also get to choose between a 1.6-liter, direct-injected (GDI), four-cylinder engine that produces 138 hp (16 hp more than before), or a 2.0-liter, multi-port fuel injected (MPI), four cylinder engine, that now produces 164 hp (22 hp more than before). Torque for the GDI motor is 123 lb-ft, while the MPI motor produces 148 lb-ft. Both can be had either with a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission.

2012 Kia Soul Engine

Just like the recently launched Rio, the Soul is also outfitted with an “active ECO” system which cuts down on revs and tries to run the engine in its most efficient setting available. The Soul is also available with ISG, Kia’s Idle Stop and Go feature, which will shut the engine off when you come to a stop at a traffic light. This system, which is only available on the automatic equipped cars, won’t activate if the vehicle speed is below 5 mph between starts, so if you’re just crawling though traffic, it won’t keep starting and stopping. This prevents excessive wear and tear on the motor. It also won’t work if the car is on a 12-degree or steeper incline or decline.

Kia did have one Soul at the launch event with the ISG system, but sadly we never got to test it ourselves.


The driving dynamics of the new Soul are almost identical to the old one. That means a slightly choppy ride and plenty of road noise in the cabin, especially when on a concrete highway.

Thanks to its short wheelbase, it still goes around corners quite well and the extra grunt now available does pull you out of the corner with much more gusto. So while the Soul might not be the most comfortable vehicle you can buy, its quite fun for an urban commuter.

2012 Kia Soul Rear

It’s priced well also. The base Soul is yours from $13,900. The Soul + starts at $16,300, while the top of the line Soul! Starts at $19,600.

It’s cheap to run also. Regardless of the engine you choose, you’ll roughly see 27-mpg in the city and 35-mpg on the highway.


It might not be the most comfortable, or have the most commodious trunk, or be the quietest commuter, but it is entertaining to drive, it looks even funkier and gets both improved power and fuel economy. And with all that it does offer, it’s easy to forget the incredibly low sub-14K starting price, far less than most compact crossovers.

The Soul was and still is a funky urban commuter. It has plenty of personality and doesn’t apologize for it.

2012 Kia Soul Styling

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  • Cheryl Radall

    Help! I locked my keys in my Kia soul how do I get them out??

  • Hambone

    I had to go to the dealer to sign up. Boots on the ground.

  • Hambone

    Revised MPG numbers were published. From all the net discussion I’ve seen, the ECO does little or nothing to enhance MPG.
    It had no discernable results on my 1.6.
    It may work in the lab and on paper. Real world is different. It’s the real world.

  • Kerry4000

    You are very lucky to be so tall. Im only 5’7″ and the head rest/head restraint is VERY UN-COMFORTABLE. I have put in many seat cushions to make me taller so the head rest doesnt hit me in the back of the head and actually lean my head forward. I have neck pain after long rides and may have to get rid of the car

  • RedGeminiPA

    I’m not sure about the first generation Soul, but my ’14’s headrests are adjustable, up and down AND front to back. Just pull them forward the whole way, and they’ll spring back to the rearmost position. I find the rearmost position to be just right, and I’m 5’9″ tall.