When I drove the first generation 2010 KIA Soul in Florida during the IndyCar finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, I liked the double-box look of the car because it was the un-Scion xB, more rounded and certainly more playful – in particular with those KIA hamsters doing the promotions.
The one thing I didn’t like about the five-door hatch was its mechanicals. I expected a low-cost vehicle like this one to have fairly mundane underpinnings, the four-speed automatic mated to the 2-liter four-cylinder engine really let it down.
Fast forward to 2012 and the KIA Soul is a changed machine. The differences have only a little to do with aesthetics – on some models one gets LED running lights (yawn, I’m so bored by LEDs now) and upgraded interiors – KIA finally got the message and blessed the Soul with a new six-speed automatic transmission that has me cheering.
Still equipped with a 2L four-cylinder engine (a 1.6L is available on the base wagon), the new tranny boosts fuel economy to 26/34 mpg from the 12.7-gallon tank. Power is up from 142 to 164 horsepower on the first edition and the feel of the car is so much more connected than it used to be. I always thought the Soul was a contender in waiting – the wait is over!
The vehicle driven is the top of the line ! – yes, an exclamation point as nomenclature – which came with zero options. It capped out at $20,350 and was a soup-to-nuts vehicle for $20 large including destination.
The moss (green) exterior was quite calming; the gray cloth interior with a bit of checkerboards around the tops of the seats was easy to live with. I really like the gauge cluster with the 140-mph speedometer front and center, tachometer (6750 redline) to the left and temperature/fuel gauges to the right. Glad KIA includes a temp gauge.
Seats are comfortable on long and short drives; there is an adjustment for seat height and a one-touch driver’s window – down position only. The sunroof is one-touch back only, as well, which can be a problem when you’re trying to drive and close the roof simultaneously.
The rear seats are elevated and there’s plenty of space in the back, which folds with a 60/40 split. The hatch area is a bit on the small side and uncovered, but there’s netting to control whatever you put back there – and a nice hidden cubby below the floor.
I’m liking the 2013 KIA Soul, particularly in this high-zoot configuration. It’s a good around-town conveyance and, now that I’ve had four-plus hours in one thanks to #HerHighway, a great car over the road.
Written by: Anne Proffit HerHighway Contributor, Editor Christina Selter