2013 Kia Soul Review

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Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
June 21, 2013

The 2013 Kia Soul is both soulful and sensible--a distinctive, roomy, fun to drive alternative to staid small sedans or utility vehicles.

After just four years of being on sale, the Kia Soul has come into its own. In a class of cars that depend entirely on kicky looks and athletic appeal, the Soul's punchy attitude has been its foot in the door–and its bulldog nose, boxy tail and edge roofline just work.

It helps that the Soul is more practical, too, than the other style-driven machines in its segment--cars like the Nissan Cube, Hyundai Veloster, and Scion xB.

Understandably, the Soul has seen very few changes to its design or package. Last year the Soul became a little quicker and a little more fuel-efficient, thanks to revised powertrains, but it's stuck to its formula in hitting the sweet spot for U.S. commuters looking for a second (or first) car with style, flexibility, and frugality. There's still nothing else quite like it.

The base 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine now has 135 horsepower, while the upgraded 2.0-liter has 164 hp. With six-speed manual and automatic transmissions, and a new Eco package (including an engine stop-start system), the Soul's fuel economy should hit a new peak. And with an eager, frisky feel in terms of handling and low-speed responsiveness, the Soul works very well as an urban runabout.

Review continues below

The 2013 Kia Soul doesn't take up any more space than a subcompact car, yet its tall roof and boxy shape promise a lot more usefulness. Inside there's nothing so radical about the design; you'll find a roomy, versatile, almost minivan-like layout; there's enough room for up to five, or plenty of cargo if you fold the rear seats forward.

The Soul has a standout design and fashionable look inside and out, all for a price that's about the same as less exciting small cars. So it's all the more surprising that the Soul's feature list has what it takes to woo shoppers seeking value as well. Unfortunately a navigation system still can't be had if you also opt for UVO, Kia's voice-activated control hub for phone and audio. But at about $20,000 for a well-equipped Soul, this is still quite the deal for those who want a little wagon-like utility, but with the driving feel and fuel budget of a small car.

8

2013 Kia Soul

Styling

The 2013 Kia Soul offers a lot of style, and a standout design, for an econo-car budget.

The 2013 Kia Soul fits right into the class of quirky, boxy compact cars, like the Nissan Cube, Scion xB, and Mini Cooper Countryman. Yet the Kia Soul stands out from a design and functionality standpoint--mostly because the quirks work in its favor.

When it was first introduced for the 2010 model year, the Soul helped set a new style for Kia, and it remains today (after winning several design awards) a standout for its styling details and cohesive design. The urban-wagon look combines a bullnosed, somewhat rounded front end, wearing Kia's new corporate theme between big, alert headlamps (LED-lit on the top model). The Soul's flat roofline is probably its most memorable point, though; it starts high, and boomerangs down toward the rear end in a way that reminds us of European hatchbacks. Blacked-out pillars help give the look some extra snap, while flared wheel wells and a gently rising beltline keep it from looking too slab-sided.

How the Soul's design comes together in back might govern how you see it in the end. It can look a little thick, especially in some of the lighter, brighter colors, but the square taillamps frame a nearly vertically aligned hatchback that completes the front-to-back transformation from smooth car to boxy device.

There's nothing so revolutionary about the exterior, but we like how well organized and clutter-free it feels. Although up close the materials might not hold their own against premium-brand cars, the blend of round shapes and embossed plastics can easily feel more refined than their price tag--reminding us of Target's hipster-cachet. There's some chance to customize in the details, with red dash trim and a houndstooth-check-patterned upholstery on offer. At the same time, nothing feels like a novelty, like the old VW New Beetle.
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2013 Kia Soul

Performance

The Soul isn't quick, but it's fun to drive.

The 2013 Kia Soul looks like like a frisky performer—and it is, if you're comparing it either to small, economy-minded small cars or other boxy wagons. Just don't expect it to provide serious driving-enthusiast thrills.

