It's tough not to notice how the box has become a common and pretty cool auto style these days. But that look also makes the cars difficult to distinguish leaving the consumer feeling somewhat like a contestant on the old game show 'Let's Make A Deal.'? (Remember host Monty Hall was always asking contestants which box they would choose, contents unseen?)
Anyone who has waded through the sea of compact crossovers can instantly tell that all boxes are not created equal. Some have dynamite technology but feel unsteady on the road; others have great handling but no personality or extras in the cabin. Which to choose?
If you're in the market for a compact crossover, don't make a selection without driving the 2010 Kia Soul, a four-door hatchback/wagon that's bound to make an impact even in this crowded market.
As someone who has driven plenty of the newest cars out there, I can honestly say the Soul is one of the best buys I've seen with prices starting at just over $13,000.
Poke around a bit about and you'll easily find out that the Soul is gas friendly. Although the EPA hasn't yet tested the car, Kia expects the base model to be rated at 26 mpg city/31 mpg highway. Not too shabby when you consider the car, which earned it the 'Grooviest Interior'? award from Ward's AutoWorld, has great looks, extras safety features and plenty of pep from a 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine.
2010 Kia Soul Exterior
Let's not sugar coat this; The downside of this car just might be the exterior, which some reviewers likened to a 'clown car.'?
Although I'll admit I didn't find this the most eye-catching car at first sight, I think that harsh assessment is unfair. The Soul has a wide stance, angled window line and large flared back headlamps. It's got some personality and a distinctive look, which should play well with the young professional crowd.
Plus the Soul has extra exterior features - chrome-accented grille, black door handles, body side molding and side mirrors (standard! Which is pretty rare these days), rear wipe/washer, and clear lens auto-off headlamps.
You can also upgrade for fancier extras including privacy glass on the rear and rear side windows, keyless remote, fog lamps, and a power sunroof.
Another plus likely aimed at younger women buyers is a host of exterior paint colors with shades like metallic tones of Shadow, Titanium, and Bright silver, coffee-inspired Java, red-hot Molten and Alien green (really!). No missing these colors in a crowded parking lot.
2010 Kia Soul Interior
With design elements influenced by the car's excellent audio system, Soul has an uncluttered dashboard with a three-dial instrument cluster, LCD illumination and floating center stack design that provides access to the AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system outfitted with SIRIUS Satellite Radio capabilities.
There are also USB and auxiliary input jacks in the center console with full iPod and MP3 controls through the steering wheel as well as the unit. Again, if you think this technology is standard, you haven't been car shopping lately. It's always amazing to me how many cars aim at the techno-savvy driver and then don't offer basics without an expensive upgrade package. Bravo to Kia for making Soul techno friendly.
Younger drivers will especially love what Kia called the 'funky black cloth seats'? which have either 'glowing'? Soul logo inserts, hounds tooth-patterned inserts or red-black interior trim with red-trimmed cloth seats and metal-finish interior accents. The model I drove had an upgraded audio package that included speaker lights that pulse to the beat of the music or simply add mood lighting to the interior cabin. I didn't use it regularly but I can see that it would be fun to have.
The more I drove this car, the more I found to love including solar glass, a tilt steering column, external temperature display and digital clock in the radio, dual-level glove box, and more.
The car also offers plenty of great leg and headroom for passengers, which is unusual. Usually smaller cars that give drivers plenty of options squeeze passengers in like sardines. Not so with the Soul that even boasts 60/40 split seat backs that take the cargo room up to 53.4 cubic feet.
2010 Kia Soul Performance
This front-wheel drive crossover is plenty agile and perky.
The base model has a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine only available with 5-speed manual; the other three models have 2.0-liter 142-horsepower four-cylinder engine with five-speed manual or four-speed automatic.
I had a test model with automatic transmission and shifting was excellent - there was none of the sluggish pull so many smaller cars exhibit and the turning radius - a pet peeve of mine - was good, easy enough to pull into a parking spot if not great.
What was really surprising though was the Soul's comfortable ride. So many compact crossovers are stiff, resulting in a constant steering battle. The Kia Soul was responsive, had terrific acceleration and firm braking.
The automaker also equipped the Soul with a fully independent, sub-frame mounted front suspension system that really makes a difference in the ride. There are none of the startling vibrations felt in so many compact crossovers. Plus you don't feel as if you're crashing through the earth if you hit a pothole.
2010 Kia Soul Safety
Whatever you say about Kia, you have to give them credit for excellent safety equipment. The Soul is no different with a laundry list of extras including front-seat active headrests, dual-front advanced airbags, front seat-mounted and full-length side curtain airbags. And that's just for starters.
An Antilock Brake System, Electronic Stability Control, Traction Control System, Electronic Brake Distribution, Brake Assist System and a Tire Pressure Monitoring System are standard. If you think that's to be expected, you haven't been car shopping lately. Take our word for it; these are nice extras to have.
As you'd expect, the car also has front and rear crumple zones, side-impact door beams, impact-absorbing steering column, and the LATCH system (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children).
2010 Kia Soul Conclusion
I drove the Kia Soul Plus (which is distinguished as Soul+ in Kia lingo), which has an MSRP of $17,890. It has extras including cruise control with steering wheel mounted controls, Bluetooth, and other extras. The car also had upgrades including a power sunroof, audio upgrade package and carpeted floor mats.
There's also a Base Soul, Soul! (leather-wrapped steering wheel and upgraded interior trim) and Soul Sport (sport-tuned suspension, metal pedals).
Whichever model you choose, the Kia Soul offers plenty of standard options that will keep you moving in style.