By on April 21, 2011

Like the Subaru Impreza, Kia’s Soul is a car that I’ve nursed a soft spot for ever since it became the first car I ever reviewed for TTAC. When friends approach me asking for advice about practical, flexible low-cost cars, the Soul is often one of my first suggestions, and nobody has ever regretted at least test-driving one. The Soul earned further brownie points from me during the Detroit Auto Show a few months back, when our rental Soul carted us through a nasty snowstorm with aplomb. So, like the Impreza, I was a little bit nervous when Kia announced they would be updating the Soul at the New York Auto Show.

Mid-cycle refreshes rarely do it for me, and I worried that the Soul’s essential awesomeness might be lost in the process. Luckily, the Soul looks only slightly updated, and the major improvement comes where it was most needed: under the hood. A 1.6 liter direct-injection engine is the new base engine, making 135 HP (up 11%) and 121 lb-ft, while returning 28/34 MPG. The optional engine is a more-powerful 2.0 liter, making 160 HP (up 13%) and 143 lb-ft of torque, an earning a 27/33 MPG EPA rating. If these engines are more refined than the outgoing Soul’s mill, this modest update will cover the Soul’s major downside (a willing but overly-gruff engine) without losing any of its original appeal. Maybe mid-cycle refreshes aren’t something to be afraid of…

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47 Comments on “Are You Sould On Kia’s Updated Soul?...”

  • avatar

    I agree. The engine and transmission (and the noise associated with both) were the things that needed to be improved the most to make the Soul even more attractive than it already is (for what it does). I’m really looking forward to test driving the 2012 when it comes out, as this vehicle is very high on my next purchase list.

  • avatar

    OEM’s – American, European and Japanese need to be very concerned. The Koreans have caught on real fast, building cars many people actually want, just limited by their capacity. Me? Not so much, but as I look over their offerings, I can’t help but be impressed. The question that floats around in my mind is: Detroit was on top for many, many years. Japanese OEM’s on top for a much lesser time. The Korean OEM’s? Perhaps a shorter amount of time? Then what? China? Personally I don’t see it happening any time soon, but I have been know to be wrong on extremely rare occasions! (yeah, right!)

    The Soul impresses me, and this refresh works well. For quirkiness though, the Cube is what I would buy, judged on looks alone, but if the Soul is the better car – well, I have no passion for either one, so it would win with no second thoughts, especially if nobody else has anything better in this segment.
    I’m older, and I still have a passion for Chevy, Ford and Chrysler. As in “Fiddler on the Roof”, T-R-A-D-I-T-I-O-N wins, realistic or not!

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      Sunrise, sunset… 

      But seriously the Korean’s speedy rise to competence has me at least considering their offerings that are built in this country.  At least then when I get into an argument with my father over having bought a foreign car I can logically argue that a portion of my purchase went to a factory worker here in the U.S. of A.

      Honestly I’m sure that Toyota is already concerned with Hyundai but I’m sure that Hyundai/Kia is keeping their eye on China. 

    • 0 avatar

      OEM’s – American, European and Japanese need to be very concerned. The Koreans have caught on real fast, building cars many people actually want, just limited by their capacity. Me? Not so much, but as I look over their offerings, I can’t help but be impressed.

      Same impression here. Hyundai and Kia are making cars people aspire to own, not just buy because they don’t have/know a better option. Even in Brazil.

      As to the TRADITION part, I also agree. But here I include Fiat and Renault into my favorite, traditional brands. I wouldn’t buy a Soul just yet, I’d also buy a Cube first. Or a Fiat Doblò or Renault Kangoo. But slowly but surely they are entering into my mental “to consider” list.

      • 0 avatar

        The first aspirational Hyundai was the 2001 Santa Fe.  I had been selling Hyundai for a while in 2001, and Hyundais sold really well on price, but that was about it.  Then the Santa Fe came out, and people loved the way it looked and drove, and that it had a V6.  I would sell 7 or 8 Santa Fe’s a month, almost all at full sticker.  And most of the time we didn’t have any to even sell, I would have to call people the day the truck arrived so they could see, and then ultimately buy the vehicle.