The Soul does tend to color your driving impressions with its kicky sheetmetal and reverse-wedge roofline; given that, it could be a surprise in how 'normal' it drives. The base Soul has a 1.6-liter four-cylinder, good for 135 horsepower and 121 pound-feet of torque, coupled to either a six-speed manual or automatic transmission. Get the larger 2.0-liter four, as it makes 164 horsepower yet returns nearly the same fuel economy.

With the larger engine, the Soul has enough low-speed torque to work well with the six-speed automatic transmission. A six-speed manual is standard on some models, but we're not so fond of its long throws and long pedal travel, which runs counter to this runabout's otherwise quick-and-crisp look and feel.

Steering does truly live up to that impression; the quick-ratio electric-assist system, combined with a 2800-pound curb weight and front-strut, rear torsion-beam suspension, makes the Soul handle more like a small, rather taut hatchback. The suspension isn't always as buttoned-down as you might hope, though, and the ride can get a bit bouncy on some surfaces.

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2013 Kia Soul

Comfort & Quality

You'll find all the versatility and spaciousness inside the Soul that its boxy exterior suggests.

The 2013 Kia Soul doesn't take up any more space than a subcompact car, yet its tall roof and boxy shape promise a lot more usefulness. Inside you'll find a roomy, versatile, almost minivan-like layout; there's enough room for up to five, or plenty of cargo if you fold the rear seats forward.

With very compact dimensions (161.6 inches long, 70.3 inches wide, 63.4 inches high, and on a 100.4-inch wheelbase), the Soul is smartly packaged and manages to offer excellent interior space, especially head room. In front, you get short but quite comfortable bucket seats and about a half a foot of headroom above, for even taller adults—with comfort perhaps limited somewhat by the wide center console. In back you sit higher up in the bench seat—closer to the ceiling—and it's only really wide enough for two adults and a child—but the tall roof and doors do make entry and exit easier than lower cars. The feel inside is spacious and airy, and even the Scion xB can't match the Soul's space efficiency.

Cargo space and versatility are impressive, too. The Soul's rear seats flip forward to boost cargo area to more than 53 cubic feet; you can also stash precious cargo under a lift-up panel on the cargo floor, and an available cargo organizer helps in carrying smaller items.

Inside, the Soul also has a double-decker glove box than can stow a 15-inch laptop. Armrest storage in the center console and an iPod-sized bin atop its center stack, not to mention lots of cupholders and molded-in bottle holders.

Fit and finish aren't in any way premium, but for the Soul's base price of around $15,000, it's quite impressive. Trims and panels are well-coordinated, and it all fits tightly.

Road noise can be an issue in the Soul; for that reason you should think twice about the big 18-inch wheel and tire package.

6

2013 Kia Soul

Safety

Crash-test results aren't altogether reassuring, but the Soul has a reasonably good safety set.

The 2013 Kia Soul is small, but thankfully both its occupant protection and its list of standard safety equipment are excellent.

Six airbags, anti-lock brakes, and stability control are all included in the Soul, and now models with the navigation system include a rearview camera system—which isn't quite as necessary here as outward visibility is quite good, but it helps.

The 2013 Kia Soul is an IIHS Top Safety Pick, receiving top 'good' ratings in front, side and rollover crash tests. But its 'poor' small overlap frontal test is a point that pulls down its overall safety score here. In the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) test, the 2013 Soul received four out of five stars in both frontal and rollover test, and five out of five stars in its side impact test. That leaves Kia with an overall NHTSA rating of four out of five stars.

9

2013 Kia Soul

Features

With lots of features for the money, style doesn't preclude value in the 2013 Soul.

The Soul has a standout design and fashionable look inside and out, all for a price that's about the same as less exciting small cars. So it's all the more surprising that the Soul's feature list has what it takes to woo shoppers seeking value as well.

