2012 Kia Soul Review

Pros & Cons

  • Loads of available features
  • top crash scores
  • user-friendly controls
  • ample passenger space
  • funky style
  • low price
  • long warranty.
  • Limited cargo room versus competitors
  • noisy and busy highway ride.
List Price Range
$3,995 - $7,495

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Edmunds' Expert Review

The 2012 Kia Soul brings hipster styling and a fun-to-drive nature to the realm of the practical hatchback.

Vehicle overview

There are a lot of adjectives we could use to describe the 2012 Kia Soul, but "boring" isn't one of them. In fact, this quirky-looking compact hatchback gets even more interesting this year, with a number of upgrades that start with refreshed exterior styling. The general look remains, but there are new details like flashy LED running lights on the ! model. Yes, the whimsical "!" and "+" trim levels live on.

The interior gets similarly subtle updates, most of which bolster the Soul's already impressive lineup of available features. The steering wheel now telescopes, the materials are a bit nicer, the optional seat heaters get an additional setting and a navigation system is offered for the first time. As always, these items benefit from Kia's user-friendly controls.

More noteworthy are the Soul's mechanical upgrades, including a direct-injection 1.6-liter engine that's both more powerful and more fuel-efficient. The 2.0-liter four-cylinder has also been given a 22-horsepower shot in the arm, and both engines benefit from new six-speed manual and automatic transmissions.

The result is better fuel economy, though it still falls short of some other compact hatchbacks. Still, a new Eco package available on automatic-equipped models should help save fuel, featuring stop-start technology that automatically shuts down the engine when you come to a stoplight and restarts it as soon as you lift your foot off the (now firmer and more reassuring) brake pedal. Another change concerns the steering, which is now electrically assisted.

The 2012 Kia Soul's blend of style and practicality -- not to mention its affordable price tag, long list of standard and available features and 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty -- make it one of our top choices. Only if cargo capacity is a top priority would we suggest checking out the Scion xB. And if fuel economy or handling are at the top of your list, there are a number of other similarly priced small hatchbacks that might work out better, including the Chevy Sonic and Ford Fiesta. The Nissan Juke is also similarly sized, priced and equipped if you're considering one of the pricier Souls. But for a car that's both funky and practical, it doesn't get much better than the Soul.

2012 Kia Soul models

The 2012 Kia Soul is a four-door hatchback available in three punctuation-inspired trim levels: base, + and !.

The base model's list of standard equipment includes 15-inch steel wheels, power locks and mirrors, air-conditioning, cloth upholstery, a 60/40-split-folding rear seat, a trip computer, a tilt-and-telescoping steering column, and a four-speaker sound system with CD player, satellite radio, an auxiliary audio jack and an iPod/USB audio interface. When equipped with the optional automatic transmission, the base Soul gains keyless entry, rear privacy glass, cruise control, a height-adjustable driver seat and Bluetooth phone connectivity.

Automatic-equipped base Souls can also be fitted with the 1.6 Eco package, which adds fuel-saving features like a stop/start system, low-rolling-resistance tires and an upgraded battery, along with additional items that include 16-inch alloy wheels, power mirrors, illuminated vanity mirrors and additional speakers.

Besides the Eco package's fuel-saving features (available separately), the Soul + includes all the extra items above along with heated mirrors, dash-top and center console storage bins, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and some metal-look interior trim. The Audio Upgrade package adds automatic headlights, a rearview camera, the Uvo hands-free electronic interface and an eight-speaker Infinity sound system with HD radio and tricolor speaker lights.

The top-of-the-line Soul ! adds 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, foglights, LED daytime running lights and taillights, a sunroof (optional on Soul +), houndstooth pattern two-tone upholstery, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and the Audio Upgrade package. The Premium package adds keyless ignition/entry, leather upholstery, heated front seats, automatic climatic control and a navigation system with real-time traffic.

2012 Highlights

The 2012 Kia Soul arrives with a number of notable upgrades, including more powerful and fuel-efficient engines, new six-speed transmissions and revised steering. Styling has been updated inside and out, and there are a number of new technology options.

Performance & mpg

The front-wheel-drive Kia Soul is offered with two different engines. The base Soul gets a new 1.6-liter four-cylinder that produces 138 hp and 123 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard (includes a hill holder) and a six-speed automatic is optional. EPA mileage estimates for the 1.6-liter engine are 25 mpg city/30 mpg highway and 27 mpg combined regardless of transmission choice. These numbers rise to 26/31/28 with the 1.6 Eco package, which features low-rolling-resistance tires and auto-start/stop technology similar to that found in hybrid powertrains.

