Kia’s youthful and useful Soul joined the small boxy car market four years ago and, amazingly, it seems no less hip today.
The car’s rear sloping roofline and funky colors make it stand out from the other practical small hatches. My test drive was a “Moss” metallic greenish brown.
There are three Souls. The base starts at $13,900, the Soul+ starts at $16,300, and the tested Soul starts at $19,600. The test car added no options, just the $750 delivery cost, to reach $20,350.
The price has crept up a bit in the past four years, but then so has the horsepower. The Soul!’s zippy and quiet 2.0-liter CVVT I4 pumps out 164 horsepower, up 22 horses from the previous model. Plus the Soul! now features a six-speed automatic with Active Eco system as standard. A four-speed automatic was the norm in the first-year Soul.
The base Soul still comes with a 138-horse 1.6-liter I4, but the + and ! models include the 164-horse engine. It certainly moves the 2,778-lb. Soul to normal driving speeds, or highway speed, in short order. I was impressed with how quick and nimble the car is.
Handling is light and easy with quick turn-in at corners and only a touch of body lean. That light breezy feel gives the Soul such pleasant road manners. It feels wide and stable on the road.
With a 100.4-inch wheelbase, the car has a decent ride for a small vehicle, but can become somewhat choppy, like other small cars, on Milwaukee’s roughest streets. Railroad tracks and other more uniform bumps are no problem, and the Soul rides well on the freeway.
Braking is excellent thanks to 4-wheel disc brakes, the front being vented. Add to that traction and stability control, which are standard on the Soul. There’s also a hill-start assist control that helps keep the car from rolling backward when you start it on an uphill slope. That’s a particularly nice feature on manual transmission-equipped models.
Another plus for Soul is its gas mileage, the EPA rating this model at 26 mpg city and 34 highway.
I got 28.1 mpg in about 70% city driving. Going with the base model and its less powerful engine is a little better, rated 27 mpg city and 35 highway. That one also comes standard with a manual transmission. I only activated the Active Eco button a couple of times, which allows for earlier shifts to keep revs down and gas mileage up.
Soul remains youthful in looks and roomy and practical in reality. Headroom is generous and legroom is good. The rear seats split and fold flat to create a monster 24 cubic foot cargo hold, plus there is additional storage below the trunk’s flooring. With the rear seats up there is room for several grocery bags in back.
Those are big selling points for a new driver needing to haul belongings back and forth to school or move to a new apartment.
The test car featured a tan over brown dash and tan leather-like inserts in the doors that gave the car a ritzier look than expected. The mildly contoured seats were cloth, but trimmed at the top with a sporty houndstooth design that was just enough to give this a classy look. More of the patterned cloth and it would have been too much.
Matte-silver door handles and chrome rings on the big radio speakers in the doors enliven the interior’s look.
Soul’s dash is a model of cleanliness and clarity with three main gauges featuring simple white numbers and trip computer info, which is easily controlled via a dash button to the right of the steering wheel, which both tilts and telescopes and includes radio, cruise and phone buttons on the hub.
Two small knobs control radio sound and tuning and there are six buttons, three on each side of the audio unit.
Soul features a sunroof, sliding sun visors, two 120-volt outlets, leather-wrapped steering wheel, Sirius satellite radio, remote keyless entry, fog lights, automatic lights, a subwoofer for that stereo, alloy wheels and 18-inch tires, up from the base model’s 16-inchers.
Kia offers a 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty, a five-year, 60,000-mile basic warranty and roadside assistance for that same period.
Mark Savage welcomes your questions and comments regarding new vehicles at Savageonwheels@yahoo.com.