Fashion trends in junior high school tend to go like this: the rich, popular kids show up one day wearing the newest style from the Gap or Abercrombie and Fitch (I might be dating myself here). One month later, every single student, save for the nerds of course, is dressed in very similar-looking threads purchased from Wal-Mart and Target. Basically, the cheapo chain stores make large profits by satisfying all the pent-up demand created by the boutiques, who already paid for all the design and marketing. Kia's decision makers clearly think they can use the same formula with the Soul, which should start for about $1500 less than a Scion Xb. I think they're right.

There is definitely a distinct preproduction press-car feel to our test vehicle - the horn doesn't work and, as Marc noted, first gear has a way of completely disappearing. Problem is, the Soul is already on sale on Korea, and it's hard to imagine journalists have been hammering on this little thing. Let's hope the ones that land in dealerships next spring have these issues settled. Otherwise, the Soul is exactly what I expected - not fun to drive, but not offensive either. Handling and acceleration are both perfectly adequate for a car in this segment.

The car certainly looks cute, but doesn't really stand out - no one looked twice when I pulled into a supermarket parking lot. Then again, no one swoons over the clothes at Wal-Mart - but they still buy them.

David Zenlea, Assistant Editor

New Car Research

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