Soul + and ! models get a gutsier 2.0-liter four-cylinder that puts out a healthy 164 hp and 148 lb-ft of torque. The Soul + gets the same transmission choices as the base model, but the Soul ! is automatic only. In Edmunds performance testing, a Soul ! went from zero to 60 mph in 8.8 seconds -- a strong time for this class. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 23/28/25 with the automatic and 24/29/26 with the manual (or if equipped with the Eco package).

Safety

Standard safety equipment for all 2012 Kia Soul models includes four-wheel antilock disc brakes with brake assist, stability control, traction control, front-seat side airbags, side curtain airbags and active front head restraints. Hill-start assist is also now standard across the lineup.

In Edmunds brake testing, a Soul ! came to a stop from 60 mph in a strong-for-its-class 120 feet.

In government crash tests, the Soul earned an overall score of four stars (out of five), with four stars for overall frontal impact protection and five stars for overall side impact protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the Soul its highest score of "Good" in its frontal offset, side-impact and roof-strength tests.

Driving

With significantly more power on tap, driving the 2012 Kia Soul gets more enjoyable and less anxious when merging onto a freeway. However, while engineers managed to extract some extra oomph out of the 1.6-liter engine, we still think most buyers will be happier with the gutsy 164-hp 2.0-liter, especially since the difference in fuel economy is so small. Both the new six-speed manual and automatic transmissions are a noticeable improvement over the units they replace.

In terms of handling, the Soul doesn't offer the sort of zippy nature found in the Chevy Sonic or Ford Fiesta, but it isn't a soft snooze mobile like the Nissan Cube. Its new steering for 2012 is also more responsive than before and lighter in parking lots, while its brake pedal has a firmer, more reassuring feel. Minor tweaks to the suspension have improved ride quality somewhat, though models fitted with the admittedly sharp-looking 18-inch alloy wheels still feel harsh over bad pavement.

Interior

Just because the 2012 Kia Soul is long on style doesn't mean it's short on practicality. With its modern look and pronounced center stack, the passenger cabin offers a nice balance between form and function. Upgraded materials and additional sound deadening for 2012 give the interior a higher-quality feel, while details like the available two-tone houndstooth upholstery give the Soul more flair than similarly priced competitors.

Gauges and controls are well-placed and intuitive to use, even when fitted with new high-tech options like the voice-controlled Uvo infotainment system that allows you to control your cell phone, iPod and more with voice commands. The optional Infinity audio system's lighted speaker trim rings that flash to the beat of the music are admittedly a gimmick, but they're still kind of fun.

One of the side benefits of the Soul's boxy design is the abundant head- and legroom, even in the backseat. Behind those rear seatbacks are 19 cubic feet of cargo room, which grows to 53 cubic feet with both sections of the 60/40-split rear seatbacks folded down. While these numbers are on par with many competitors, folks who need maximum schlepping capacity should compare them to the Scion xB's cavernous 70-cubic-foot cargo hold.


Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the 2012 Kia Soul.

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Most helpful consumer reviews

Great "Around Town" Car
jra8,04/03/2012
Definately a fun car to drive. Bought as companion to Chrysler Van, whose capacity I need about 20% of the time. The Soul is perfect fo the 80% of the time it is 1 or 2 people, and a brief case or gym bag. I am getting 31-33 MPG around town (1.6lengine,automatic). I use ECO mode about half the time. Love how quick and agile it is. Interesting that highway mileage has been well below estimates. At 70 MPH, RPMs are 2800. Need to be at about 55 to get advertised MPG. Overall, very happy after 1000 miles.
in my soul
Jeffrey,07/23/2015
+ 4dr Wagon (2.0L 4cyl 6A)
I bought this car for my wife and like every other car, I end up with it when she outgrows it. I am a car guy, owning a chevelle convertible, camaros and a nova, this is not a car I would go looking for. But I like it. It is easy to work on. I changed the brakes before noon last Saturday. The oil and filter are right up front. It drives tight with a nice build of torque through the low to mid range. Mine is the + model which has every useful piece of tech in it but no screen, which in my opinion is far worse than a physical nob. The false speaker in the middle is a terrible design since it is a focal point of the dash, I will figure out something creative to do with that. Good car.
Nice Set of Wheels
Ed Ross,01/02/2016
! 4dr Wagon (2.0L 4cyl 6A)
We had been married 44 years. For the first time in our marriage, my wife asked for a specific car, the Soul! I said, a what? We usually buy a new car ever year or two; I give her the new one and I use the older one in my sales job. My wife loves this car. She is 5'2" and it fits her perfectly. It sets higher so she can see fine and this makes getting in and out much easier for her. We have had no problems with the car. It has excellent pick up and stops well. It will seat five but one of them had better be a child in the back seat! Our only complaint is that the ride is harsher than need be. I understand the new ones are a bit softer. I don't like not having a spare tire so I got one at the junk yard. I change my own oil and it is easy to do on the Soul. We bought this car with 3000 miles on it, the previous owner felt is was too small for his family but it is perfect for us. All our kids are grown. Gas mileage is a little less than I had hoped for. At 65 mph and on the flat Interstates in IL, I cannot get over 30 and I milk a car for gas mileage. I could get 36 on our 2010 Malibu on the same roads. I didn't like that it did not have "driving lights" so I bought OEM fog lights on eBay and installed them so that they are on whenever the ignition is on. I do like the fact that after an amount of time, the car will automatically turn off any lights left on after you turn the car off; headlights, dome light, etc. My wife and I would highly recommend the Kia Soul. We have the "Plus" model. We have only had one recall and that was optional. (UPDATE) This car is amazing, still no problems and my wife loves it. We almost traded it for a 2016 Soul but this one is just too nice to give up. Go buy one. (UPDATE) 1/16/2018 This car continues to impress us. No problems what so ever. Over 47K miles now on it. (UPDATE) 1/16/2020 Amazing car, now over 50K and not one problem or issue with the car. We had to replace the battery in the fall and put new tires on it. As the car has gotten more miles on it, we can now get up to 33 mpg on flat highways at 65 mph. Highly recommended vehicle.
Beware the Tires
smartshopper99,07/05/2012
A good fun car. Good gas mileage. Lots of room. Easy to maneuver. Nice visibility. Service is horrible. No spare tire! Tires are lousy. I don't think they're safe. Two flats in less than six months normal driving. Set $600 back to put decent tires on, won't believe how it improves the ride.

