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July 29, 2009 > Auto Review: KIA Soul

Auto Review: KIA Soul

Kia introduced the all-new Soul in early 2009 as a 2010 model aimed at the "young and young-at-heart" crowd. It was designed by Kia's Southern California based design team and clearly hits the mark. It is cute, fun to drive and economical to buy and operate.

Our test car was a bright red Soul Plus, one of the middle of the line models. It was peppy to drive and had only a hint of torque steer when pushed hard. The automatic transmission functioned well, delivering power to the front wheels. It had a nice ride most of the time but was a little choppy over rough sections of the freeway.

Controls were a breeze to use in the well designed interior. Front seats were comfortable and would be good for long trips. The back seats were reasonably comfortable if the front seats were no farther than halfway back; otherwise the rear seat legroom went away. There is not a lot of rear storage space with the two rear seats upright but folding them gives you plenty of room for most items. Visibility was good except for some rear blind areas.

One of the great features was the sunroof. With the sunroof open, there was practically no wind noise and you could hear the radio without turning it way up. Speaking of radio, the Soul has speakers that light up in red. You can set them to pulse with the music or the light intensity can vary on its own. My wife and I didn't think much of this option, but I'm sure many people will like it.

The Kia Soul comes in four models. The base model is the only one with the 1.6-liter, 122 HP unit and a 5-speed manual transmission. The Soul Plus, Soul! and Sport all get a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder motor that develops 142 HP. You can get the 5-speed manual or a 4-speed automatic in these models. Our 2-liter motor developed 24 mpg in its city test and 30 mpg in it highway testing cycle. The 1.6-liter version produced 26 and 31 respectively.

All Souls continue to offer the same high level of standard safety equipment as on all Kia vehicles: power disc brakes, ABS, electronic brake force distribution, electronic stability control, traction control and tire pressure monitoring systems. Other safety items include front, side, and curtain airbags, and active front headrests.

Also, like all Kia models, the Soul gets the 10-year/100,000 mile power train warranty with 5-year/60,000 mile warranty on the rest of the vehicle. Then a 5-year/60,000 mile roadside assistance program is also part of the Kia protection package.

The Soul Base starts at an MSRP of $13,300. At the top end of the scale, the Soul Sport 5-speed is $16,950. Automatic transmission is an extra $950. An upgraded audio system that is standard on the Soul Sport is available on other models for $400. The Soul is a home run, hit out of the small vehicle ballpark of automobiles.

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