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2010 Kia Soul Sport Review

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)


Let’s Have Some Fun
By Steve Purdy
Detroit Bureau

Either you love them or you hate them – these ‘urban crossovers.’ We’re talking about the Scion xB, Honda Element and that ilk. This week’s tester is Kia’s new Soul, just getting to dealers now. Another entry, the Nissan Cube, is coming this month as well. Personally, I like them all.

How much soul has the Kia Soul? Plenty, I’d say.

Just look at this thing. To me it shouts, “Let’s go play!” The upswept side character line and the sloping roof extend back to accentuate the rear where a visual narrowing of the rear side windows looks different than the other little boxes. The wheels seem to extend out the rear exaggeratedly. The large rear lights are mounted high on the C-pillar. While the front styling is not particularly brash the scale and dimensions also reflect that urban, sporty crossover character.

Built on a substantially modified front-engine, front-wheel drive Rio platform, the new Soul sports a 100-inch wheel base and measures about 161 inches in overall length. By comparison, this makes it just a tad smaller than the current xB and a tad larger than the original xB. I found its size to be just about right. Not so big as to compromise efficiency. Not so small as to be cramped or limiting. Focused on an urban lifestyle it needs to be compact and agile, of course.

Two engines and two transmissions are available in the Soul. The base 1.6-liter unit makes just 122 horsepower and 115 pound-feet of torque while being rated at 26-mpg in the city and 31 on the highway. Our tester has the larger, 2-liter unit making 142 horsepower and 137 pound-feet of torque, rated at 24 mpg city and 30 on the highway. For just a couple of mpg penalty I’d opt for the bigger engine. We have the 5-speed manual transmission. An antiquated 4-speed automatic is available and a 6-speed automatic is planned for later. Acceleration is adequate, not exciting, under most conditions. I had a serious struggle getting up to speed on our cloverleaf freeway entrance. At full throttle I barely made it up to merging speed.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

This little car is as cool looking inside as it is outside. The red and black dash design stands out most. The steering wheel center and the larger expanses of the dash are an intense red. Our standard fabric seats are nothing special but comfortable and not cheap looking. The center stack is mounted high where the controls are easy to see and to reach. Above the stack a little cubby is covered by a door with a sliding button for a latch that requires practice to operate. I think it must be a tribute to skate boarders who have to practice to develop the technique of jumping with the board seeming to remain attached to their feet. This latch button must be shoved forward then released so delicately that the release button must seem to stick to your finger. Not a good design. The handy two-level glove box will accommodate a 15-inch laptop, we’re told.

Cargo capacity behind the back seat is a generous 19.3 cubic-feet. Flop down the seat and you’ll have 53 cubic-feet to fill with your stuff.

We put quite a few miles on the Soul this week so we gained a good sense of the whole car. Highway manners we found quiet good. It didn’t feel like a compromised little vehicle at all. In fact, on the freeway, at somewhat extralegal speeds, it felt like a larger and heavier car than it is. The soul only weighs 2,800 pounds. The special sport suspension tuning on our test car did not make it jumpy or squirrelly on any road surface. The conventional strut system in front and beam axle in the rear work very well together. Adding to the fun, of course, is the process of shifting it ourselves with a tactilely entertaining, well-placed shifter.

The new Soul comes in four trim levels. The base level starts at just $13,995 – or “under $14K” says the promotional material. A Soul+ (“Plus”) and Soul! (“Exclaim”) add some content, and finally, the Soul Sport – our test car – starts at $16,950 quite well-equipped. The Sport comes with the larger engine, 18-inch alloy wheels with low-profile (225/45R18) all-weather tires, special suspension tuning, unique front and rear fascias, fog lights and a bunch of other stuff. Our tester has only a $700 power sunroof as an option. With the $695 delivery charge it all adds up to just over 18-grand.

According to the Kia Web site they’re offering a special lease deal - $179/month for a 36-month lease.

Like all the other Kia and Hyundai vehicles the 10-year/100,000 powertrain warranty applies. They started that trend and now most manufacturers are finding they must follow suit and cover powertrains for that period.

We had a lot of fun this week, because the little Soul insisted on it.

Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved