Back in 2009 there was a boxing match of sorts. It seems that three manufacturers, Nissan, Kia and Scion, decided they’d see who could sell Americans on the boxiest automotive design. Consumers who wanted something a little square were spoiled for choice between the Cube, the Soul, and the Xb Who won? Well, you can’t buy a new Cube anymore, and you could say Scion got knocked out. The only contender left is the plucky Kia Soul. Eight years on and Kia has sweetened the recipe by tossing a turbo charger into the mix
Of the three boxers, the Kia is definitely the most swoopy. The bodywork is a little more conservative than the kooky asymmetry of the Cube, and less boxy than the take ‘em or leave ‘em looks of first generation Xb. The Kia wears a playful expression, with headlights that sweep back onto the fenders. Front and center there’s the Kia corporate grille design that always reminds me of a teething toddler.
In profile, the raked windshield lends a slightly sporty air to the box. Rather than being parallel with the window sills, the roofline appears higher in the front and tapers toward the rear. This give the impression of embellished foreshortening, and makes the car look like it’s coming at you. The 18” alloy wheels look good nestled into fender wells. Out back there is a lift gate between to large taillights mounted high on either side of the rear window. The Soul! has a red detail stripe along the lower bodywork on the grille and down the side to tip off onlookers that there’s something special under the hood.
Interior space was a nice surprise. There’s plenty of space under the dash to stretch one’s legs and the headroom is excellent. The infotainment system is easy to use; I especially like the Apple CarPlay feature which allowed me to operate my iphone through the car’s 7” touchscreen without a hitch. Set in each end of the dash is a unique speaker and a/c vent design. The leading edge of the roof is scalloped and sweeps back from the center to meet the tops of the A-pillars. From the outside this looks good, but from the driver’s seat there was something about the angle of the upper corners of the windshield that felt a little unsettling at first.
The turbocharged four banger in the Soul!, read Soul Exclaim, churns out 201 horsepower and almost as many pound feet of torque. This is backed up by a seven speed automatic transmission that feels like it’s constantly working to find just the right gear. No doubt it short shifts by design for efficiency’s sake, but the result is that it has to shift back down any time you accelerate. You won’t find paddle shifters, but there is a sport mode that goes a long way toward reigning in the wanton shifts. The acceleration is significantly better than the base model soul. The steering is compliant, and the Soul! feels good around town and on the highway.
If you or someone you love has their heart set on a Soul, the turbo is the way to go. The added power changes the Soul’s personality in a good way. Add the 10 year 100k powertrain warranty and close to 30 mpg highway to this and I’d say the Soul! is a good value starting under 25k.