Ever since becoming part of Hyundai, Kia has been seeking a new identity that would separate it from its parent.  But since Kia is best known for inexpensive imports, it couldn’t be too extreme a move.  Well Kia may have found their new ID with the Soul, a city dweller crossover with plenty of flash and practicality that’s ready to win over a following that’s all it’s own. 

Looking young and hip, the 2010 Kia Soul joins the ranks of multi-purpose urban cruisers like Toyota’s xB, Honda’s Element, and the forthcoming Nissan Cube.  The Soul began as a small, crossover concept at the 2006 auto show in Detroit. The five-passenger Soul is built on a stretched Kia Rio subcompact platform.  With a 100.4 inch wheelbase, and an overall length of 161.8 inches, it’s shorter than either xB or Element, but a bit longer than the Cube.

Appropriately, the front-end of this little import wears a soulful expression defined by poignant-looking headlamps and a sliver of a grille. Once past the steeply raked windshield, the Soul’s cartoony profile rises above puffy wheel flares and fast-moving creases up the flanks, while the boxy back-end dons our Sport model’s unique rear fascia and add-on spoiler. The whole package sits atop 15-, 16-, or our tester’s 18-inch wheels pushed way out to the corners. Shuffling between four separate trim levels, the Soul’s exceptionally roomy cabin is Kia’s best styling and packaging effort to date.

The bold use of colors plays nicely against an artfully designed dash.  The bogey-board-like center stack is both ergonomically correct and has a ton of techno-urban appeal, and apart for some plastic-y materials, fit and finish is not far off Toyota and Honda.

Our Sport model adds alloy pedals and unique red-black sport cloth seats. They deliver good support and excellent visibility. Another nice touch is the leather-wrapped tilt steering wheel with audio and cruise controls. All Souls include power windows, locks, and air-conditioning, with a tilt/slide sunroof an option.

But to many the highlight of this interior will be the 315-watt Audio Upgrade Package. Armed with a subwoofer and pulsating speaker lights, it’s sure to make for one cosmically acoustic joyride. Safety comes as six standard airbags and active front head restraints. The rear seat offers ample room for three with a 60/40 split folding feature.

Under a large hatch is good if not extraordinary cargo room. Seats up it’s 19.3 cubic feet, or again less than xB and Element, and more than Cube. But with all seats down, its max capacity of 53.4 is the least of the group. The heart of the front-drive only Soul is one of two twin-cam fours. Base is an aluminum block 1.6-liter rated at 122 horsepower and 115 pound-feet of torque. All other trims use a cast-iron block 2.0-liter with 142 horsepower and 137 pound-feet of torque. Both engines couple to a five-speed manual gearbox, while an automatic with only four gears is optional with the 2.0.

Government Fuel Economy Ratings are 26 city/31 highway for the 1.6-liter, and 24 city/30 highway for the 2.0, both on regular gas.  We managed a good 26.1 miles-per-gallon in real-world driving.

At our track, our manual Soul 2.0 showed more spirit than we expected.  It sprinted from 0 to 60 in 8.7 seconds and finished the quarter-mile run in 16.8 seconds at 82 miles-per-hour.  The 2.0 revs in a hurry with decent oomph for a small 4-banger.  Shifts were fairly smooth, but with long throws. The Soul’s ride and handling are the product of an independent front MacPherson strut setup and a rear torsion beam suspension, which gets firmer tuning for Sport trim.  Stability and traction control are standard.

We found our Soul to be athletically-inclined, but not quite sporty. It is well-planted and nimble, but under steer comes in early. Body roll is evident too, although never excessive. Make the steering more responsive and we’d be well satisfied. For braking, the Soul comes standard with all disc and ABS. Hard stops were straight and stable, averaging a good 128 feet from 60 to 0, with good pedal feel. On the street, the Soul exhibits a compliant ride and feels far more substantial than its size would indicate.  Its easy feel makes it a natural commuter.

We feel good about Soul prices too, ranging from a thrifty $13,995, to our top level Sport at $18,595 before options.  And, Kia’s 10 year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty makes the price look even sweeter. Kia is clearly stepping up its products and image, and the 2010 Soul is the best example yet.  This stylish little box from Korea is oozing with urban lifestyle, and gives it up at a very affordable price.  Add in an enjoyable to drive nature, and a comfortable interior, and the Soul becomes one very attractive package.


  • Engine: Cast-iron Block 2.0-Liter
  • Horsepower: 142
  • Torque: 137 Lb Feet
  • 0-60 MPH: 8.7 Seconds
  • 1/4 Mile: 16.8 Seconds @ 82 MPH
  • 60-0 MPH: 128 Feet
  • EPA: 24 MPG City/ 30 MPG Highway
  • Mixed Loop: 26.1 MPG

Long Term Updates

Mileage: N/A

It’s only been a few weeks since we took delivery of the Kia Soul compact crossover, and already this trendy little box has become a staff favorite.

Maybe that popularity is due to its too-cute styling, or maybe it’s the cutting edge interior, or perhaps its versatile people and cargo hauling abilities, or that ABS, stability, and traction control are standard, or even our Sport’s flexible 2.0-liter 142-horsepower engine. Or maybe it’s all of the above.

Whatever the reasons, more than ever we think the Soul is a big win for Kia, and will go a long way in improving public perception of this Korean brand.

We’ve no problems or issues to report as of yet. But this test is young. So we’ll check back in soon to see if the Soul continues to shine.

Mileage: 2,800

It’s hard to overlook the Kia Soul. From its cute and boxy exterior, to its cool and trendy interior, this compact urban crossover is turning heads and making waves.

It has quickly become a weekend favorite at our office. Easy to park, yet capable of carrying up to five or more cargo than you’d think, it still also doesn’t have to stop at gas pumps as often as the typical family crossover.

Fuel economy from its 142-horsepower 2.0-liter 4-cylinder, 4-speed automatic combo stands at a reasonable 25.0 miles per gallon of regular. The smaller 1.6-liter engine does about 10% better.

After only 4 weeks and 2,800 miles we don’t expect problems and there aren’t any. So, for now, this Soul is bringing us smiles mile after mile.

Mileage: 4,900

One of our newest long-term test vehicles is this 2010 Kia Soul Sport. This small urban crossover is more than a competitor to the Scion xB. Its cool and young exterior and interior show that Kia is determined to become the style-setter among entry level car brands.

The Soul is a city cruiser that’s equally at home on long trips, although the simple suspension does take expansion joints with a loud thump.

Fuel economy from its 142-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder, four-speed automatic combo stands at 25.7 miles per gallon of regular. That’s very close to its combined government rating of 26.

At three months and 4,900 miles, it’s fault free. So, this Soul continues to make us smile.

Mileage: 7,500

Our 2010 Kia Soul Sport is one of the most entertaining vehicles we’ve had in our long-term fleet in years.

Not only because it’s cute to look at, or it has cool features like an iPod interactive stereo, and pulsating speakers; but because this two-box urban cruiser makes everyone who drives it feel ten years younger.

After four months and 7,500 miles, fuel economy from its 2.0-liter four-cylinder, four-speed automatic combo is rising, now standing at 26.6 MPG per gallon of regular.

Only the constant thumping of highway expansion joints dampens our ride.

But, for now, smile and be happy driving in the Kia Soul.

Mileage: 9,600

The Kia Soul should appeal to any urbanite that wants a cute, trendy, useful, and fairly frugal pavement pounder.

Soul’s pouty mouth fronts the most endearing two-box shape since the Mini Cooper. Add to that look super cool features like an iPod interactive stereo, and pulsating speakers, and you can see the Soul’s attraction.

After six months and 9,600 miles, fuel economy from our Soul’s optional 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine with four-speed automatic, is stabilizing at 26.2 miles per gallon of regular.

Being an urban vehicle, the Soul is not as comfortable on long trips as a conventional compact car, but then it can haul more. So, within its citified realm, the Soul has found its heart.

Mileage: 13,000

If you commute from suburbia to the big city, and need a cubic solution with a little more flexibility, the Kia Soul is not to be missed.

Soul adds cool styling to its traditional two-box shape, with a simple and well laid-out interior that’s also trendy and youthful. Everyone cranks up the music just to see the available pulsating speakers do their thing.

After eight months and over 13,000 miles, fuel economy from our Soul’s optional 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine and four-speed automatic has ticked up to 26.6 miles per gallon of regular.

That’s not as good as the Cube, but the Soul is a lot more pleasant on the highway and for longer trips, with plenty of reserve power, even on hills.

As far as faults go, there haven’t been any.

