The Kia Soul is something which characterizes typical small 4 door SUVs. While the essentials of the Soul may have been lost on the US car buying public with about ten of thousands of the car being literally chucked away from show rooms by buyers, Kia already has a success story under its belt. Now, why they chose to revamp this model is any one’s guess. It has got to maybe do with the fact that in America, almost all the models undergo some or the other cosmetic changes in a year. We got a new 2012 Kia Soul model for a review recently and this was the report of the same.
The looks of this car are basically a carry over from the older model. However, it doesn’t require a good eye to tell the difference. A catching trend is the presence of a blue eye in the head lamps for almost all the new cars coming out in North America and this only enhances the looks of the car. The stance that this car presents is that of a small hatchback on stilts. The fog lamps are dinner plate sized and this is a good thing considering the smog and pollution which is prevalent in the North American environs now. The alloy wheels of this car are similar to the ones in the Forte, atleast as far the design goes. Towards the rear, even though the conventional profile haunches onto the rear screen, there is more view available here than other similar sized competitors. The loading lip is a bit on the higher side and this may cause some problems to those frequently looking to load their entry level quirky SUVs.
Kia car have recently seen a thing or two and that too in the quality of the interiors. Well, the shift has been paradigm and is on the better side, unlike the Jetta’s interiors. The steering wheel comes wrapped in leather, even for the base variant and plenty of soft touch materials which would be at home on the Hyundai Equus model find their way in here. Also the gear lever close to the dashboard thing is a good sign of space liberation inside the cabin. The seats are a bit on the harder side but the entire cabin is made of quality materials. On the top end version, there is the presence of the Infinity music system, theater style lighting and many other goodies. Kia has always being known to be a generous maker as far as the goodies in the cars go and the 2012 Kia Soul is no different and benefits from the manufacturers magnamity.
As for the last row of seats (there is the first and second row), it is comfortable enough for three and even 6 footers wouldn’t find their hairstyles being fouled by the roofline. As for the luggage space, there is plenty of it as well, with the boot loading lip being on the higher side, the only dampener.
Handling and ride quality
Kia have over the years poured most of their technical expertise in getting their cars to be silent and real silent at that. The 2012 Kia Soul has got everything that a buyer in this segment would wish for and some more. The Macphersons at the front and rear ensure that the ride quality is a tad lumpy and not entirely settled. We found this car to be nimble but not outright sporty enough. The steering wheel also offers the right kind off feedback and needless to say, it was a delight to pilot around this car or should we call it SUV. There were no vibes or stuff to contend with and the SUV stayed put on the entire test. Also, there was more of road noise coming into the cabin rather than the engine noise which we thought would be on the north side of things. The ride quality with 5 people on-board improved noticeably than with just the two of us initially.
Engine, performance and fuel efficiency
For 2011, Kia have fitted their 2012 Kia Soul model with a new 1.6 liter GDI motor which churns out 138 Hp of power and 123 pound feet of torque. A choice of 6 speed auto and manual transmission is also on offer. Also, the top end 2.0 liter motor gets the Nu moniker to it and it pushes out 164 Hp of power with a good torque figure of 148 pound feet. Like its smaller engine, the 2.0 liter engine also offers a choice of both manual as also auto transmission with 6 speeds. Both the engines are up in the power and torque figure from last year and noticeably more than the competition as well. Also, Kia is the only automaker to offer a 6 speed transmission in this segment whereas the competition still continues with its 4 and 5 speed transmissions.
Since Kia had asked us not to print the 0-60 mph timings, we are unable to do so, however, that saying the cars definitely had enough zest in them to leave the competition in the wake of their smoke. In traffic conditions, the cars definitely were more on the crawling end, however, they were better than the competition. Also, much of the car’s power can be harnessed via the all wheel disc brakes that Kia offers for this car. This, also is an industry first. Safety aspects are taken care of with the 6 airbags package and subsequent other things in tow. As for the fuel efficiency, the Soul is the most fuel efficient thing running on 4 wheels in its segment. EPA says that the 1.6 liter motor, regardless of the transmission option, would return 27 mpg in city and 36 mpg on the highway cycle. Also the bigger 2.0 liter motor pushes the envelope with its almost similar 26 in city and 34 on the highway mpg figures. Hill-start Assist Control, which is fast becoming popular in most of the cars, is a standard feature here.
The 2012 Kia Soul really has got a soul going for it. It is spacious, looks quirky and has also got decent space inside the cabin. Plus factor in the quality of materials and the equipment levels shoved in by the manufacturer. The downsides remain the quirky styling which may not appeal to everyone inside and the not so decent leg space in the last row. But think of the 1 lakh kms or 10 years warranty package and it makes sense to invest in this Soul. The best part has been saved for the last. The 2012 Kia Soul price is $19,600. This is a appropriate with competition considering the equipment on offer and also the fuel efficiency with the all more modern engines and transmission option.