When Kia introduced the Soul urban crossover last year, the carmaker shattered yesterday’s paradigms and forged a new one all its own, producing a dynamic, spacious, comfortable and fuel-efficient five-door hatchback aimed squarely at the young and the young at heart. This year, the 2011 Kia Soul keeps on breaking new ground with two Special Edition models and a broader palette of personalization choices.
Representing a new approach to the five-person compact hatchback, the 2011 Kia Soul matches bold design with surprising roominess, practical utility and tremendous value. Based on the awards the Soul has earned since its debut, that’s clearly a winning formula. In its first year of production, the Soul was named a “Top Safety Pick” by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), as well as one of the “Best Family Cars for 2010” by Edmunds.com and Parents magazine. Kiplinger’s Personal Finance rated the Soul the “Best New Car for Your Teen” while Cars.com pronounced it the “Best Hatchback of 2010.”
The Base model Soul (MSRP $13,300) features a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine. Three additional models come equipped with a standard 2.0-liter four-cylinder powerplant: Soul + (MSRP $15,495), Soul ! (MSRP $18,495) and Soul sport (MSRP $18,495).
The Soul’s 2.0-liter inline four boasts lightweight aluminum construction, dual overhead cams and continuously variable valve timing. At 142 hp and 137 lb/ft of torque, engine output is ideal for darting through city traffic or leisurely ticking off the miles on the interstate. Power shuttles to the front wheels through either the standard five-speed manual or the optional electronically controlled four-speed automatic. Best of all, choosing the automatic won’t require any compromise at the gas pump since the Soul achieves an EPA estimated 30 mpg highway with either gearbox.
Automotive writers have commended the Soul’s “nimble and secure” handling in reviews. Thanks go to the Soul’s power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering and independent front suspension featuring MacPherson struts, coilsprings and a stabilizer bar. Calibrated for more spirited driving dynamics, the Soul sport’s suspension features firmer springs, retuned shocks and a larger front stabilizer bar.
Standard high-tech contributors to the Soul’s deft road manners include Electronic Stability Control (ESC), Traction Control (TCS), four-wheel antilock disc brakes (ABS) with Brake Assist (BAS) and Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD).
Belying its diminutive footprint, the Soul has earned raves for its roomy cabin including a review in Car and Driver magazine that pronounced, “From a comfort standpoint, this little vehicle is a winner.” Passengers front and rear get a generous 40 inches of headroom and 55 inches of shoulder room. When hauling is a priority – say for back-to-school travel – dropping the 60/40-split folding rear seats nets you 53.4 cubic feet of cargo space.
The Soul’s generosity extends to its host of standard features. On the Soul + that list includes air conditioning, metal-finish interior trim, a six-way adjustable driver’s seat, dual 12-volt power outlets, steering wheel audio and cruise controls, remote keyless entry and 16-inch five-spoke alloy wheels.
You also get Bluetooth® wireless connectivity, USB/auxiliary input jacks and a six-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3 sound system with a six-month subscription to SIRIUS Satellite Radio. Standout options include foglamps and a body-colored, wing-type rear spoiler (also available on the Soul !).
Step up to the Soul ! and the list of standards broadens to include Push-Button Start, dual body-colored heated power mirrors, foglamps, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear shiftknob, a tilting power sunroof (optional on the sport), exclusive “Sand + Black” interior trim with matching Houndstooth Seat Inserts and 18-inch five-spoke alloy wheels (shared with the sport).
The Soul sport gathers most of the standards from the Soul ! and adds exclusives such as metal pedals, “Red + Black” interior trim, unique front and rear fascias and side sills and a body-colored liftgate rear spoiler.
Audiophiles will appreciate the Audio Upgrade Package, standard on the Soul ! and Soul sport, which adds a subwoofer, center speaker, 315-watt external amplifier and pulsing speaker lights. The Premium Package delivers leather seats and heat for the front seats.
The two new Special Edition models are based on the Soul +. They’ll feature automatic climate control, as well as model-exclusive styling cues and accessories. No one would blame you for considering high value a Kia exclusive after checking out the brand’s industry leading warranty program, which includes a 10-year/100,000-mile limited powertrain warranty and a five-year/60,000-mile roadside assistance plan.
Underscoring its revolutionary approach to the compact hatchback, Kia calls the 2011 Soul a “new way to roll.” When you’re ready to break from the pack of staid urban crossovers, be sure to schedule a test drive.