Friday, June 8, 2012

Kia Soul with a ! produces smiles all around

This review originally appeared in the May 2012 edition of the Northern & Central California Cruisin’ News published out of Folsom, California – mg

Sacramento, California – With the 2012 Kia Soul, the South Korean automaker asks you to “think outside the box.”

But don’t think too far outside the box, because this crossover has a funky, boxy shape that turns heads wherever it rolls up. And while it qualifies as a crossover, most consider it a wagon.

That’s OK too, because the back end of the Soul can be configured to carry a big boatload of cargo. The maximum passenger load is five.

Of three trim levels, mine was the priciest (starting at $19,600), known as the Soul ! … What’s that, you say? An exclamation point is part of the title? Yes, that’s actually the designated name of the top-line Soul model. From there, you move down to the Soul + … Yes, that’s a plus sign. And the most basic is simply called the “base” model.

Wow, I can hardly wait for a smiley face version in the near future.

Where to start with this Soul? Hip, unusual-looking and wearing headlights/taillights the approximate size of large pizza plates, this shapes up as a young person’s ride. Yet there are plenty of charms in the Soul for baby boomers and older.

The 2-liter, four-cylinder, 164-horsepower engine on the tester was peppy enough. The Soul cruised the madhouse freeways with ease, and I never felt like I was driving a runt of a car in heavy traffic. The Soul has enough of a small SUV feel to make you feel secure behind the wheel.

Interior amenities are plentiful for the price. Coolest simple pleasure is changing colors on the round edges of speakers installed in the front doors, a visual delight that can be set to pulse in time with the music on the audio system. Take my word for it: Passengers go crazy when they see this mini disco show.

A power sliding/tilt sunroof was standard. Nice touch.

The Soul can be dressed up with the usual lot of pricey extras, including a navigation system, heated front seats and a push-button starter.

The ! version of Soul is distinguished by projector headlamps with LED accents, LED taillights and 18-inch alloy wheels.

Regardless of model, the Soul is a smile-producing experience, and a pretty smart buy for a young family looking for an affordable runabout.

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