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2012 Kia Soul 2.0 Exclaim Review & Test Drive

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Filed under Automotive, Featured, Kia, Test Drives

First launched in 2009, the popular Kia Soul urban passenger vehicle builds on its successful formula with more power, improved fuel economy, new technologies and updated styling.  This ‘outside of the box’ five-door compact crossover is popping up all over the country.  Every time I turn my head I see another one waiting at a traffic signal, stop sign or passing me.  It is amazing how well this new compact crossover has taken to the American consumer looking for an economical, compact, five-door, functional and versatile vehicle with a twist in styling.

Building on the Soul’s already solid foundation, the 2012 model’s mid-cycle refresh adds even more style and fun-to-drive performance while also improving fuel economy by 10%.  Getting the Soul to move faster around slow city traffic or when merging into fast freeway traffic is the new class-leading 164 hp from a new 2.0 liter 4-cylinder engine that features dual continuous variable valve timing (CVVT), aluminum block/heads, and DOHC.  The 1.6 liter 4-cylinder engine now makes 138 hp adding GDI technology.  Both engines are now available with a new more efficient, smooth shifting six-speed manual or automatic transmission.

Changes to the exterior styling include new projector headlamps, with front LED accent lights that are slightly bulged, to a redesigned hood and new front and rear bumpers.  New and modern LED rear light clusters enhance the Soul’s unique design while the overall shape of the vehicle was finessed to give Soul a smoother and more streamlined silhouette.  Lauded for its outstanding design, the versatile five-door’s low, wide stance is complements by an angled window line and rounded nose with a beltline that rises from the front wheel arch to create a gentle wedge shape.  Available in three grades-Soul, Soul+ and Soul!, each model offers plenty of standard features, the base Soul trim features a chrome accented grille, clear lens auto-off headlamps, body color door handles and side mirrors, black body-side molding, rear wiper/wash, variable intermittent wipers/washers, front and rear disc brakes and 15 inch steel wheels fitted with 195/65R15 tires.

The Soul! (Exclaim) that I tested is easily distinguishable from the other two models with exclusive projector headlamps with front LED accents and LED taillights complemented by stunning new 18X7.5 inch alloy wheels, an electric sunroof, Bluetooth hands-free phone, foglamps, privacy glass on the hatch and rear side windows.  Not only does the Soul! have a striking design, it also offers class-leading features like standard UVO powered by Microsoft voice-activated infotainment system with a 4.3 inch color touch screen and rear camera display matched to an all-new 350-watt seven-speaker Infinity audio system.  Navigation with Sirius XM Traffic is optional.

For a smooth and fun-to-drive handling capabilities, the Soul features a fully independent subframe mounted front suspension with MacPherson struts, coil springs, rear monotube gas-filled shocks and stabilizer bar designed to maximize the friction between the tires and the road, providing steering stability and responsive handling with the power assisted electric rack & pinion steering system.  At the rear, Soul’s suspension is subframe mounted with a transverse torsion beam axle with trailing arms, coil springs and gas filled shocks for a smooth ride with minimum intrusion into the cargo space.

Slowing the Soul! down from speed are power-assisted steel disc brakes at each corner.  Up front are 10 inch vented discs clamped with dual-piston calipers and 9.2 inch solid discs in the rear clamped with single-piston calipers.  Standard ABS, BA, traction control and electronic stability control help keep you in control during severe braking maneuvers and when traveling over slick and wet pavement.

