Update (5.26.2019) - Beware the A/C drainage hose. It is made too narrow and can clog, causing the windshield to fog up in seconds. This caused a few dangerous driving situations for me. My local dealer said that many Kia Souls had come in with this problem. It took them 5 minutes to clear it. You can get this done at the same time as an oil change.
In the late summer of 2015, my 2000 Honda CR-V, which had performed flawlessly for 15 years, began to have some issues and I commenced searching for its successor. I was set on purchasing a 2015 Honda Fit, but in August the model and color (red) I wanted wasn't available in Northern California, so I considered my Plan B - a Kia Soul. I had started to notice these quirky-looking, boxy vehicles after the redesign and I was quite attracted to the refreshed look. The reviews across numerous sites were mostly very favorable and I decided to visit Kia of Marin for a test drive. I immediately noticed how solid the vehicle felt and similar to the CR-V, I really liked the sensation of sitting high vs. the Fit, which has a lower profile. Overall, I was very impressed and when I inquired about the availability of an Inferno Red Plus, the dealer was able to get one in 2 days. What really cinched the deal was Kia's $2,000 discount and the availability of a 1.9% financing deal for 66 months with no money down. Bottom line - I drove out in a new Soul Plus for less than 19K, including tax and license. Seems like a great value.
Driving experiences - After 5,000 miles here is what I have learned:
First, I had a few negative early impressions, which have moderated or reversed over time: 1. Blind spot on the passenger side - Due to the rather thick pillars where the tail lights reside, I had to get used to a significant blind spot, which requires me to position the side mirror in such a way that I can see a car in that blind spot and I do a visual check every time I make a lane change to the right. On the driver's side, I have no problem. I don't like the blind spot, but I deal with it. 2. No CD Player - As an older driver accustomed to having CD's in the car, this was going to be a deal-breaker for me but I decided to open my mind to using a flash drive and plugging into the USB port. Good move! I don't miss the CDs and the clutter at all and I can put so much music on a flash drive. It's really a no-brainer. 3. No spare tire - That's just silly and this "kit" they provide is a joke. Pay the $250 or so for the spare tire assembly unless you love repairing them on the side of the road. 4. Back seat doesn't lay flat when folded down and falls about 6" short of the front seat. As a percussionist with lots of drums and other gear, I thought this would really suck for me, but it was a false alarm. I get all of my instruments into the vehicle with no problem and I use the "gap" between the seats to store skinny items like cymbals, mic stands etc.
Driving - The Soul drives smoothly and confidently and I don't experience the "vague" steering that many reviewers have noted. It handles curves just fine and gets up hills (many in Marin County where I live) without undue effort and doesn't roll back when stopped on a hill, which is a revelation. Breaking is good enough and power is more than adequate with the 2-liter engine.
Gas Mileage - This is a weak point of the Soul as my combined mileage is less than 22 in Eco mode, not the bogus 26 MPG claimed on the sticker. However, since I monitor the MPG on every trip, if I stay on the freeway, the car will return roughly 31 MPG. It's on the side streets and hills where it falls back to about 18 MPG.
Stereo System - Since I didn't get the upgraded audio package, I settled for replacing the front component speakers and the rear coaxial speakers with new Hertz speakers and the sonic experience improved dramatically.
Comfort - I would give this 5 stars if it weren't for the annoying positioning and hard materials of the headrests. The headrest feels really uncomfortable when I lean into it. The seats are very comfortable and I feel like I have plenty of room as a driver and I know passengers feel quite comfortable as well.
Other - All the doors and the rear gate open effortlessly, making it a breeze for me to get all my gear in and out of the vehicle. Beware of the key fobs. I didn't like the idea of carrying 2 bulky key fobs in case I misplaced one and the dealer had no suggestions for how to get a simple spare key made. After countless calls to Kia and to locksmiths who wanted to charge up to $200 to make one for me, I found a local locksmith who used a Lexus blank to make me a spare that I can put in my wallet which opens the doors and starts the engine ... for $35. I highly recommend this option if you are like me and never want to be locked out.
Overall, this is a very fun car to drive and a great value to boot, especially if you can wait for a year-end deal. It's quirky, but I can't think of a better option in this price range.