With its funky styling and spunky four-cylinder power, the compact Kia Soul is aimed at mainstream economy-car shoppers who want something different. Indeed, the Kia hatchback is avant garde in its approach, boasting a swept-back exterior design with sporty angles and a neat cabin filled with distinctive shapes and vibrant colors. It gives Kia an injection of, well, soul to complement its well-earned reputation for competence and value.
Current Kia Soul
Spread across three trim levels -- base, + and ! -- the Kia Soul compact wagon is feature-rich given its affordable price. Typical standard features include air-conditioning, full power accessories, cruise control, Bluetooth and a four-speaker sound system with satellite radio and an iPod/USB jack. Higher trims are eligible for niceties like alloy wheels, premium audio, power-folding sideview mirrors, a sunroof, automatic climate control, a navigation system, the Uvo hands-free electronics interface and a two-tone interior.
Under the hood of the base trim there's a 1.6-liter engine with 138 horsepower and 123 pound-feet of torque. It's paired to either a standard six-speed manual or optional six-speed automatic transmission. The Soul + and ! trims get a 2.0-liter four with 164 hp and 148 lb-ft of torque along with the same transmission choices. Fuel economy ratings are better than other boxy rivals but below average for a four-cylinder economy hatchback.
The Soul's cabin offers a nice balance between form and function, while the available two-tone houndstooth upholstery gives the Soul more flair than similarly priced competitors. Gauges and controls are well-placed and easy to use, even when fitted with high-tech options like the voice-controlled Uvo infotainment system that allows you to control your cell phone, iPod and more with voice commands. One of the side benefits of the Soul's boxy design is the abundant head- and legroom, even in the backseat.
The 2.0-liter engine is definitely the one to get, especially since fuel economy is on par with the smaller 1.6-liter. In terms of handling, the Soul doesn't offer the sort of zippy nature provided by some other small cars, but it isn't a soft snooze-mobile either. The ride quality is pretty agreeable, though models fitted with the admittedly sharp-looking 18-inch alloy wheels can feel harsh over bad pavement. Overall, we think highly of Kia's Soul, and recommend it to anyone looking for an affordable yet stylish economy car.
Used Kia Soul Models
The Kia Soul was introduced for 2010. In that first year, it featured rear drum brakes instead of the current car's four-wheel disc arrangement. The rear shock absorbers were also different, so the first-year Soul may not ride as well. For 2010 and '11 the 1.6-liter engine made 122 hp while the 2.0-liter produced 142 hp. Transmission choices were also limited to five speeds for the manual and four speeds for the automatic. For those first two years, Kia also offered a Soul Sport that featured a sport-tuned suspension.
For 2012 a number of important improvements took place, notably more powerful and fuel-efficient engines, new six-speed transmissions and revised steering. That year the Soul's styling was slightly updated inside and out and a number of new technology options, such as a navigation system, debuted as well.
Read the most recent 2013 Kia Soul review.
If you are looking for older years, visit our used Kia Soul page.