Review: 2009 Kia Soul

#Kia, #Soul

Lots of stowage compartments come standard with the Soul (although it'd be nice if some of these hard compartments had rubbery nonslip surfaces), and there's a huge glove box. It's good that your sundries have a happy home in the main cabin, though, since the cargo area itself is really tiny unless you lower the rear seats. As far as the front seats are concerned, we found the driver's seat to be quite comfortable, but thought the passenger seat had too much (nonadjustable) lumbar support.

Unlike the Rio, the Soul has two available engines, both four-cylinders that feature variable valve timing. Only the base-level Soul is powered by the Rio's 1.6-liter four that's EPA rated at 26 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway. All other Soul trims get 20 extra horses and an additional 22 lb-ft of torque from their larger, 2.0-liter four-banger, which earns an EPA rating of 24/30 mpg. A five-speed manual transmission is standard with both engines, but a four-speed automatic is available only with the larger powerplant.

On the road
Despite its claimed sport-tuned suspension, the front-wheel-drive Soul Sport is certainly no sports car, but its squat stance and nimble proportions help make for a pretty entertaining tearing-around-town machine. The stick shift enhances the level of fun, particularly because the shift knob has a very comfortable notchy lip that fits your hand perfectly. And unlike many small, budget-friendly cars, the Soul isn't annoyingly buzzy or noisy on the highway. This funky Kia also rides pretty well for such a small car. The Nissan Cube may look cooler and the Scion xB may be more refined, but the Soul still brings its own Korean flair to the burgeoning cheap-'n'-boxy segment.

Kia Soul Sport

Base price: $13,995
As tested: $18,000 (est.)

Engine: 2.0-liter DOHC 16-valve I-4
Horsepower: 142 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 137 lb-ft @ 4600 rpm
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Drive: Front-wheel

L x W x H: 161.6 x 70.3 x 63.4 in
Legroom F/R: 42.1/39.0 in
Headroom F/R: 40.2/39.6 in
Cargo capacity (rear seats up/down): 19.3/53.4 cu ft
Curb weight: 2800 lb
EPA fuel economy (city/highway): 24/30 mpg

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