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Thread: 2010 Kia Soul

  1. #1
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Jul 2006
    The Land of The Edentulites

    2010 Kia Soul

    Small is in.

    Small - and inexpensive, especially. Throw in cute - and you've got something that might actually sell in a market that's as flatlined as Michael Jackson's pulse.

    Cue the 2010 Kia Soul.


    The Soul is a boxy little five-door hatchback runabout similar in theme to the got-there-first Scion xB but comes in several thousand dollars cheaper. It starts at $13,300 with 1.6 liter engine and five-speed manual transmission and tops out at $17,900 for a Sport with automatic and larger, 2.0 liter engine. Its most direct competition on price is the also-new Nissan Cube, which begins at $13,990 and runs to $19,370.


    The Soul is a new model for Kia, introduced as a 2010 model mid-way through 2009.


    Not a clone of the Scion xB or the Nissan Cube; has its own personality in addition to its funny shoes looks. Costs a lot less than the Scion; better warranty than the Nissan - and just about anything else, too. Choice of two engines. Fun.


    Kia nameplate not as confidence-inspiring as Blue Chip Scion (Toyota) or Nissan. Styling not universally appealing. Not so great gas mileage with optional 2.0 liter engine. Optional four-speed automatic (vs. more current five and even six-speed automatics) is dated technology for a 2010 model anything. Ridiculous (and unpronounceable) trim levels - the punctuation marks "!" and the mathematical symbol "+" ... yes, really.


    The Soul, unlike its main competitors (the Scion xB and Nissan Cube) offers buyers their choice of two available engines. The first of these - standard in the base Soul - is a 1.6 liter, 122 hp four-cylinder. This engine is paired with a five-speed manual transmission only. Performance with is engine is very solid for an economy-oriented runabout: 0-60 in about 8.7 seconds. Fuel economy is also very good: 26 city/31 highway, which beats the Cube (24 city/29 highway) and the xB (22 city/28 highway) while keeping pace with the xB 0-60 (8.5 seconds) and beating the Cube (9.5-9.6 seconds) by almost 1 full second.

    Higher-priced versions of the Soul (beginning with the awkwardly named "+" model) come standard with a larger, 2.0 liter engine with 142 hp and your choice of five-speed stick or optional four-speed automatic. Gas mileage dips slightly with the bigger engine to 24 city/30 highway - but this is still better than either the xB or the Cube while offering even more sprightly performance.

    All Souls are front-wheel-drive.


    If you stand a few feet behind the Soul you'll notice the wheels are set pretty far apart. This is called "track" and the Soul's is pretty wide for a compact-sized car. A wide track enhances stability and helps impart a "big car" feel, even when the car is pretty small. The Soul's ride is still a little over-firm and bouncy on less than perfect roads, but the wider track tamps down the side-to-side twitchiness you sometimes get with a really small car.

    Compared with its two chief rivals, the xB and the Cube, the Soul falls right in the middle. The Scion has sharper reflexes and feels a bit more "together" - but the Soul's a lot quicker and more solid-feeling than the Cube, which is out of its depth (and can be downright scary to drive) on the highway with traffic buzzing around it at 75-80 mph.

    To get the most out of the Soul - mileage-wise as well as fun-wise - I recommend the five-speed manual transmission. Not just for the Soul, either - but for any small car with a four-cylinder engine. Automatics work best with larger V-6 and V-8 engines that you don't have to rev up to extract decent acceleration from. This is why the Soul's smaller 1.6 liter engine isn't sold with an automatic at all. The larger 2.0 liter engine has the extra power to deliver acceptable performance/mileage with an automatic.

    But acceptable doesn't mean ideal. The fact that the Soul's optional automatic only has four speeds is a further negative. Virtually all 2010 model year automatics are five-speeds (or even six speeds) with the additional gearing imparting a crisper feel as well as better gas mileage potential.

    Having said that, the automatic's ok, if you do mostly in-city/suburban driving where stop and go driving at speeds between 20 and 50-something mph is the rule - and dealing with a clutch and having to constantly shift up, then down and back again would be a hassle.


    No matter which transmission you select, people will look as you roll by. Ugly, cool-looking or whatever you want to call it, it's noticeable - and that is the whole idea here. I personally think it's sharper-looking than the dumpy Scion xB (though not as neat-looking as the original "paddy wagon" xB) and infinitely preferable to the beaten-looking Nissan Cube. The Range Rover-esque side vents on the front fenders are maybe a bit much, but I like the pressed-in door swoosh and the contrast between the upward-canting line of the roof and the downward canting line of the upper door panels. The glass seems to get bigger as you move from front to back and the blacked-out B and C pillars enhance the effect. It'd be even neater if the rear quarter windows weren't fixed and could be opened up - but no luck on that score.

    The front end piece is a bit blubbery-looking - and the abruptly ending rear part of the car makes me wonder what would happen if a big SUV plowed into it... .

    The interior is done up with high impact contrast-color plastics (for example, the insides of the two-level glovebox and center console storage areas were bright orangish on my test car) intended to convey youthful enthusiasm. Ditto the available "mood lighting" system - an unusual feature that times LED lighting built into the door mounted speakers to the beat of the stereo. Turn it on and the speakers pulse as if alive with a red-orange glow that almost looks like a stovetop heating element on high. In fact, my wife - who is not hip to such things - thought the speaker might be on fire the first time she dealt with the Kia's Mood Lights.

    The younger crowds demands the latest in techno/audio stuff, too - so the Soul offers direct iPod/USB hook-up right there on the center console, along with an additional auxiliary jack/input. These are standard even on the base trims. One item that's noticeably not there, however, is GPS. It's not offered even optionally and the omission seems strange given the technology/gadget focused nature of this beast. You can, however, get both Bluetooth and XM/Sirius satellite radio.

    AC is standard on all trims, as well as power windows and locks. You can order up to 18-inch rims and a wide range of accessories (dealer and aftermarket) is available to customize your Soul.

    Cargo capacity is a weak point if you need maximum room. Both the xB and the Cube have bigger trunk areas and more total capacity with the second row seats down. Still, the Soul's tall roofline and 53 cubic feet of space (vs. 58 for the Cube) can swallow a full-size reclining chair (I took one home this way) although it had to be tied down and the rear lift gate couldn't be closed for the trip home.


    Kia is a subsidiary of Hyundai and both these Korean brands have risen from the choice of last resort for people who want new but really should be shopping used to purveyors of deservedly respected, high-value machines that embarrassingly undercut their rivals (especially the name brand Japanese) on What You Get For Your Money. The $13k base trim Soul has as much or more content (features/equipment/power) than the nearly $16k base Scion xB and while the Nissan Cube is attractively priced ($13,990 to start) it's pitifully underpowered (0-60 takes almost 10 seconds). And neither the Scion nor the Nissan offers anything like the warranty coverage the Kia does: 10 years/100,000 miles on the engine/powertrain, five years and 60,000 on the whole car vs. three years/36,000 miles for the xB and Cube (and a mere five years/60,000 miles on their powertrains).

    All Souls - including the $13k version- come with ABS (disc/drums on the base model; four-wheel discs on all others), front seat side-impact air bags and curtain air bags and electronic traction/stability control.


    This is a fun, cheap interesting ride that's perfectly timed for the dismal times we're dealing with. We ought to be on our knees with gratitude that unlike in Recessions Past, the economy cars of this recession aren't completely bleak, utterly Soul-less little crapboxes we buy because we have to. Bad economy or not, this little Kia is something you'd buy because you want to.

    And that's the best recommendation I can give.
    Last edited by Eric; 06-29-2009 at 08:48 AM.

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