Test Drive Notes Library
- Great use of space. It’s a smallish car, but because it’s squarish, with a high roof, it feels larger and more spacious than its footprint suggests. The inside is airy. Big squarish doors and good load height make ingress and egress a piece of cake. The rear hatchback and fold down rear seats provide cargo room when needed. This is the Leatherman mini of cars.
- Upscale interior. We drove the Soul! (exclamation point is Kia’s) which sells for $23,620. For that price, the interior is surprisingly tasteful. It’s also well thought out ergonomically, with simple controls for key accessories. And you get a good array of stuff most people want; climate control, touchscreen with Apple Play and Android Auto, Bluetooth, tilt and telescoping wheel, automatic on/off headlights, and Kia’s 10 year/100,000 mile limited powertrain coverage (if you want to know exactly what “limited” means, you’ll have to wait until you make a claim to find out), and 5 year/60,000 overall warranty.
- Upright seating. For those who don’t like to slouch, the Soul seats you in a very upright position. The seats are pretty comfortable, too, for an inexpensive car. Good head room, especially up front.
- Visibility. The large amount of glass makes visibility easy, especially to the front and front sides. Blind spot monitoring on higher trim models help ameliorate the blind spot created by the huge D pillars near the hatch.
- Handling. Handling is pretty good in town. The steering feels accurate, although with no road feel to speak of. Turning in suburban and urban environments occurs without drama or much body lean. The body lean arrives at higher speeds. It’s got a bit of an appliance feel — it does everything easily but competently. But it's a very useful and cool looking appliance.
- Turbo engine. The Soul! (yeah! we know!) comes with the optional 1.6 liter turbo charged engine and 7-speed dual clutch automatic transmission that are supposed to address a complaint from previous Soul owners that the car lacks pep on hills and on highway on ramps. The turbo makes about 200 horsepower. Still we got about 25 mpg in mixed city and highway driving.
- Cool looking. We know some people hate it. But we like it. It’s funky and unusual. And it’s got a lot to offer for its size and price: versatility, spaciousness, a slightly higher seating position, nice interior and good controls. And it’s cooler looking than most other smallish economy cars, which is what it’s competing with on price.
Test Drive Notes Library
- Turbo engine. While it provides more power, it was almost a throw back in terms of turbo lag. We found it hard to modulate the pedal smoothly. We don’t know how much of the blame for this goes to the engine and how much to the transmission. But, the result is that the car would take off smoothly, and then zoom once the turbo kicked in. It was especially hard to modulate in the kind of traffic where you’re on and off the gas pedal frequently.
- Noise. The engine is pretty noisy on acceleration. Wind and road noise are noticeable — about average for cars in this price range.
- Stiff ride. If you live in Pothole City, give the Soul a good, thorough test drive on real streets before making a decision. It’s not uncomfortable on good roads, but on rougher roads, the ride is definitely planky.
- Lack of modern safety features. On the higher end versions of the Soul, you can get blind spot monitoring and forward collision warning. But automatic emergency braking (which everyone should have) is not available yet on the Soul. Or the Soul!
- Storage room. The Soul is configured to provide plenty of room for four passengers. So they skimped on the cargo room behind the back seats. That’s a sensible compromise in our opinion. Because if you do need cargo room, you just fold down the back seats, and you’re good to go with your bike or all-wheel-drive monster-stroller. But with the seats up, it’s a cargo area for grocery bags only.
- No 4WD. It looks like a crossover, but it’s front-wheel-drive only. Those in the great frozen north may have to opt for four good snow tires, depending on local driving conditions.
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