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PERFORMANCE | 7 out of 10
can be hustled along at an unanticipated rate of knots
engine provides plenty of power for a vehicle this size...but it's somewhat unrefined and noisy
fine in around-town driving, but struggle to provide adequate highway passing power
Quick moves at an interstate pace can make the Soul feel twitchy, requiring consistent attention at the wheel.
it actually drives like something just a little different, offering quicker-than-expected steering and less-than-expected lean when really pushing it.
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.
The Soul isn't quick, but it's fun to drive.