Thursday, January 24, 2013

First Drive: Kia Soul

The Kia Soul has been in production since 2008. The 2009 model year for the Soul was available  The Soul is a front-engine, front-wheel drive, five door compact MPV. In other words, it is a city car. It competes with the Nissan Cube, Honda Element, and Scion xB. At the 2013 Houston Auto Show, the Soul was one of four Kias available for test drives. I took the same route as in the I did in the Kia Optima Hybrid. Each manufacture has a specific route for test drives, and all of them so far have involve using near by streets and no highway driving. On this time around the Kia route, I stuck to the left lane, which had fewer potholes than the right lane, but it was still bumpy. How did the Kia Soul handle the street route and the test track and how did it handle the Kia test track? Time to find out.

But first the exterior and interior. As far as the ride height, the Soul is higher of the ground than the Optima Hybrid. The Soul has a boxy exterior design and a bland side profile. The front looks quasi-aggressive with the Kia tiger nose grill. The fog lights are integrated well in the front bumper. Other than that, there is not much else to the Soul's styling. As far as the interior goes, it is a standard interior, nothing special. The seat was not as comfortable as the the seat in the Optima hybrid. As far as interior and exterior design, the Soul is nothing special.

The Soul has a bumpy ride. I could feel most bumps on the road. On next year's Soul, Kia needs to tune the suspension for a softer, more comfortable ride. The ride was too rough, but it did not try to kill my back like the Buick Regal Turbo try to do last year. The Soul has a good turning radius as I did not hit any cones while driving in a circle. The Soul was adequate on the slalom. Steering wheel was responsive. The braking was fine.

The standard engine for the Soul is a 1.6L I4 engine produces 138 hp and 123 lb-ft of torque. The engine in the Soul I drove is a 2.0L I4 engine that produces 164 hp and 148 lb-ft of torque. Both engines are paired with a CVT transmission. The Soul needs the larger engine. The car has accelerated smoothly while I pressed the accelerator. The Soul has good acceleration with the 2.0L engine. The 0 to 60 mph time for the 2.0L Soul is 7.0, while the 0 to 60 mph time for the 1.6L Soul is 7.7 seconds. That is really good for a city car.

The strong point for the Soul is the acceleration. No matter which engine the Soul has, it has solid acceleration. But the Soul has a rough ride, yet it has plenty of leg room and head room for the driver and front passenger. Kia needs to make the seats more comfortable to sit in. Also, I do not like the boxy styling of the Kia Soul. For the next generation of the Soul, Kia should add some sleek lines along the side and give it a more aggressive front end. Prices for the Kia Soul start at $14,400, which makes it one of the least expensive cars to buy. The Soul I test drove has $10,000 worth of optional accessories, bumping the price to $24,400 for a fully loaded Soul with the 2.0L engine. If you like a car with the boxy styling, give the Soul a try. As far as the four Kias I test drove at the Houston Auto Show, this is my least favorite out of the four.

Photo was taken by a digital camera.
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