New & Used Kia Soul: In Depth
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The Kia Soul is a hatchback with a strong visual personality--one that's given it a leg up in establishing its new nameplate. While other boxy vehicles like the Nissan Cube and Scion xB have withered on the sales vine, the Soul has become one of Kia's most popular vehicles in the U.S.--and that's in part because of its kicky look. The Soul is also the first and only Kia model to be sold with an all-electric version in the U.S., albeit in very small quantities.
First shown in production form at the 2008 Paris auto show, the Kia Soul was designed at the company's U.S. headquarters near Irvine, California, credited to Mike Torpey under the design leadership of Peter Schreyer.
A redesigned version of the Soul emerged in 2014, with more power and a much better interior. Engine options include a pair of four-cylinders, with manual and automatic transmissions on offer. Crash-test ratings have improved on the new Soul as well. The styling has been modernized without losing the flavor of the original; it's slightly more aggressive looking while maintaining the friendly bulldog look.
The latest version also is now offered as an electric car--the Kia Soul EV, with 93 miles of battery-powered driving range. The Soul EV is available initially in California; other states will be added in 2015. Aside from the addition of the EV model, the Soul remained mostly unchanged for the 2015 model year.
It's assembled in South Korea, but there's speculation that the Soul will be the first vehicle Kia assembles in a new plant the company will build in Mexico.
Kia Soul history
The Soul went on sale in 2009 with a Web-driven marketing campaign that featured hamsters driving, and borrowed characters from Nickelodeon's lineup of cartoons. But the Soul is a more serious effort than that all seems. The hatchback was pitched directly against the likes of the Toyota Matrix, Nissan Cube, Scion xB, Chevrolet HHR and Chrysler PT Cruiser, as Kia tries to establish a larger foothold among younger drivers looking for a dash of style.
Two engines and two transmissions were available in the 2010 and 2011 model years. A 1.6-liter four-cylinder with 122 horsepower was teamed with a five-speed manual in base models, and was rated at 26/31 mpg. More common was a version powered by a 2.0-liter four with 142 hp, which offered an optional four-speed automatic; the EPA rated this combination at 24/30 mpg.
Kia revamped the Soul's engine offerings for 2012 while also giving it a light once-over inside. A new 1.6-liter four-cylinder with 135 horsepower and 121 pound-feet of torque took over as the base engine, while the optional engine became a 2.0-liter four making 164 horsepower and 143 pound-feet. A six-speed manual was standard, with a six-speed auto as an option on some trims and standard on others. Fuel economy for either transmission is rated at 26/34 mpg city/highway. The Soul continued to be a confidence-inspiring little runabout, if not wholly exciting on the road.
The 2012-2013 Kia Soul is one of a set of vehicles found to have overstated fuel-economy numbers. Kia initially submitted figures of 27/35 mpg and 30 mpg combined (or 26/34/29 for the larger 2.0-liter engine) to the EPA, which allows automakers to self-certify fuel economy. On a confirmation check of several vehicles, the EPA found the Soul's actual tested fuel economy to be 25 mpg city, 30 highway with the 1.6-liter engine, or 23/28 (25 combined) with the 2.0-liter engine and automatic transmission or 24/29 mpg with the manual transmission. 2013 Kia Soul Eco models, which earned 29/36-mpg and 27/35-mpg ratings have been downgraded to 26/31 and 24/29, respectively. Owners can register with Kia to receive reimbursement for the gas consumed above and beyond expected levels; more details are found at KiaMPGInfo.com.
The Soul offers good space for four passengers, while adding a fifth will make things a bit cozy. Second-row seats can be folded forward to increase cargo space to more than 53 cubic feet, and there is a small storage bin located below the cargo floor, with an organizer inside that separates the area into different spaces.
A 10-year/100,000-mile limited powertrain warranty extends to the Soul, which also comes with power features, iPod connectivity and Bluetooth standard on most versions. A navigation system and the UVO system of voice controls for infotainment are available, although unfortunately you can't get both together as of yet. On the 2013 Soul, Kia improved gas mileage slightly by offering the ISG engine stop-start system as part of an Eco Package.