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.