2012 Kia Soul Page 2

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It's not a brisk performer, but improved drivetrains this year give the Soul a little more urge. The base 1.6-liter four-cylinder now makes 135 horsepower, and with the standard six-speed manual transmission, earns an EPA rating of 27/35 mpg--or 29/36 mpg, when a new Eco package is fitted. That new stop-start technology--it shuts off the engine at longer pauses and restarts it automatically, to conserve gas--is also available on the recommended 2.0-liter four. It now makes 164 horsepower, and with either the manual or a six-speed automatic, it's rated at 26/34 mpg, or 27/35 mpg with the Eco option.

All told, the Soul has a frisky feel in lower-speed urban driving, and it's not overtaxed at highway speeds with a typical family on board. It's a compact car, too, which makes parking very easy.

The name rings true: this Kia has a Soul, with fun road manners and tall-wagon practicality baked into its kicky shape.

Among the best features on the new Soul are the standard USB port; satellite radio; and power windows, locks and mirrors. Bluetooth is available, and HD radio is now an option, as is a navigation system. There's also UVO, Kia's voice-activated controls that can run some nav, phone and audio controls in tandem with steering-wheel controls--but you can't get it if the nav system is ordered.

It's a strong value, and a good performer for its kind. The Soul simply outsmarts other boxy hatches like the Nissan Cube and the Scion xB, and it's surprisingly up to the task of being the only vehicle a family needs, even a growing one.

For more on utility, safety, performance, features and styling, see TheCarConnection's full review of the 2012 Kia Soul.

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