Review: 2010 KIA Soul Sport please don’t call it a miniaturized minivan


Americans have a love-it-or-hate-it point of view about boxy
vehicles. Scion’s original xB design was as angular as it gets and
showed us that a compact design mixed with box-like lines creates a lot
of room in a small package. It is a design that is supposed to catch
the imagination and dollars of younger drivers. Funny thing, a HUGH demographic for Scions (and other boxy rides) are older folk – as in, grandparents of the youth movement they attempted to capture. Maybe it’s the minivan look of the newer Scion xB.

The brand new KIA Soul looks much better – both inside and out.

Good for KIA, they made a car that captures one of the most basic elements of what cheap cars should provide… fun.
Yup, this is one of those rare machines that is far more valuable than
the sum of its parts. Rather than remake another boring KIA Rio, they
opted for something funky, unique and useful.

I have yet to
evaluate the base models with the smaller engine. I did get an
opportunity to zip around in a KIA Soul Sport for a week and I truly
enjoyed the ride. My tester was the top of the line (just over
$18,000), 5-speed manual with the large sunroof. KIA offers a lot for
the money.

top of the line 315 watt CD/MP3/Sattleight stereo system with 8
speakers, external amplifier and light-up front door speakers (which is
a bit of a gimmick) sounds great. You can control the speaker lights
via a rotary knob that allows you to choose “music” which kind of
throbs with the music, “mood” which simply throbs all the time, keep it
on full time or shut it off.

18 inch alloy wheels look great and
seem to help the rather simple rear torsion-beam suspension (the front
is an independent MacPherson-strut setup). For a box, the KIA Soul does
a great job when being tossed around slow corners. Sure, there is some
body lean, although it was far less than I expected. I was pleased with
the fairly communicative steering and good turning radius.

It was
less pleasant on high wind roads where the minimal side aerodynamics
and soft suspension helped the wind push the little KIA about. The body
felt a bit anxious over uneven pavement and pot-holes as well. Still,
on a regular jaunt over average road surfaces the KIA Soul works well
and drives smoothly.

Internally, the seats were firm, yet
comfortable with just enough surface area for my large body to find
comfort. The rear seats are somewhat flat with leg and headroom
surprisingly commodious. This is one of the easiest vehicles in its
class to load little ones into given its good ride height and large
door openings. 3 skinny teens could fit in the back with no problem.

4-year-old LOVED the red and black interior. She ogled and chattered
about how much fun she had sitting inside. I have to admit, the look of
the interior is a major plus. If you get the higher end KIA Soul, you
get red and black interior trim. Unfortunately, red is the only bright
interior color available, rumor has it that other colors may become
available eventually. 

KIA Soul is a light-ish 2800 lbs and has a 142 horsepower (137 lbs feet
of torque) 2.0 liter 4-cylinder which is capable of a sensible 24 mpg
city and 30 mpg highway. In power, performance and economy the KIA Soul
bridges the gap between the KIA Rio5 and KIA Spectra5.

Before I
get to performance and driving impressions, I want you all to know how
squarely KIA hit the target. The first day I drove the KIA Soul, I
parked outside a Greek fast-food joint next to Cherry Creek High
School. A Jr. or Sr. sauntered up. I thought he walked the way he did
because of a dreadful car accident. It turns out it was the best way to
keep his belt-line at crotch level.

Anyway, he and what I assume
was his girlfriend, moseyed up to the KIA Soul and looked at it in
serious contemplation. As I exited with my Gyro in a bag, he asked me
what I thought of it. I shrugged and opened up the door letting he and
his female friend (who wore enough perfume to shame OPEC) look inside.
Then, I asked them “what do YOU think?” They both liked it, especially
when I told them that they were available from 14K to just over 19K.

days later the same thing happened to me at the Denver Zoo. This time,
a group of teens swamped me and I let them sit inside. One asked why
old people (me, I guess) liked this car. Every single one liked the
look of the interior and didn’t seem to care about the hard, cheap
plastics used.

Come to think of it, neither did I.

This is
one of the easiest cars to get in and drive. The learning curve for a
majority of components and settings is considerably easier than, say a
Honda Fit. The windows are big, sightlines excellent and seating
position – ideal.

My main issues were the lifeless 5-speed manual
which was anything but sporty and the clutch pedal was oddly
off-kilter. The clutch pedal is poorly placed and makes engagement
rough for those large of foot. The shifter and clutch are a bit on the
rubbery side and offer less than stellar feel. Still, they are very
easy to use and a great gear-set for a first time stick owner. 

2.0 growls like an old-school GTI, without the hustle. Indeed, this is
no speedster as I was barely able to get to 60 in less than 9 seconds.
Brakes were real good with my best stop from 60 taking 127 feet. I
credit and laud KIA for having the wherewithal to have disc brakes at
all 4 corners. Few cars in this class have 4-wheel discs.

is good. With stubby proportions and short overhangs, it’s a breeze to
find where your tires truly are. Accurately placing the KIA Soul
exactly where you want it is simple and the grip was much better than I
expected. This KIA changes direction quickly, decisively making
mid-level performance cornering a blast.

This is a fun little car.

storage capacity of the KIA Soul is quite good. With both rear seats
folded, the KIA Soul would easily swallow a 5-piece drum-set complete
with cymbals, stands and throne. There was room left over for a few
guitars and/or small amplifiers. With the rear seats up, it can hold a
small stroller or a fair amount of groceries.

Actually, the KIA
Soul is more than a youth orientated product, this is a perfect car for
a young family of 4 – who like something spunky. With KIA’s killer
warranty and altogether better quality, I would gladly recommend this
car to anyone who is looking for some cheap, logical fun.     

AND it doesn’t look like a miniaturized minivan…

Automotive media, racing, vehicle evaluation, wrecking yards, and car
sales are just a part of Nathan Adlen’s vehicular past. He writes out
of high octane passion! To read more reviews by Nathan Adlen or just to
enjoy more of excellent writing please visit him on at his
page HERE. Photos by: N.D.