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Heels On Wheels : 2012 Kia Soul Review


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2012 Kia Soul

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

INTRO TO THE SOUL VEHICLE
The Kia Soul is proof fun things do come in small – and square – packages. This five-passenger mobile device offers unique urban styling and peppy performance at incredible prices. Numerous improvements have sharpened up the Soul’s drivetrain technology and interior conveniences for a compact that knows how staying competitive means perfecting value.

I drove a 2012 Kia Soul with the upgraded 164-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and a six-speed automatic transmission with an Active Eco System. Available in quirky trims represented by punctuation marks, my top-of-the-line “!” trim came with the following standard equipment: eighteen-inch tires; remote keyless entry; Bluetooth connectivity; UVO infotainment system; a rear camera display; Satellite radio; leather-wrapped steering wheel with controls; sunroof; and heated mirrors. Vehicle price came to $19,600. Yet a few options such as a $2,500 Premium Package (navigation system, push-button start, leather upholstery, and heated seats), $50 rear bumper appliqué, and a $50 cargo net brought the price to $22,220.

The 2012 model gets a refreshed exterior on the outside and a new audio system for the inside. In regards to drivetrain, throw in an all new six-speed transmission, a gasoline direct-injection engine, and Idle Stop and Go (ISG) technology. Main competitors are an assortment of other compact boxy rides, including the Nissan Cube, Scion xB and Honda Element; but can extend to the new Fiat 500.

HEELS ON WHEELS REVIEW CRITERIA

Stylish But Comfortable Results: Inside, the Soul feels roomy with a surprising amount of head and legroom. Pop in a rear car seat, and your front passenger will still find the dimensions acceptable, unlike what’s experienced in the Fiat 500 or MINI Cooper. The touch-screen graphics are vivid and modern, with the voice-recognizing UVO system (standing for “Your Voice”) being very user-friendly and streamlining your calls, text messages and music from all your media sources in seconds. The liftgate has a wide girth for loading, unlike some competitors. You get much more cargo room with the rear seats folded down than your typical compact, which is a major selling point with these taller, boxy rides.

Reliability & Safety Factor: The Soul features a nice list of safety standards: 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. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) lists the Soul as a Top Safety Pick. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives it an overall rating of 4-Stars, fairing best in side impact crash tests.

Cost Issues: A base price of $13,900 is hard to beat – so is just $22,220 for a completely decked out Soul ! trim with all the bells and whistles possible. A base Cube starts at $14,980 and a base Scion xB at $17,030.

Activity & Performance Ability: The Soul’s cutting edge drivetrain represents where all compacts currently need to be. Fuel-saving ISG technology automatically turns off the engine if the vehicle is not in motion and restarts when the brake pedal is released. A second 1.6-liter engine with gasoline direct injection leaps from last year’s 122 to 138 horsepower with resounding speed and excellent fuel consumption at 27 miles-per-gallon city and 35 highway. At highway speeds, I detected a noticeable a reduction in noise, vibration and harshness, or NVH, qualities – a common issue with these smaller cars.

The Green Concern: The Soul’s fuel economy estimates stretches to 29 miles-per-gallon city and 36 highway with the Eco Package, which features low-rolling-resistance tires and the ISG technology. If you’re looking for something better, the Ford Focus SE trim offers a Super Fuel Economy package that includes unique aero wheel covers, low-rolling resistance tires and rear disc brakes to achieve 40 highway.

FINAL PARTING WORDS
An excellent fully loaded price, cutting edge drivetrain technology and a retro compact shape means the 2012 Kia Soul is a hard to choice to pass up. Go ahead and test out the other boxy rides, but chances are this ride is your perfect “Soul” mate.

©2012 Katrina Ramser