So, for an urban car that will also get you out of town in style, it’s the Kia Soul.

Mileage: 14,600

The Kia Soul is our candidate for the coolest little car of the year.

We are indeed smitten with this trendy little front-drive urban cruiser. Its two-box shape makes the interior very flexible, which is also nicely styled and easy to use.

We’ve had no mechanical problems after 10 months and 14,600 miles of mostly around town use. Our Soul’s optional 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine with four-speed automatic runs smooth, and also is fairly efficient at 26.2 miles per gallon of regular.

As for improvements we’d make? Try more suspension travel to keep the Soul from bottoming out over broken city pavement. And, Kia could take a lesson from the Honda Fit on how to make a rear seat in a small car even more versatile. Still, the Kia Soul is a great little package.

Mileage: 19,200

We had a great summer driving our long-term 2010 Kia Soul. It blends cool looks and vacation practicality better than any other small crossover on the market today.

Inside and out, our Soul Sport oozes cute ute flavor. But beyond that, the very contemporary, well laid out interior, along with an upgraded stereo that even includes light pulsating speakers, just makes this a great place to pass the miles.

We’ve had no technical problems in 13 months. Our Soul’s optional 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with a four-speed automatic is fairly efficient at 26.4 miles per gallon of regular after 19,200 miles. Throttle response is willing and smooth.

More suspension travel to combat potholes would make the Soul an even smoother city companion.

We knew the Kia Soul would be a homerun the first time we drove it, and we were right.

Mileage: 20,000+

We see so many of the trendy, cute Kia Soul mini-crossovers in our neck of the woods that you would almost think they’re reproducing – well, like hamsters!

Our 2010 Kia Soul Sport has been with us for over a year now and handled some 20 staffers and over 20,000 miles without missing a beat. One buys a small crossover for practicality, and even economy. But with the Soul, carefree style is also a factor.

The boldly colored interior is very inviting. And that’s even before you try the comfortable seats and killer stereo with light pulsating speakers.

Our Soul has the optional 2.0-liter engine with a four-speed automatic.

We can’t complain about 26.6 miles per gallon of regular doing mostly urban travel.

With so much room inside, something had to give, and that’s suspension travel—it’s short, and you feel every pothole.

But drop the rear seats and you can get a pretty big screen TV home with ease.

No wonder the Kia Soul won our hearts long ago.

Mileage: 20,140

As cute as we think the exterior of our long-term Kia Soul is, it’s the interior of this small urban crossover that continues to impress our staff the most.

You name it, we like it. The dash is stylish with simple and smart controls. The red and black color treatment is as fun as it is loud. Speaking of loud, even cranked up, our Sport’s stereo sounds great.

Being able to hook up a variety of portable media is great too. And we still think the pulsating speakers are a neat gimmick.

After a year and 20,140 miles, with the optional 2.0-liter engine and four-speed automatic, we’re happy with 26.2 miles per gallon of regular in mostly city service.

Indeed, our Kia Soul continues to serves us very well.

Mileage: 21,900

As you might imagine, our 2010 Kia Soul Sport spends most of its time on slower, urban byways.

And, while this cute-ute is only front wheel drive, it did fine during winter’s blasts.

At the eight month mark, with 21,900 miles on its tires, fuel economy stands at a reasonable 25.8 miles per gallon of regular, although that has dropped a bit since last report. If the Soul’s automatic had more than just 4 forward gears, it would probably do a lot better.

Still, from pleasing exterior to pulsating interior, the Kia Soul is a cool, urban drive.

Mileage: 24,200

When we first tested the diminutive Kia Soul, we gushed that this stylish, little Korean oozed urban lifestyle. That Soul was comfortable, a good drive, and extremely affordable. Plus, it had the best quality of any Kia yet.

Now, after over a year, and 24,200 miles with our long term Soul Sport, we can confirm every one of those initial findings. For a city car, or crossover, or cute-ute, however you classify it, it’s terrific!

But not perfect. There’s no simple all-wheel-drive system available for snowy conditions.

We also find its 4-speed only automatic compromises fuel economy from the optional 142-horsepower 2.0-liter I-4. 26.0 miles-per-gallon of regular is OK, but it should be better.

So you do give up something for style. But from its soulful expression to the pulsating stereo speakers and iPod interface, the Soul is a cool city tool. And one we will miss every time we head uptown.