Kia configures the Soul in an orthographically puzzling lineup of base Soul, Soul+, and Soul! models. Every one of them gets standard climate control; tilt/telescoping steering; power windows, locks and mirrors; satellite radio, a CD player, USB and auxiliary inputs for media players; and a split/folding rear seat.

Cruise control, Bluetooth, dual 12-volt outlets, and steering-wheel controls for the audio and phone are added for Soul+ models. Step up to the Soul! and you'll add a 350-watt Infinity audio system (with speaker lighting that changes intensity with the beat of the music); a sunroof; and a leather-wrapped steering wheel, along with a houndstooth-checked interior trim package. The Soul! also gets a sportier look, with 18-inch wheels, distinctive front- and rear-end treatments, and LED headlights and taillights.

Available on the ! model is a premium package with leather seat trim, front-seat heating; automatic climate control; and a navigation system, which still can't be ordered with Kia's otherwise-desirable UVO connectivity system. Between navigation and UVO (you have to choose at this point), we'd go with UVO and make do with smartphone GPS; the connectivity features aren't quite class-leading, but they're better than what's offered in many affordable small cars.

The Soul! also can be fitted with HD Radio; and with UVO there's a 4.3-inch touchscreen and a rearview camera. Infinity audio and a sunroof are offered on the Soul+. Also, there are more than 60 add-on accessories, from styling kits to interior trim, to give the Soul more of a custom look and feel.

7

2013 Kia Soul

Fuel Economy

City gas mileage is good in the 2013 Kia Soul, although highway fuel economy is less of a delight.

Last year, the Kia Soul gained more fuel-efficient powertrains, and it can now be said that the Soul gets gas mileage that's just as good as most compact or subcompact sedans or hatchbacks.

Also for 2013, the Soul is now available with the Idle Stop & Go (ISG) technology that had originally been planned for the 2012 model year. ISG smartly shuts the engine down when it would otherwise be needlessly idling (at a stoplight, for instance), and automatically restarts it when you lift off the brake. The feature will be included as part of an Eco Package. 

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. But 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.
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September 4, 2017
2013 Kia Soul 5-Door Wagon Manual +

Uber Life!

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I have the 2013 Kia Soul, and I Uber. I need to be able to download the Waze app and the Uber app as well as use GPS. Can I do that with the console in the 2013 soul? And if not, what year can I do it in? And... + More »
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August 25, 2016
2013 Kia Soul 5-Door Wagon Automatic !

Best crossover

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Love my car plenty of room and easy to drive. My husband bought it for my birthday. The color is my favorite green
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June 4, 2015
2013 Kia Soul 5-Door Wagon Automatic !

It's fun , easy to drive and comfortable.

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This car may not be the fastest vehicle, but it's faster than the tests say. O-60 in about 7seconds The 6speed auto is very intuitive, except when cold. The included features, bluetooth, usb, 3power... + More »
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May 17, 2015
2013 Kia Soul 5-Door Wagon Automatic Base

Best all around vehicle for room, reliability, ecomony and price.

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With base model Kia Soul you get more than you pay for in comparison. Want the room of a SUV but the gas mileage of a compact economy car plus a nice ride too? You can have it ALL! Check out the backseat room... + More »
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May 9, 2015
2013 Kia Soul 5-Door Wagon Automatic +

Great reliable car!

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Overall this is a great car. The only problem with this year is for some reason it does not get good gas mileage. Other than that we love the car. Great features and for a small size vehicle, it has lots of... + More »
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April 30, 2015
2013 Kia Soul 5-Door Wagon Automatic !

I love this car!

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It's a great car to own and so fun to drive. The fuel economy is good but, does poorly in traffic. My 6'4" husband easily gets in and out without bumping his head which is a huge plus!
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April 28, 2015
2013 Kia Soul 5-Door Wagon Automatic Base

The funnest car I have ever owned and I love it.

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So, fun to drive. Great gas mileage. Handles so easily. I love it.
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