  • avatar

    I am really digging this car and I love that brown color.

  • avatar

    The only thing that makes me want to upgrade my ’05 Scion xB is the gearing. 4000rpm at 80mph makes for horrid highway driving.
    Can’t wait to test drive the 1.6/6-speed on the freeway to see if the RPMs are more reasonable.

    • 0 avatar

      Mini Cooper owner feels your pain. RPM hovers just over 4k all the way to work and back. Never have to down shift at highway speeds though, and I still get ok mpg. In the XJR rpms are much more reasonable 2k-ish and similar fuel economy.

  • avatar

    Kia has been trying really hard lately and I think there going a step in the right direction

  • avatar

    Very nice job there, Kia.  The funky brown color is better than the “Root Beer” color on the Honda Element SC, and there are quite a few nice touches there from the luxury side of the equation: HID headlamps, LED DRLs, seat heaters, and leather interior.  If the NVH is kept reasonable by the new engine, this could be a very competitive little Urban Runabout that spans many generations of potential buyers.

    • 0 avatar

      The color is tasteful.  Not just luxury touches but astonishing fit and finish too!  Seems like Kia has put refinement not just where you can’t see (in the engine) but where you can see it too (such as in body/interior panels, switch gear placement and a sense of balance in the overall design).  I’m giddy about the new engine(s) too.  MPG.  MPG.  MPG!!

  • avatar

    Hyundai/Kia have been on a roll for 5-6 years now.  Starting with small things like 10 year / 10k warranty; job loss assurance plan and low prices – that gets them a lot of sales.  Then the last 2 years their cars have made major strides in styling, quality, performance and fuel economy.  Instead of focusing on making a fuel efficient hybid / plug in / EV / Fuel cell car that sells in smaller quantities (or none at all) – they are providing fuel efficiency across the board regardless.  Look at their investment in DI engine technologies and turbos to replace thirsty / heavier v6 engines.  Further, the next Accent will come with one of the first start/stop systems on a non-hybrid (gives 30 mpg city / 40+ highway).  A no brainer that I wonder why anyone else has not added that functionality to save gas in the city cycle.  I’ve been shutting off my cars at very long lights for years now and it does save 1-2 mpg city cycle when I don’t do so.
    My one big complaint with their cars is the smell when new.  It is not quite the “new car” plastic smell you get from other auto manufacturers – it smells different and stronger.

    • 0 avatar

      “My one big complaint with their cars is the smell when new.  It is not quite the “new car” plastic smell you get from other auto manufacturers – it smells different and stronger.”

      I could make a very bad joke here, but won’t. (I did, but over-wrote it).

      Different chemicals perhaps? Depends on where they source their material, or some sort of presevative unique to them.

    • 0 avatar
      Secret Hi5

      Have you ever driven a brand new Chevy HHR?  I did for a few days, and the ‘New Car’ fumes probably fried a few brain cells.  Ugh.

    • 0 avatar

      I know exactly the smell you are talking about.  Every new Korean car (and Daewoo-Suzuki) I’ve been in has the same smell…it’s a stronger more sulphuric odor to the rubbers and plastics.

    • 0 avatar

      “My one big complaint with their cars is the smell when new.  It is not quite the “new car” plastic smell you get from other auto manufacturers – it smells different and stronger.”

      Are we talking about 2011 here?   I once noticed a noxious chemical odor in a new Sonata several years ago, but my 2008 Santa Fe and 2011 Elantra were both delivered odor-free.

  • avatar

    6 years ago when i was shoppng for a new car, I would have laughed at the idea of looking at a Kia or Hyundai.  That’s not the case anymore.  I wouldn’t be in the market for a Kia Soul, but their cars have improved to the point where they should at least be considered when shopping for a car.

  • avatar

    I prefer the Cube’s packaging and ride height, but the Soul really is well done and drive a little more amusingly.  Whatever happened the hybrid version they were showing in concept a few years back?

