Kia Soul

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So square and yet so cool: Kia Soul
Kia Soul
from $13,300
Entertainment features:
Bluetooth, iPod/MP3 compatible and Sirius XM radio
Comfort features:
Keyless entry, sunroof and power windows
Safety features:
Anti-lock brakes, child-seat anchors, side air bags and stability control

“A new way to roll,” is Kia’s marketing tagline for its all-new Soul. For a company that has basically built its customer base with high-content, low-price, good-fuel economy vehicles with industry-best warranties, Soul is more of an extension of what Kia has been doing all along; only in the case of the Soul, younger drivers can base their buying decision on factors beyond price and fuel economy. Soul is cool, hip and trendy. Kia also would like to lower the average age (also 52) of its owner base. Kia’s vice president of marketing, Michael Sprague, told journalists at Soul’s press launch, “We think this vehicle is going to transform our brand.”

With a base price of $13,995, parents will be impressed with the value, and peers will applaud the personality. One thing all three of these square wagons share is that they don’t look or feel like entry-level players.

Kia expects the base version with its 122-horsepower, 1.6-liter engine to account for only 5 percent of total Soul sales. Three other models loaded with a 144-horsepower, 2-liter engine will make up the balance. Certainly, Soul wins honors for having the quirkiest trim-level names among our three squares. Although the top-of-the-line “Sport” is normal enough, the “+” and the “!” are the two trim levels between Base and Sport. Moving up to the 2-liter engine requires an outlay of $15,645 for the Soul +. All Souls arrive with a five-speed manual transmission as standard equipment. A $950 four-speed automatic is offered on Souls with the 1.6-liter engine.

Furnished for five, the interior is roomy for a car that is about 13.5 feet long and just less than 6 feet wide. All Souls arrive out of the box with air conditioning, audio system with CD player, auxiliary input jack and USB port, tilt steering wheel, external temperature display and 14 storage zones.

Kia offers 50 different ways to personalize the Soul, beginning with eight exterior colors with names that include “Alien,” “Molten” and “Shadow.”

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So square and yet so cool: