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2013 Kia Soul Styling

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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.

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

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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