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2012 Kia Soul Little Box Full of Fun>

For a few years now, popularity has been building for this new class of compact, economy vehicles that look like shiny little make-up cases or shoe boxes on wheels. The Scion brand seemed to blaze the trail and inspire Nissan and Kia to enter the niche. For 2012, Kia has made some nice improvement to its boxy Soul model — mechanically as well as to the vehicle’s spacious cabin.

The base model of the 2012 Kia Soul is powered by a peppy four-cylinder 1.6-liter engine that produces 138 horsepower. For those of us gals who enjoy the added sportiness of shifting gears, the Kia’s standard six-speed manual tranny is crisp and nimble, creating that fun, go-kart like driving experience. You’ll pay a bit more for the luxury of the 6-speed automatic, plus you may also choose to step up to the 2.0 liter engine that boosts the Kia’s total horsepower to 164. Fuel economy is comparable on both engines, with the smaller engine rated at 27 MPG city and 35 on the highway, and the 2.0-liter version is EPA rated for 26/34 MPG city and highway.

Thanks to that funny, square shape, the five-seat Kia Soul is surprisingly spacious on the inside, offering plenty of legroom and headroom for passengers. Even average sized adults can sit in the back seat comfortably. Cargo space isn’t too shabby either. Traveling with a party of four people in the Soul, you’ll still have a little more than 19 cubic feet of rear storage. Fold down the rear seats and the cargo space expands to 53.4 cubes, which will accommodate a pretty fair haul from Sears, JC Penney, or Nordstrom.

This nifty little box of fun packs in a nice list of standard features: Satellite radio for getting your music groove on; Bluetooth connection for chatting with your BFFs or that special guy while you’re on the fly; plus steering wheel mounted buttons for your audio system and cruise control settings. On the Soul’s Exclaim and Plus trim levels, you can upgrade to Kia’s UVO voice activated infotainment system.

While they may not look like the safest vehicles on the road, the Kia Soul gets high marks for its safety features. All trim levels include anti-lock brakes, traction control, and front and side airbags. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the Soul four stars (out of a possible 5) for frontal crash test and rollover risk, and five stars for side impact crash tests. The 2012 also protects your pocketbook, with its 5-year / 60,000 mile warranty, which includes 24-hour roadside assistance; plus an extended 10-year 100k mile warranty on the vehicle’s engine and transmission.

Sure it may look like a make-up case, but the 2012 Kia Soul is fun to drive and packed with nice comfort, convenience and safety features. Which shade is right for you? Click here for more details on pricing and options.

Written by: HerHighway Staff Contributor and Editor Christina Selter