KBB Editors' Overview
By KBB.com Editors - Updated Date: 3/22/2011
Although the 2011 Kia Soul competes directly with the Nissan Cube and Scion xB, the Soul has a much broader appeal. It enjoys styling that is neither polarizing nor awkward and Kia has a hip ad campaign that turned a common hamster into a bona fide rap star. Brisk sales and rave reviews have helped the Soul get off to a good start, but questions remain about its long-term reliability. Of course, an impressive array of standard features, one of the most original and modern interiors in the segment and a price tag starting well below its competitors make the Kia Soul a tempting morsel indeed. Making our "Top Ten Coolest Cars Under $18,000" list and strong initial resale values doesn't hurt the 2011 Kia Soul, either.
You'll Like This Car If...
If you're looking for a vehicle that is both versatile and affordable, but you don't want to look like you're driving a car whose only attribute is that it's versatile and affordable, the 2011 Kia Soul is the car for you.
You May Not Like This Car If...
If you're looking for rapid acceleration, all-wheel drive or the highest resale value, you'll have to spend more.
What's Significant About This Car?
For 2011, Kia will offer two Special Edition Soul models featuring automatic climate control and unique paint and trim.
The 2011 Kia Soul looks cool, is loaded with features and has room for people, cargo, dogs and gear, but its ride and handling are nowhere near as impressive. The base model's 122-horsepower engine loud and makes the car slow. The upper-end models with the larger 142-horsepower 2.0-liter engine do a bit better, although they are also loud. The manual transmission is rubbery and no great joy to use. We say go with the automatic. When not pushed hard, the Soul delivers a comfortable ride. The steering and brakes are more than adequate. The overall feeling is that you're driving a run-of-the-mill economy car, but the experience is not unpleasant and is by no means a deal breaker.
Comprehensive Audio System
The 2011 Kia Soul base model might be hampered with small steel wheels and the lack of 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.
The 2011 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.
We give Kia high praise for the Soul's interior. Not only does it feature radical themes, such as an available Hound's Tooth fabric interior and red backlit speaker grilles that pulsate to the music's beat (this feature can be turned on and off), it also is highly functional and just plain fun. Owners who choose the Sport model receive a black and bright red interior including a red dash and glove box. Functional features include front and center iPod bins, a dual-shelf glovebox, fold flush rear seats and a storage bin under the cargo area's floor.
From its intricately detailed headlamp housing to its uncommon profile, the 2011 Kia Soul is anything but commonplace. Four differing trim levels – the base Soul, the Soul +, the up-level Soul ! and the Soul sport – offer varying visuals, in addition to their non-standard names. The base car sports black door handles and mirrors, while the others tout body-colored bits. A wide variety of accessories and wheels further distinguish the models. The Soul has 15-inch wheels, the Soul + rides on 16-inch wheels, and 18-inch wheels come on the Soul ! and Soul Sport. True to its hip and cool nature, the Soul also features a number of eye-popping color choices including Molten (deep red), Java (brown), Alien (metallic pea green) and Ignition (a metallic orange vaguely reminiscent of an orange Dreamsicle.)
Notable Standard Equipment
The base 2011 Kia Soul comes with a 122-horsepower four-cylinder engine mated to a five-speed manual transmission. All other Souls feature a 142-horspower four-cylinder, with an optional four-speed automatic transmission. Other standards on the inexpensive base model include air conditioning, power windows and locks and a four-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3/satellite radio/USB audio system. All Souls feature six airbags and Electronic Stability Control.
Notable Optional Equipment
Check all the option boxes and your 2011 Kia Soul will include front fog lamps, a moonroof, upgraded audio system including center subwoofer and 315-watt amp, 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. Options for the sport include heated leather seats and a power moonroof.
Under the Hood
The base model 2011 Kia Soul features a smaller 122-horsepower, 1.6-liter engine that's available only with a five-speed manual transmission. Kia doesn't anticipate selling too many of these. We wouldn't buy it, either. Most 2011 Kia Souls will feature a 142-horsepower, 2.0-liter engine, which is offered with a four-speed automatic or the five-speed manual.
1.6-liter in-line 4
122 horsepower @ 6300 rpm
115 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4200 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 26/31
2.0-liter in-line 4
142 horsepower @ 6000 rpm
137 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4600 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 24/30
The 2011 Kia Soul has a Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting around $14,000, which includes destination. When fully loaded, a Soul sport with a moonroof and leather seats tops out at about $21,000. The 2011 Scion xB starts around $16,700 and can be equipped into the low $20,000 range, while 2011 Nissan Cube sticker prices range from just over $15,000 to slightly beyond $20,000. Other Soul strengths include an attractive warranty (10-year/100,000-mile powertrain, 5-year/60,000-mile basic) and competitive resale value.