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2012 Kia Soul Eco Ride and Review By Larry Nutson

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Kia Buyers Guide Specs, Prices, Reviews and Comparisons

2012 Kia Soul Eco Music to the Soul
By Larry Nutson
Senior Editor, Chicago Bureau
The Auto Channel

I’m a music-lovin’ guy and I do like to dance. I don’t have any music-lovin’ hamsters but I do have a Labrador retriever, named Java. Well, my dog Java liked the Kia Soul. The rear cargo area is a perfect space for her to hang out on the road with me. I too liked the Kia Soul with its very city-friendly compact exterior and yet very roomy interior.

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As far as boxy economy cars, compact crossovers or, better yet, small station wagons go, the Soul might just be the best around. The Soul has a good-looking exterior albeit somewhat funky and a nice interior all backed-up by a good driving experience. The 19.3 cuft of cargo space that expands to 53.4 cuft with the 60/40 split-fold rear seat down is great for those urban or suburban hauling needs.

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The Soul has been around since Spring 2009 and for 2012 has received a number of upgrades and improvements, including two engines and two transmissions. A 1.6-liter GDI four-cylinder rated at 138 HP is standard. A 2.0-liter four rated at 164 hp is also available. Both the manual and automatic transmissions have six-speeds. EPA fuel economy for the 1.6-liter is 27 city mpg and 35 highway mpg. The 2.0-liter is rated at 26 city and 34 highway. These ratings are for both transmissions.

My test car was the Soul Eco model with the 1.6L engine and automatic. Base price is $15,700 for this 4-door, 5-passenger, front-drive wagon. The Eco package is a $1000 option that features an Idle Stop and Go System, larger battery, low rolling resistance tires and a few other features. Kia says EPA ratings with ISG system are 29 and 36 mpg for the 1.6-L and 27 and 35 mpg for the 2.0-L.

I liked the ISG system…that turns off the engine when the Soul is not in motion…for all my around town Chicagoland driving with its many stop lights and stop signs, and the very often blocked side streets requiring a wait for a trash or delivery truck to move. The engine restarts quickly when the brake pedal is released. Ingress and egress is very comfortable with neither the need to climb up or slide down in to the seats. This design feature seems to help make the Soul very popular across many buyer age groups. The somewhat higher seating position is great for seeing the sights too.

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The mid-cycle refresh on the 2012 Soul brings design changes to the front and rear fascias, new projector headlamps, LED taillights, side mirrors and wheels. Interiors have been redesigned and upgraded with improved NVH reduction and ride improvements. Standard is tilt and telescoping steering wheel, Vehicle Stability Management and Hill-start Assist Control.

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The Soul is available in three trims – Soul, Soul+ and Soul! (exclaim). Prices start at $13,900 and include features like electric power steering, tilt and telescopic steering column, air conditioning, power windows, door locks and mirrors, available SiriusXM Satellite Radio with three months complimentary service and MP3 connectivity.

Stopping comes from 4-wheel discs with ABS, or course. And depending on model, the connection to the road is via 15, 16 or 18 inch wheel/tire combinations.

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At the recent 2012 Chicago Auto Show, the Kia Track’ster was unveiled. Based on the Soul, the Track’ster was designed in Kia’s California studio and may be a harbinger of things to come. Powered by a 250 HP turbocharged 2.0-liter engine the power gets to the ground via an electronically controlled four wheel drive system and a six-speed manual transmission. Six-piston Brembo brakes and 19-inch wheels finish things out.

The 2012 Soul has been named a Consumers Digest “Best Buy”, one of MSN Auto’s “Ten great cars for less than $20,000” and the 1.6-Liter engine has been named to Ward’s “2012 10 Best Engines” list.

The 2012 Soul is covered by Kia's warranty which offers 10-year/100,000-mile limited powertrain warranty, a five-year/60,000-mile limited basic warranty and a five-year/100,000-mile anti-perforation warranty. A five-year/60,000-mile roadside assistance plan also is part of the vehicle coverage.

Soul is Kia’s highest volume model and buyers have been coming from all walks of life. In 2011 Kia Motors recorded its 17th consecutive year of market share growth, in part to the largest increase of any major brand in perceived quality and the industry's highest brand loyalty ranking.

You might just want to visit one of Kia’s 740 dealers and get on the Kia Soul train.

© Larry Nutson