HEELS ON WHEELS: 2013 KIA SOUL REVIEW


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2013 Kia Soul


HEELS ON WHEELS
By Katrina Ramser
San Francisco Bureau
The Auto Channel

INTRO TO THE SOUL VEHICLE
When the Kia Soul arrived on the market three years ago, it struck a chord with compact car shoppers as one “square” deal for its boxy style, low cost and value-oriented packaging. Makers have since churned out interesting, fuel-efficient contraptions that use smarter powertrain technology, but the Soul still satisfies city dwellers with Kia apparently finding little reason to makes changes with their sure thing.

I drove a 2013 Kia Soul with the standard 164-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and a six-speed automatic transmission with an Active Eco System and electric power steering. Available in three quirky trims (some represented by punctuation marks), my top-of-the-line “!” trim came with the following standard equipment: a leather-wrapped steering wheel with controls; USB and auxiliary input jacks; Bluetooth; an upgraded Infinity audio system; UVO technology with HD Radio; a rear camera display; sunroof; fog lights; turn signal indicators in side mirrors; and eighteen-inch alloy wheels. Optional equipment included a $2,500 Premium Package that added navigation, push-button start, leather upholstery and heated front seats. Total vehicle price came to $22,800.

The Soul took on refreshed technology, powertrain and design enhancements last year with no new real achievements for 2013. Main competitors have expanded past typical culprits like the Nissan Cube and Scion xB, stretching to such compact contenders as the Fiat 500, Chevrolet Sonic and Hyundai Veloster.

HEELS ON WHEELS REVIEW CRITERIA

Stylish But Comfortable Results: The upgraded two-toned sand-and-black interior trim with hounds-tooth inserts will instantly individualize your cabin. Speakers are well-placed throughout. The Soul is not without its own unique (if not purposeless) ambiance feature often found on these urban shufflers – this one is located left of the steering wheel and allows drivers to meddle with lighting and music to capture a certain interior mood. For a liftgate with no power remote opening or closure, it folds down quite easily at the lightest touch, and cargo gets clever with an under-the-floor cubic divider for all your smaller traveling items. I’d advise more athletic accessories like a rear spoiler and bumper appliqué to remove the quirk and insert the sport.

Reliability & Safety Factor: The 2013 Kia Soul is a recommended vehicle with Consumer Reports and a Top Safety Pick with The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives it an overall rating of 4-Stars – it fairs best in side crash tests. Safety standards include dual front seat and full side airbags; anti-lock brakes with brake assist; ESC; electronic-brake distribution; traction control; tires pressure monitoring; front and rear crumple zones; side impact beams; LATCH; front three-point seat belts with force imitators; and Hill-start Assist Control.

Cost Issues: It’s nice to experience a fully loaded vehicle for less than $23k. Staring base price is $14,400. Just to throw a couple prices out at you, the 2013 Chevy Sonic starts at $14,785 and certainly doesn’t offer the same space. The Nissan Cube begins at $16,760.

Activity & Performance Ability: Handling is sharp, but the lackluster four-cylinder engine is loud and doesn’t handle the stress and strain of highway driving as well as it does city streets. The steering wheel radius is not what I expected with the addition of electric power steering not doing much to the overall feel. While rear visibly is a prized characteristic, the rear-quarter windows don’t offer any and cars can creep up in your blindside. Shifting does offer manual-style action, but paddle shifters at the wheel column would have brought some much-need fun.

The Green Concern: Fuel economy is where the Soul might need to make some changes in the next model or so – the Cube gets 27 miles-per-gallon city and 31 highway, with the Sonic hitting 29 miles-per-gallon city and the new milestone, 40 highway. The Soul gets 23-city and 28-highway for 25 combined.

FINAL PARTING WORDS
The 2013 Kia Soul remains a unique compact car choice for city dwellers who’ll appreciate the cargo capacity and technology upgrades with little cost attached – however, fuel economy gains with competitors and the noisy four-banger engine might have consumers questioning the vehicle in a way they didn’t three model years ago.

©2013 Katrina Ramser

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