Proving "Base" Means Anything But These Days The Soul is an unqualified hit. Sales of this playful econobox have increased year-over-year since it was introduced in 2009 as a 2010 model, with over 100,000 people bringing one home last year alone. In fact, the Soul was Kia's second-best-selling model in 2011 behind the Sorento, beating out the critically acclaimed Optima, gorgeous Sportage and entry-level Forte. Not only is the Soul outperforming products in its own portfolio, it's also slaughtering what little competition there is out there that lines up straight against it. One could argue that the Soul competes with any sub-$20K five-door hatchback on the market, but most agree that buyers considering a Soul are also likely to check out the Scion xB and Nissan Cube. These three vehicles make up a tiny selection of boxy alternatives for people who shun the norm, but in just a few short years, the Soul has run away with the segment, accounting for 76-percent of its sales last year alone. There are a number of reasons for the Soul's success, not the least of which is an award-winning marketing campaign that stars a peace-keeping troop of intergalactic breakdancing hamsters. Aside from rhythmically inclined rodents, the Soul has achieved what the xB and Cube haven't because its unorthodoxy ends long before alienation sets in. A lot of people just find it charming, and it covers the basics of A-to-B transportation as well as any other vehicle with a starting price below $14,000. But the Soul wasn't perfect, as evidenced by the number of upgrades it received for the 2012 model year. With new styling tweaks inside and out, new and updated engines and transmissions along with additional features, the 2012 Kia Soul is a lot newer than one would expect of a vehicle just three years old. And while normally automakers are prone to sending out loaded models to review, Kia was confident enough to deliver us this Base 1.6L model for a week-long test. Kia trimmed its Soul lineup for 2012 by dropping the range-topping Sport model, and so now it offers only three trims: Base, + and !, which when spoken are simply referred to as Base, Plus and Exclaim. The Plus and Exclaim both come with Kia's new 2.0-liter "Nu" four-cylinder engine that produces 164 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque, significantly more than the 2.0-liter it replaces. Normally we're interested in testing the most powerful engine an automobile has to offer, but in this case we have our eye on the Soul's base engine: a new gasoline direct-injected (GDI) 1.6-liter four-cylinder rated at 138 horsepower and 123 pound-feet of torque. Normally we're interested in testing the most powerful engine an automobile has to offer, but in this case we have our eye on the Soul's base engine. Why? Kia says the take rate on the Soul's base engine for its first two model years was only 35 percent, suggesting most people opted up for the 2.0-liter's power advantage. We …
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|MPG||25 City / 30 Hwy|
|Transmission||6-spd man w/OD|
|Power||138 @ 6300 rpm|
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