There's good reason for all the commotion, too. The Soul offers an interesting package that offers good looks, functionality, technology, efficiency and refinement in droves, but does so in a way that attracts people who like vehicles with good ground clearance and a commanding seating position. Wrap all that in an incredibly affordable package, and there's indeed a recipe for success here.
- The uplevel 2.0-liter inline-four got a much-needed massaging during the 2012 model year refresh, and as a result, power has been upgraded from 142 horsepower and 137 pound-feet of torque to 164 hp and 148 lb-ft, meaning...
- There's ample power on tap without a huge sacrifice in efficiency. Even with this more potent powerplant, fuel economy is rated at 26 miles per gallon in the city and 34 mpg highway. The base 1.6-liter engine that we previously tested is down by 26 hp and 25 lb-ft but only offers one extra MPG in both the city and highway cycles.
- Kia's new six-speed automatic transmission offers smooth shifts, even when jumping down a couple of gears for passing on the highway. The transmission will run a gear up all the way up to its redline before changing cogs, but if you insist on doing so, you'll be punished with lots of buzzy engine noise.
- The 18-inch wheels of this tester look really sharp and help drive home the funky/cool design of the Soul, but combined with the P235/45R18 Nexen tires, they can make for a harsh ride on less-than-ideal surfaces.
- Having an upright windshield and large greenhouse might be great for visibility, but wind noise takes a hit. Thankfully the upgraded Infinity stereo has no problem offering good sound quality when it's turned up – you'll be doing that often to wipe out the wind noise on the highway.
- This top-level ! model – that's pronounced, "Exclaim" – offers leather seats (heated up front) as part of the $2,500 premium package. My test car had just under 500 miles on the odometer and the hide already looked worn in places, especially on the rear bench.
- However, those rear seats are comfortable and quite spacious. I had no complaints from passengers and though I'm admittedly only five-foot, seven inches, I found ample amounts of headroom and legroom. Fold those seats flat and you'll be rewarded with 53.4 cubic feet of cargo space, too.
- That said, the rest of the interior looks and feels top-notch, with nicely grained plastics in a two-tone black-and-tan color palette throughout the cabin. Specific elements like the leather-wrapped steering wheel and padded leather trim on the doors give an added element of luxury, too – welcome niceties in a car with a sub-$25k price tag.
- Actually, make that sub-$24k. Even this fully loaded Soul ! with the premium package and accessories like a cargo net, rear bumper applique and auto-dimming mirror only stickers for $23,575, including $775 for destination. With a price like that (not to mention Kia's 10-year/100,000-mile warranty), it's no wonder this car continues to be an enormous success.