The reality is that the 2013 isn’t much different from last year’s model (read that road test here). It looks the same. It has the same four doors with a hatch in the back. It has the same 138 and 164 horsepower engines. It has the same boxy styling.
But while it was all the same, for some reason I liked it more. I think it’s because I knew what to expect and it delivered. Sometimes memories overinflate expectations, in this case I think my expectations were a little lower so I was pleasantly surprised.
I wrote once before that the Soul is really more about marketing than automotive design. As I drove the 2013 model around town, I decided that was a bit harsh. Yes, it has a quirky design. Yes the commercials spend more time showing dancing hamsters than talking about automotive achievements, but that’s OK. The Soul doesn’t pretend to be any more than it is. It’s an inexpensive car with 20-something styling that works just fine.
My test car had the 164 horsepower 2.0 liter engine. It’s not enough power to impress your friends, but then that’s not why they want to ride. They want to be seen in the cool box. It was, however, enough horsepower to get up to speed in reasonable fashion. I never felt underpowered (although I also wasn’t taxing it). The base model mileage is 25 city/30 highway. The bigger engine manages 23/28 thanks to an eco package that includes low rolling resistance tires and an Idle Stop and Go system that shuts off the engine at stop lights.
Inside it has plenty of headroom. The dash styling has a boombox-kind-of look. The door speakers have lighted LED trim that turns into a light show when you crank up the music. You can pick your color and then turn the volume up to eleven to watch the colors surge. While you have plenty of room when you fold down the back seat, there isn’t much cargo space behind the seat when it’s upright. Again, it’s not a problem, just don’t expect to carry four people and their luggage from the airport.
If you really want the look and don’t care about anything else, the base model price starts just at $14,400. The + model adds a couple thousand more and the ! version starts at $19,900 (that’s right they have a + and a !, kind of like Prince in his symbol phase). And don’t forget, it has Kia’s 10 year/100,000 mile warranty.
The Kia Soul knows exactly what it’s supposed to do. It’s there to put a smile on your face and attract new friends. Oh yeah, and it will also get you where you need to go. Just like last year.