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2012 Kia SoulEnlarge Photo
With its youthful looks and hamster-driven marketing campaign, you'd be forgiven if you crossed the Kia Soul off your family-car shopping list. But you'd be wrong: the Soul's pretty frugal and very roomy, and gives families an excellent choice for safe carpooling.
The Soul wraps its funky hatchback sheetmetal around a tall cabin that's great for all kinds of urban and suburban duties. Drivers sit up tall, with a commanding view of the road ahead and behind them, even though the rear-end styling gives the Soul thick roof pillars. Exceptional head room is the rule; knee room for big adults in front is trimmed off slightly by the wide center console.In the back row, the Soul's tall doors make loading kids, booster seats and backpacks simple. The bench is wide enough for three kids across or two adults--and the seats fold forward to increase the Soul's sizable cargo area to 53 cubic feet. The hatchback itself opens to a low load floor, so you won't have to lift heavy boxes or gear very far to stow it in back. The Soul has twin glove boxes; the larger one will hold a netbook or an iPad for entertainment on the go.
Safety scores have been good. The Soul comes with six airbags, stability control and anti-lock brakes, and a rearview camera is now an option. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gives the Soul its Top Safety Pick award. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has given the Soul good marks in the past, but it hasn't re-tested it since changing its ratings criteria for the 2011 model year, though it does rate it at four stars for rollover protection.