  • avatar

    I just hope they make a true manual trans. more available across the line.  For ’11, the 5 speed is only available on the 2 lowest trim levels and adding any option removes it.  I’m replacing a car this fall and this or a used ’10 w/stick is definitely on the list.

  • avatar

    I’ve always liked the way the Soul looks.  I keep looking at that thing and saying “if only it fit my needs”!

    Now it’s close to fitting my needs.  I’m thinking about trading in my compact pickup truck for something a compact car with room for a carseat, nice roofracks, and the ability to tow a small 4’x8′ utility trailer  to the hardware store and back.  The 2012 Subaru Impreza is at the top of my list, followed by pretty much every used Subaru smaller than the current Outback.  Alas, the owner’s manual for the Soul in the US says “not recommended for towing”.

    I like it but, if I’m going to buy something newish, I’m not going to risk my warranty by towing with it anyway. Even though it’s an award winning tow-car with a 2800lb capacity in the UK — where the towing-speed limit is far lower than the general-traffic speed, where trailers are far more likely to have brakes, where the ambulance chasers could conceivably wear a wig in an attempt to maintain some semblance of dignity, and where it’s you can’t tell people to buy an oversized pickup truck or SUV because “it’s your patriotic duty as an American”…. :-)

  • avatar

    I’ve always had a soft spot for the Soul, and love the marketing campaign (both the spokesrodents and Michele Wie ad). I like the refresh, good to see new powerplants.

    My question is directed at Kia specifically, but all car manufacturers in general. When on earth did UPS truck brown become a “cool” color to put on a vehicle??? I’ve seen it now on Toyota, Acura, and now Kia products.

    Love the rich brown on the interior, but on the outside – looks like a mini-UPS truck.

  • avatar

    Mid-cycle refreshes rarely do it for me,

    Me neither. The original always strikes me as more cohesive. Problem is that, to save money, they mess up the front and the back, but rarely the midsection (where the doors are). SO many times you get a design that’s not that cohesive, in other words either the back or front don’t match the midsection that well anymore.

    On this one I think they fudged the headlights. The originals look better. Then again, I detest the led eyeliner thing. I think they should’ve spent that money on the steering wheel. Neither the original nor this one are good. There are much better out there. It also seems they butched it up a little. I think butch angry cars should go the way of the dodo. THe original had a nicer face.

    But, again, I agree with you, if you’re gonna do a midlyfe refresh, the way to do it is to not only address the design, but to address some of the mechanical/ergonomic and other shortcomings perceived on the original. Then the refresh becomes more than just a sales/marketing exercise.

    Again, Kia/Hyundai are getting it right.

    • 0 avatar

      The ’09-’10 mid-cycle refresh of the last generation Sonata was a major improvement, particularly the interior.  Pity about the ride and handling, though…

  • avatar

    Love the brown. Like other people have mentioned, it’s starting to become pretty popular… I’ve seen it on a couple of new Jettas and even a Mini Cooper.

  • avatar

    No lame jokes about selling one’s Soul, or about how Kia dealers are in the business of selling Souls…?

  • avatar

    Pretty nice-looking interior but that is some nasty read-through on the driver’s airbag.  My wife rented one in Texas and said it had the worst Ipod interface she had ever seen.

  • avatar

    Love that black and tan look

  • avatar

    This is close to my dream vehicle, which is probably impossible, given the constraints of space and physics: I’d like to own a vehicle about this size, weight and with this level of fuel economy, but I’d like to be able to fold the rear seats and have enough space to hold a few sheets of plywood (even if they have to sit on top of the wheelwells) AND be able to close the rear cargo door.
    Chrysler’s first generation of minivans were close, but for now I’ll have to stick with a folding trailer.

  • avatar

    Steve McQueen would make a moped look cool. That color is calf turd brown and I can’t wait for it to go away. Bring out some screeming neon colors like Plymouth tried in the 60’s, that woul be cool.

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