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TheCarConnection.com's car experts researched Web reviews for the 2010 Kia Soul to compile this full review. TheCarConnection.com's editors also drove the 2010 Kia Soul in order to sort through the opinions they found on the Web, to find a consensus among online car-review Web sites, and to get to the truth where reviewers had differing opinions.
The 2010 Kia Soul brings a new attitude to the Korean automaker's lineup. A far cry from the likes of the stuffy Amanti sedan, the Soul is a five-door urban wagon that neatly outsmarts the likes of the Scion xB and the Nissan Cube with a catchy style; a sharp, roomy, and well-fitted cabin; and a comprehensive list of safety and fun features.
The 2010 Soul wins on styling, hands-down. The reverse boomerang of the rear end reminds some of the In-N-Out burger logo; to others, it's simply a crisp, rakish shape with a little bit of busy detailing up front. The front wears the new Kia corporate grille and friendly-feeling headlamps; the rear is less tidy, but the square, tall taillamps frame a light and lofty hatchback that's nearly vertical—a nice punctuation to the Soul's casual leaning stance. Inside, it's a refined blend of round shapes and embossed plastics—and a variety of colors and textures if you like, from red plastic covering the dash to houndstooth-check material swathing the seats.
Two engines and two transmissions give Soulsters agreeable choices for city driving, if not much beyond that. The base Soul comes with a 1.6-liter four-cylinder making 122 horsepower and 115 pound-feet of torque. With the sole transmission, a five-speed manual, it's rated at 26/31 mpg. TheCarConnection.com did not have the opportunity to drive this model; Kia estimates only 5 percent of shoppers will order it, anyway.
Most 2010 Soul wagons will sport a four-cylinder engine with 2.0 liters of displacement, 142 horsepower, and 137 pound-feet of torque. With either the light but long-throw manual shifter or the smooth-shifting four-speed automatic, this combination delivers 24/30 mpg. It's the standard powertrain on the three top Soul models: the typographically challenging Soul+, Soul!, and Soul Sport. Kia doesn't provide performance estimates, but at a few hundred pounds less than the similarly sized Scion xB, 0-60 mph times of less than 9 seconds seem possible. That moderate acceleration comes with an engine note that develops a bit of thrum at higher highway speeds.
All Souls ride atop a conventional MacPherson strut front and torsion-beam rear suspension, and they have four-wheel disc brakes. Base and mid-line Souls wear 15- and 16-inch wheels. The Soul Sport leads the performance pack with 18-inch wheels and different suspension tuning. Across the board, handling is as tidy as any compact's, though most testers find that the 18-inch wheels on the Sport make the ride less comfortable on city streets. Ride quality and steering feel are otherwise the highlights of this conventional small-car package.
The 2010 Soul interior has seats for five adults, Kia stresses. In front, the driver finds easy-to-use controls at hand and cheery gauges framed by the steering wheel—which is not the case with the Scion, for example. Knee and legroom are good, seat comfort is good, and headroom is great—even in the backseat, where the middle passenger may be compressed for shoulder room. The second-row seats fold forward to boost cargo area over 53 cubic feet, and the cargo floor lifts to expose more storage area; an optional compressed-foam cargo organizer also fits in there. The Soul also has a two-tier glove box capable of holding a 15-inch laptop, a center console, an iPod-sized bin atop its center stack, and lots of cup holders. Dimensionally it checks in at 161.6 inches overall, 70.3 inches wide, 63.4 inches high, and it has a 100.4-inch wheelbase.
In terms of safety, the 2010 Kia Soul exceeds the class standard with six airbags, anti-lock brakes, traction and stability control, and tire pressure monitors. Both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) give the Soul their top safety ratings.
The 2010 Soul also handily beats its older competitors in standard and optional features, with only the Scion xB nearing its offerings. Standard features on the base $13,300 Soul include tilt steering, air conditioning, Sirius Satellite Radio (the first three months of service are free), USB and auxiliary inputs for music players, and power windows. Lacking on all models are auto-up power windows and telescoping steering. The $14,950 Soul+ adds cruise control, steering-wheel audio switches, Bluetooth connectivity, and dual 12V outlets. The $16,950 Soul! gets a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a tan-and-houndstooth interior trim package, and a 315-watt audio system with speaker lighting, which illuminates according to music beat or "mood." The $16,950 Soul Sport has the same features as the Soul! but adds 18-inch wheels, sport suspension, metal pedals, and a red-on-black interior scheme. Options on various Soul models include a sunroof, the 315-watt audio system, and more than 60 accessories, from styling add-ons to interior trim. A navigation system isn't offered, nor is a hard-drive-based audio system, a notable omission. Kia's 10-year/100,000-mile limited powertrain warranty extends to the Soul.The Bottom Line: The 2010 Kia Soul outsmarts fun urban wagons like the Scion xB and Nissan Cube with uniquely kicky styling, more room, and an easygoing attitude.