By KBB.com Editors
With the arrival of the 2010 Kia Soul and 2009 Nissan Cube, the original Scion xB becomes the progenitor of a bona fide little sub-segment defined by funky practicality. Surely, there's a good chance the Soul and Cube wouldn't be here today - in this country, anyway - if not for the success of the original box on wheels. While the Nissan Cube is more reminiscent of the smaller, first-generation xB, the Kia Soul is a more direct competitor to the latest xB. Does the Soul's mix of style, value and technology make it the right choice for you? Keep reading to find out.You'll Like This Car If...
Versatility and affordability are admirable qualities in a car, but they sound so boring. The 2010 Kia Soul wraps both in look-at-me styling, creating a vehicle that combines niche appeal with well-rounded practicality.You May Not Like This Car If...
If you're looking for zip, you'll have to look elsewhere (outside the category, really). A four-speed automatic transmission doesn't help matters, and the Soul's highway mpg rating of 30 mpg (31 mpg for the smaller, less powerful base model) isn't anything to write home about.What's Significant About This Car?
The arrival of the Kia Soul puts an end to Scion's near monopoly on economical, versatile, boldly styled cars aimed directly at the younger set.Driving It Driving Impressions
The 2010 Kia Soul is interesting to look at, roomy for people or cargo and offers an impressive array of audio and connectivity features. Less notable is the way it drives: like a run-of-the-mill economy car. It isn't particularly slow (although we haven't driven a base model with the smaller engine) or ill-handling, but the driving experience doesn't live up to the car's otherwise playful demeanor. The five-speed manual transmission doesn't offer the kind of car-driver connection you might want from a manual, and the four-speed automatic is at least one speed shy of flexible. Would the driving experience keep us from buying a 2010 Kia Soul? Absolutely not. Around town and on the highway, the 2010 Kia Soul is as easy and as comfortable as some of today's better compact cars. Just don't expect it inspire you to take the fun way home.
Comprehensive Audio System
The 2010 Kia Soul base model might be hampered with small steel wheels and a lack remote keyless entry, but Kia saw fit to make sure every single Soul has a full-featured AM/FM/CD/MP3/Sat/Aux/USB audio system. That's cool.
The 2010 Kia Soul has the best iPod station we've seen (outside of another Kia or Hyundai): an open bin, in plain view and within easy reach, with readily accessible power and connection ports.
The first thing new Soul owners show their friends are the available speaker lights in the front door speakers, which pulse to the beat of the music or cycle softly with adjustable intensity. Far more important in the long run are the Soul's overall interior design and quality, which we find especially impressive for a car that starts under $14,000. One of our favorite features is the front-and-center iPod bin, detailed further in the Favorite Features section of this review. The 2010 Kia Soul sport is offered exclusively with a very red-themed interior, our favorite part of which is the red glove box interior that makes it easier to see what's inside. Not surprisingly, the tall, boxy 2010 Kia Soul is a roomy and versatile little car.Exterior
We like the simultaneously sporty, quirky and utilitarian look of the 2010 Kia Soul. We like it much better, of course, with the range-topping 18-inch five-spoke wheels than the base model's 15-inch covered steel wheels. The entry Soul is also hindered by black door handles and mirrors in contrast with body-color pieces across the rest of the line. At the opposite end of the price spectrum, the 2010 Kia Soul sport is distinguished visually by unique front and rear fascias and side sills.Notable Standard Equipment
For a Lincoln less than $14,000, the 2010 Kia Soul offers a 122-horsepower four-cylinder engine, five-speed manual transmission, air conditioning, power windows and locks, a four-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3/Sat/Aux/USB audio system and an impressive list of standard safety equipment that includes six airbags and electronic stability control.Notable Optional Equipment
Check all the option boxes and your 2010 Kia Soul will include a 142-horsepower engine, four-speed automatic transmission, 18-inch alloy wheels, front fog lamps, moonroof, upgraded audio system, leather-covered steering wheel and shift knob, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, cruise control and Bluetooth phone connectivity. The Soul sport gets a sport-tuned suspension, unique front, rear and side styling elements, metal-finish pedals and interior accents, and a red/black interior color scheme.Under the Hood
Although the base model 2010 Kia Soul features a smaller 1.6-liter engine that's paired only with a five-speed manual transmission, Kia doesn't anticipate selling too many. And we probably wouldn't buy it, either. Most 2010 Kia Souls will feature a 2.0-liter engine, offered with a four-speed automatic or the five-speed manual.
1.6-liter in-line four
122 horsepower @ 6,300 rpm
115 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4,200 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 26/31
2.0-liter in-line four
142 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
137 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4,600 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 24/30
The 2010 Kia Soul starts just shy of $14,000 and tops out at about $19,000 for a Soul sport with a moonroof. The 2010 Scion xB starts around $16,500 and can be equipped into the low $20,000 range, while 2009 Nissan Cube sticker prices range from just under $15,000 to slightly beyond $20,000. Considering the style and substance offered, the attractive warranty (10-year/100,000-mile powertrain, 5-year/60,000-mile basic) and the competitive resale values (the best of any Kia on the market), value is another Soul strength.