A couple years ago, the KBB editorial staff took on a 2010 Kia Soul ! for a long-term review. During our year with the Soul, we gained a healthy respect for the new B-segment car and loved the quirky features and aesthetics that it had to offer. We did, however, have a few qualms. We were mainly underwhelmed by the car's antiquated 4-speed automatic transmission, its confusing Bluetooth and iPod integration, and the less-than-stellar fuel economy.
Happily, the Kia Soul was revamped for the 2012 model year, so we decided to spend some quality time with a new Soul ! model complete with a revised 2.0-liter engine rated at 28 mpg on the highway and mated to a new 6-speed automatic transmission. Our 2013 Soul is also equipped with a Premium package that includes a navigation system, heated seats, automatic climate control, and a back-up camera — all of which are welcome additions.
Here's how it's going:
More miles, more smiles
Five months have gone by since my last update on our long-term Soul, and our amiable Kia continues to impress me with its functional design and overall user-friendly personality. With about 9,200 miles now on the odometer the Soul still feels tight and right, and the cabin looks like the day it rolled out of the showroom. Fuel economy has improved a bit with the extended break-in, and regular mixed-tank averages are currently running in the 25.5-27.5 mpg range against its 23/28 mpg EPA city/highway stats. Frankly, I still wish Kia had dialed a bit more ride compliance into the suspension mix, particularly with the upsized 18-inch wheel/tire fitment on our vehicle. But beyond that, I find plenty to like and little to fault about this versatile, fun-to-drive crossover.
-- Bob Nagy, Senior Editor News & Trends
Every time I get into this car, I'm reminded how smart and utilitarian it is. I'm a big guy, but I never feel like there's any space missing. And I have no problem carrying my big-guy sporting equipment or friends. Matt Degen's right: This is an around-town ride, but that's what Kia fully intended.
I could recommend the Kia Soul to both students and empty nesters, but I'd really recommend that they spring a little extra for the 2.0-liter engine for the sake of personality and onramp attacking -- you'll still be just a tick over $20,000 at the payment window.
--Richard Homan, Senior Vehicle Evaluation Editor
At Home in the City
Driving the Soul over a recent long weekend, I was reminded how much I appreciate the SUV-like visibility it affords thanks to its higher seating position. Over in the passenger seat, my wife also liked the outward visibility and peering over other cars. Also in the plus column is its zippiness. When I needed to scoot to pass a truck or get up to speed on freeways, the Soul had more in reserve than I anticipated and eagerly kicked down gears to accomplish the task at hand. Controls, meanwhile, are within reach and easy to use.
Though small on the outside, it's nearly confounding how much space is packed within. My wife had her own take in this respect. "I like that there are lots of storage spaces," she said. "I can get in and immediately find a place for my phone, water bottle and keys."
On the not-so great side, the Soul's suspension remains stiff. I felt penalized going over speed bumps or hitting potholes, and it tends to get jittery at higher freeway speeds. The Kia Soul is a supreme little urban runabout, but if the majority of my driving were on freeways I'd get something with bigger dimensions and a softer suspension.
-Matt Degen, Senior Associate Editor
Taking the long view
As the staffer who spends the most time and generally travels the greatest distances in the in our Kia Soul, I've come to appreciate the many impressive aspects of this versatile hauler. Well-finished, well-equipped and well-mannered, our Soul! does a masterful job of coping with everything from the relentlessly-dismal commuting grind to swallowing up the best that big-box stores can dish out on weekend replenishment runs, thanks to its generously proportioned and easily accessed cargo bay. That said, there are a couple of thing I'd suggest Kia consider addressing that could make it even better. Topping the list is adding a bit more strategically placed padding on the Soul's teutonically firm front seat cushions, perches whose comfort index drops off rather precipitously somewhere between the first and second hour of any evening trek home. While deserving props for an aggressive 18-inch wheel/tire fitment on the top-line Soul variant, Kia also might do well to consider offering a smoother and quieter 17-inch alternative as a no-cost option. In light of the recent correction in EPA figures that dropped its original 26/34 city/highway mpg numbers to less-lofty 23/28 mpg levels, it's no longer surprising that our average per-tank econo stats continue to fall pretty much in line with those newly revised figures.
– Bob Nagy, Senior Editor News & Trends
One exposure at a time
KBB employee, friend of the editorial department and died-in-the-wool car guy Brett Nanigian was surprised by the overall quality of the Kia Soul’s interior when we took it for fish tacos this week. It’s kind of a fun moment when someone’s preconceived notions are transformed by simple exposure to the product. This, in the same week a German magazine quoted VW Group Chairman Ferdinand K. Piech as saying the only thing he regrets in life is letting Kia design boss Peter Schreyer leave Audi.
–Jason Allan, Managing Editor, Online Content
Over the years I have grown increasingly wary of youth-oriented vehicles tied to trendy ad campaigns. My skepticism is not a result of early-onset “get off my lawn” syndrome, but rather a series of underwhelming experiences in which the coolness factor took precedence over substance. I am happy to report, however, that roughly four hours of seat time in our long-term Kia Soul has erased any such preconceived notions I had about the hamster-mobile. Save for a few ergonomic complaints, the Soul’s well-behaved driving manners and quirky yet functional cabin left me thoroughly impressed. —Zach Vlasuk, Associate Editor
So many Souls
With all due respect to Jason – and he’s due some respect – the major thing I smell about the new Kia Soul is a winner. Not only does the Soul offer remarkable flexibility and room at low cost, but it also does it with a style that seems to be catching on in big numbers. In the few days that I renewed my acquaintanceship with Soul I noticed scores of them around me on the streets of Southern California. The takeaway: a lot of people are becoming Soul brothers and sisters. —Jack R. Nerad, Executive Editorial Director
More speeds, same smell
I just drove our second long-term Kia Soul for the first time tonight, and came away with two strong first impressions. 1) The new-for-2012 powertrain with the 6-speed automatic transmission more than resolves the shortcomings of the last setup. The new one is smoother, faster and more responsive. 2) The unique smell in our previous Soul wasn’t so unique, apparently, because the new one smells exactly the same. It’s not unpleasant, but neither is it the kind of scent that gave new-car smell its good name. —Jason Allan, Managing Editor
Our first Soul
Here's the video diary of our previous Kia Soul long-term test car: