Box Car Comparison: 2009 Scion xB, 2009 Kia Soul, 2009 Nissan Cube

2009 Kia Soul

The Soul looks like no other Kia on this continent, with its boxy profile, quirky lamps, and fire-engine-red interior, which comes standard with the Sport trim level. It's not quite as novel looking as the Cube, but it's cute and still stands out in a crowded parking lot.

The Soul still is a Kia, and thus has a strong value component. Its base price of $13,950 is the lowest in our test, and our $18,000-ish test car had plenty of impress-your-friends features, such as Bluetooth and a USB input. The interior materials are a bit of a letdown, with lots of hard, shiny plastics. The splash of color is a nice departure, but its brightness - not to mention the glare it causes in the windshield - can grow tiring after a while.

Even with the top-level, 142-hp four cylinder, the Soul is no hot hatch, as the 2.0-liter is rather reluctant to rev. That said, the Soul is actually quite fun to hustle around town, thanks largely to its five-speed stick and its squat proportions.

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