Soul is different, right down to its platform.  With its own distinguished style, Soul features front-wheel drive, a high roofline and a wide, distinctive stance.  Built with a wheelbase of 100.4 inches, an overall length of 162.2 inches, an overall width of 70.3 inches and overall height of 63.4 inches, the Soul offers a comfortable interior with roomy seating for up to five passengers.  Constructed with more than 70% high-tensile-strength steel to enhance structural strength without adding a lot of weight, the Kia-engineered body achieves high torsional stiffness, benefitting handling, ride quality, refinement and safety.  Additional measures to help improve NVH reduction qualities also are fitted throughout the Soul, including a thicker dash insulation panel, an A-pillar noise-absorber pad and an optimized exhaust silencer, a vibration-damper, a center floor anti-vibration pad, and vinyl sealing on door trim.  All Soul+ and Soul! trims also receive an added subframe dynamic damper and a heavy engine support dynamic damper, which helps reduce transfer of NVH into the cabin for a more refined ride.  It couldn’t get any better until you open the door and check out the interior.  Inside, Soul’s more roomy, high-tech, futuristic cabin features a well-equipped blend of technology features at a tremendous overall value.  All Soul models are improved with redesigned and upgraded interior materials, making the cabin the perfect personal lounge on wheels or an efficient cargo carrier with 14-storage zones.  Passengers will find comfort in the roomy cabin that offers 40.2/39.6 inches of headroom, 55.2/55.1 inch of shoulder room, and 42.1/39 inches of legroom and a passenger volume of 102.3 cu.ft.

Soul’s interior design is decidedly influenced by the car’s highly specified audio system.  An uncluttered dashboard with a three-dial instrument cluster, LCD illumination and floating center stack design is the key visual feature and offers instant access to the AM-FM-CD-MP3 audio system outfitted with Sirius satellite radio.  Standard USB and auxiliary input jacks also can be found in the center console with full iPod and MP3 controllability via the audio head unit and steering wheel-mounted controls achieved with an Apple iPod cable for Soul Base and Soul+ models.

Additional standard interior features that make the Soul stand out from the crowd include A/C, power door locks, power windows, illuminated window switches, telescoping/tilting steering wheel, external temperature gauge, digital clock, an upper storage bin, dual-level glove box, 12-volt power outlet, rear window defroster, cargo area light/dome light, power-remote sideview mirrors, grab handles above each door, dual cupholders/storage bin, door storage pockets/bottle holders in each door, map pockets behind the front seatbacks, thick cut-pile carpeting, and variable intermittent wipers/washers plus a rear wiper/washer.  A 60/40 split-folding rear also comes with headrest height adjustment offering multiple seating and cargo arrangements depending on driver and passenger needs.  Soul+ comes with standard leather-wrapped steering wheel/shift lever, leather-trimmed seats, tweeter speakers, dual vanity mirrors and dual map lights.  The Soul! that I tested came with push button start/stop, remote keyless entry, cruise-control, auto-dimming rearview mirror, luggage under floor tray, carpeted floor mats, 235/45R18 inch all-season performance tires, and an Infinity audio system with UVO technology showing on the bezel of the door speakers that changes colors seamlessly for a high-tech in-cabin experience.

Standard safety features include dual front advanced airbags, front seat-mounted side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, 3-point safety belts for all seating positions including front pretensioners/load limiters, LATCH system for child seats, vehicle stability management system, hill-start assist control, front/rear crush zones and steel beams in each door.

I was truly impressed with the looks, fun-to-drive attitude, power, handling, interior comfort, safety and high-technology all packed into this compact five-door crossover for a base price of just $19,600.00 for then ! Exclaim model that I tested.  No wonder that the Soul is jumping out from Kia showrooms all across the U.S.  Maybe Kia made a deal with the devil and sold its Soul but I think not because the designers and engineers at Kia did a fantastic job of putting together this award-winning compact five-door crossover.



  • Price: Base Soul! $19,600
  • Engine: 2.0-liter DOHC 4-cylinder 164 horsepower @ 6500 rpm / 148 ft-lbs. torque @ 4800 rpm
  • Wheelbase: 100.4 in.
  • Total length: 162.2 in.
  • Total width: 70.3 in.
  • Total height: 63.4 in.
  • Headroom: f/r-40.2/39.6 in.
  • Legroom: f/r-42.1/39.0 in.
  • Track: f/r-61.8/62.5 in.
  • Ground clearance: 6.5 in.
  • Cargo volume: 19.3 cu.ft./53.4 cu. Ft. with 2nd row seats folded
  • Fuel tank: 12.7 gallons
  • Curb weight: 2,778 lbs. Soul! with six-speed automatic
  • 0-60 mph: 8.8 seconds

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