Road Test: 2012 Kia Soul


The Kia Soul is all about the look.

2012 Kia Soul

That doesn’t mean it’s a bad car. In fact, the Soul does exactly what it’s supposed to do just fine. It will take you and three or four of your friends to some hip place so you can enjoy the party. And that’s what this car is all about: Fun.

Just look at the marketing. Kia doesn’t spend lots of money buying commercials that tell you how much better their car is than all the competition. No, they go straight to the stuff that really matters: Dancing Hamsters. (Watch the video and try not to smile or tap your feet.)

Who doesn't love dancing hamsters?

Kia calls it an urban crossover. Sure. That labels fits it as well as anything. It’s an upright boxy shape that is supposed to look different from your neighbor’s aerodynamic sedan. The people who buy them want something a little quirky, and the Soul delivers. The body received a slight redesign for 2012, but it’s still the same basic look as in previous years. Consumers responding to JD Power’s owner satisfaction survey gave the 2011 model top scores in style, overall performance and design, as well as features and instrument panel. Again, it’s all about the look.

Back-end of the 2012 Kia Soul

You have your choice of two engines. One is a 1.6 liter, 138 horsepower motor, while the other is a 2.0 164 horsepower model. Having spent a week with the 2.0, I don’t think I’d want the smaller engine. 164 horses was just enough to get me around without making me feel that the hamsters were huffing and puffing. Interestingly, both get about the same gas mileage (26 city/34 highway for the 2.0, 27/35 for the 1.6)  so there’s not much advantage (beyond the initial price) in getting the smaller motor.  The horsepower numbers are up from the previous year which is a good reason to get the 2012 model. Another addition for 2012 is a six-speed automatic. I didn’t get a chance to drive the older four speed version, but other reviewers say the new transmission is a great improvement. Like all Kias, it has the 10 year/100,000 powertrain warranty along with its 5-year/60,000 standard warranty.

Plenty of tech, but the display is too small

Inside the car is… well… OK. Base price for a stripped out model is under $15,000, while my well equipped test car stickered at $19,600. The interior was worth the price. It’s not fancy, but it is pleasant. The dash reminds me of a boom box with big speakers prominently placed. It has just enough techie stuff so you can plug-in all your music. The door speakers even have a built-in light show that surges with the beat. I have to say I was a bit disappointed with the display in the center console. It’s just too small. The picture from the rear view camera just wasn’t enough on the tiny screen.

Kia Soul with flipped down seats

Flip the seats down in the back and you have plenty of room to carry stuff. On the other hand, if the seats are up, there is very little storage space in the back. There’s also no cover to hide your latest hip shopping purchases.

To be perfectly honest, while the Soul did everything it was supposed to, it didn’t really appeal to me. But then, it’s not supposed to. This car is designed for the 20-35 year old set. I’m not nearly hip enough.

OK, enough of the serious talk. Time for more Kia Soul Party Rock with LMFAO.

(Incidentally, if you don’t know LMFAO, you’re probably not in the Soul’s demographic…)



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