Features & Specs

See all Used 2012 Kia Soul features & specs

Safety

NHTSA Overall Rating

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration offers independent analysis.
  • Frontal Barrier Crash Rating
    Overall4 / 5
    Driver4 / 5
    Passenger4 / 5
  • Side Crash Rating
    Overall5 / 5
  • Side Barrier Rating
    Overall5 / 5
    Driver5 / 5
    Passenger5 / 5
  • Combined Side Barrier & Pole Ratings
    Front Seat5 / 5
    Back Seat5 / 5
  • Rollover
    Rollover4 / 5
    Dynamic Test ResultNo Tip
    Risk Of Rollover15.1%
IIHS Rating
The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety uses extensive crash tests to determine car safety.
  • Side Impact Test
    Good
  • Roof Strength Test
    Good
  • Rear Crash Protection / Head Restraint
    Good
  • IIHS Small Overlap Front Test
    Not Tested
  • Moderate Overlap Front Test
    Good

More about the 2012 Kia Soul

Used 2012 Kia Soul Overview

The Used 2012 Kia Soul is offered in the following submodels: Soul Wagon. Available styles include + 4dr Wagon (2.0L 4cyl 6A), 4dr Wagon (1.6L 4cyl 6A), 4dr Wagon (1.6L 4cyl 6M), ! 4dr Wagon (2.0L 4cyl 6A), and + 4dr Wagon (2.0L 4cyl 6M).

What's a good price on a Used 2012 Kia Soul?

Price comparisons for Used 2012 Kia Soul trim styles:

  • The Used 2012 Kia Soul + is priced between $3,995 and$7,495 with odometer readings between 111184 and129024 miles.

Shop with Edmunds for perks and special offers on used cars, trucks, and SUVs near Ashburn, VA. Doing so could save you hundreds or thousands of dollars. Edmunds also provides consumer-driven dealership sales and service reviews to help you make informed decisions about what cars to buy and where to buy them.

Which used 2012 Kia Souls are available in my area?

Shop Edmunds' car, SUV, and truck listings of over 6 million vehicles to find a cheap new, used, or certified pre-owned (CPO) 2012 Kia Soul for sale near. There are currently 5 used and CPO 2012 Souls listed for sale in your area, with list prices as low as $3,995 and mileage as low as 111184 miles. Simply research the type of car you're interested in and then select a used car from our massive database to find cheap prew-owned vehicles for sale near you. Once you have identified a used vehicle you're interested in, check the AutoCheck vehicle history reports, read dealer reviews, and find out what other owners paid for the Used 2012 Kia Soul.

Can't find a used 2012 Kia Souls you want in your area? Consider a broader search.

Find a used Kia Soul for sale - 6 great deals out of 13 listings starting at $23,093.

Find a used Kia for sale - 11 great deals out of 20 listings starting at $16,124.

Find a used certified pre-owned Kia Soul for sale - 9 great deals out of 10 listings starting at $24,325.

Find a used certified pre-owned Kia for sale - 7 great deals out of 20 listings starting at $15,487.

Should I lease or buy a 2012 Kia Soul?

Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.

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Check out Kia Soul lease specials