2013 Kia Soul

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2010 Kia Soul: Review

This 2010 review is representative of model years 2010 to 2013.
By James Tate of MSN Autos
Rating: 9.0

Bottom Line:

The 2010 Kia Soul ushers in the era of “boxy-but-fun 2.0,” accomplished by ( USER: Are we missing a word here?) substance and style coupled with a strong price point. The competition should take notice.
Pros:
  • Looks that are plain cool rather than quirky cool
  • Loaded with Generation Y-approved features
  • Remarkable Infinity sound system
Cons:
  • Lack of 5-speed automatic
  • Notable highway road noise, especially with 18-inch wheels
  • No power mirrors on base trim

View Pictures:  2010 Kia Soul

Creating an economical, utility-packed vehicle that appeals to an image-conscious younger buyer is not an easy task. Many manufacturers have adopted the same inexplicably popular solution — building Scionlike "boxes." That said, the less than thrilling driving experience and niche styling offered by the existing urban crossover segment has left room for improvement. Enter the 2010 Kia Soul, which raises the bar where others left off, placing it at the head of the "box" set.

Model Lineup
If you're searching for a vehicle that can hold all 30 of your worldly possessions, your four best friends and your iPhone (while simultaneously fulfilling a need for self-expression), Kia believes it has a Soul for you. Choices include the base trim, Soul+ (Plus), Soul! (Exclaim) and Soul Sport. While the factory options are limited, each Soul comes loaded with great standard features and its own unique color scheme. If the factory arrangement does not suit your quest for individualism, a variety of dealer-personalized options is on the way.

The base version comes standard with almost all the amenities you would expect — and some you wouldn't — including power windows and door locks, a tilt steering wheel, a plethora of safety features, an AM/FM/CD/MP3/SAT player and USB/aux inputs with iPod connectivity.

The real value begins if you can afford to dish out an additional $1,650 for the Soul+, which adds an upgraded stereo with steering-wheel controls, 16-inch alloy wheels, body-color moldings and mirrors, keyless entry, power mirrors (oddly missing from the base trim), Bluetooth capability for hands-free cell phone operation, cruise control and an upgrade to the 2.0-liter engine. A 4-speed automatic transmission is optional on all 2.0-liter models for an additional $950.

For those seeking a bit more pizzazz, the line-topping Exclaim and Sport versions build off the Plus, adding largest-in-class 18-inch wheels, fog lights, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, and a top-notch Infinity sound system. The Exclaim takes the amenities one step further with a standard power sunroof (optional on the Sport and Plus). The Sport takes a different approach, distinguished by a sport-tuned suspension, unique front and rear fascia, hatch spoiler and metal interior accents.

Under the Hood
The Soul is offered with a choice of two class-standard DOHC inline 4-cylinder powerplants, both of which have Continuously Variable Valve Timing (CVVT). Available only on the base trim, the 1.6-liter variant produces a modest yet adequate 122 horsepower at 6300 rpm and 115 lb-ft torque at 6000 rpm. This matches that of the upcoming Nissan Cube, with the Soul touting a roughly 200-pound weight advantage.

Standard on all other 2010 Souls is the 2.0-liter engine, which makes 142 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 137 lb-ft of torque at 4000 rpm. With a big bump in low rpm output, this is the engine of choice for those seeking a bit more oomph.

All versions power the front wheels via a standard 5-speed manual transmission, with a 4-speed automatic available as an option on the 2.0-liter Soul+, Soul! and Soul Sport. Traction and stability control come standard at any trim level.

Inner Space
Inside, the Soul is Mr. Personality Plus. Each version has a unique color and scheme that will appeal to a different audience, with the red/black Sport interior striking the boldest statement. Combining substance with style, all include comfortable seats, well-placed and easy-to-use controls and a minimalist yet stylish dash. The hard plastic finishes leave a little to be desired, but are certainly on par for the class and are fitted extremely well. Upscale trim accents and exuberant colors on the Exclaim and Sport models elevate the Soul beyond its price tag.

Rear-seat passengers will find themselves with ample room, thanks to the high roof and wide stance. Kia says the rear seating position is slightly elevated to embrace the lounge concept, allowing a better connection between front- and rear-seat occupants.

Clearly aimed at the young, the highline Infinity sound system is offered with a speaker lighting system. Integrated lights can pulsate to the beat, emulating a genuine club experience while en route to the club. While the lighting may be subject to individual taste, sound quality far exceeds the price point. Together with iPod connectivity and Bluetooth capabilities, the Soul is very attractive to the high-tech mobile entertainment crowd.

Utility is key for any self-respecting box, and with 14 storage zones the Soul ensures the perfect spot for every item you simply can't leave home without. This includes a large divided storage unit built into the raised rear floor. The rear storage compartment does invade on the main cargo volume, leaving 19.3 cubic feet, or 53.4 cubic feet with the 60/40 split-folding rear seats down.

On the Road
On the hip urban streets of Miami, the Soul+ and Soul! feel right at home. The 2.0-liter engine shines around town with its flat torque curve and enough low-end grunt to make stop-and-go driving a breeze. Out on the highway, there is again little to complain about other than slightly above-average wind noise, common for the aerodynamically challenged box design. Gearing on the standard 5-speed manual takes full advantage of the power band for a sporty feel, despite a shifter that's slightly less vague than a car-industry CEO at a Senate hearing. The slightly sluggish 4-speed automatic could be the only glaring misstep in the face of the competition's better-suited 5-speed units.

Around town, the Soul is predictably taut, but not overly harsh. The ride can get busy at times over uneven city streets due to the torsion-beam rear suspension, a standard cost-cutting measure in the class. The Soul actually shows some promise on twisty back roads, which are not the typical habitat for anything referred to as a "box." Initial steering sensation is immediate, and — dare we say it — enjoyable. A bit more feedback midcorner, and the Kia might officially be fun to toss around. The meaty 225/45R18 performance tires on our Exclaim did not disappoint, offering above-average grip for hard corners and quick stops.

Mileage from this econobox is EPA-rated at a healthy 26 mpg city/31 mpg highway for the 1.6-liter base version, and 24/30 for our 2.0-liter testers, regardless of transmission choice.

Right for You?
The 2010 Kia Soul offers bang for the buck that's hard to beat with a base price of $13,300, and a fully loaded version tops out at less than 20 grand. With sights clearly set on the Scion xB, Kia has built a vehicle that is either on par with or a step ahead of the competition in nearly every category. It should be noted that Kia does not consider the Honda Fit direct competition. Whether you're a 23-year-old, a loft-dwelling DJ, or simply someone who appreciates fun, the 2010 Kia Soul is a feature-packed budget buy with an extra shot of style that definitely deserves a look.

James Tate cut his teeth in the business as a race team crew member before moving to the editorial side asSenior Editor of Sport Compact Car, and his work has appeared in Popular Mechanics, Automobile, Motor Trend and European Car. When not writing, Tate is usually fantasizing about a vintage Porsche 911.

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BB02 - 7/23/2014 9:57:03 PM