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Heels On Wheels : 2012 Kia Soul Review

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2012 Kia Soul

By Katrina Ramser
San Francisco Bureau
The Auto Channel

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.


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.

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