One long, looping off-ramp is more than enough to alert a driver to the truth that the Kia Soul handles well. Follow that with a steep, meandering on-ramp and the Kia Soul will make another thing clear: this 4-speed automatic’s death knell should have sounded before the Soul entered production. With those two brief explanations, the on-road dynamics of the 2011 Kia Soul 4u have been summarily construed. But let’s broaden our understanding.
Rather than delve into the spec sheet of the now well-known Kia Soul, a vehicle that’s already won and lost membership in The Good 12, we’ll find it much easier to consider the Soul on its driving merits rather than on style alone. While this isn’t to say Kia is no longer entitled to mad love for the Soul’s styling success, it shouldn’t be judged as a passionate embrace of the Soul’s design, at least not as passionate an embrace as once was true. On average, 6414 Souls were sold in North America every month in 2010. Though it’s better to look fashionable than frumpy, with this sort of omnipresence even the Soul’s handsome jib has become a touch inconspicuous of late.
We’re likely in agreement. The Soul is a looker, but not as flashy and fresh as it was in early 2009. With more radical cars on the market now, particularly the Fiat 500 and Mini Countryman, do the Soul’s more tangible elements add up to a sum worthy of consideration? The Good Car Guy drove a $21,795 (CAD) 2011 Kia Soul 4u to find out. Uncover the answer after the jump.
Before the key is turned or a gear is tortuously shifted, the Soul projects upon all passengers a surprisingly strong whiff of space. It’s a tall hatchback, right? So you expect to find a hockey arena when the rear seats fold. Yet with the front seats installed in a chair-like fashion, the driver and shotgun holder enjoy that feeling of range North Americans have come to expect in large cars or SUVs. Reach out and touch the attractive interior and you won’t be disappointed. Don’t be fooled, these are average small car materials here, but it all looks nice and is arranged conveniently. In the rear, legroom stands at a pleasing 39 inches, but the seats have a strangely hollow sensation which will provoke complaints from the buttocks.
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HTC Desire Camera Phone
Back to the turning of the key and the shifting of gears we should go, however. Why does the Soul’s automatic transmission keep coming up as a subject of consternation? Outside of the 4-speed autos in subcompacts like the Toyota Yaris and Chevrolet Aveo, few if any automatics have ever led to such discontent. Clearly not as awful as the slushboxes in the aforementioned avoid-at-any-cost cars, the Soul 4u’s auto manages to come across worse because moderate expectations in simple circumstances aren’t met. The 2.0L 4-cylinder in the Soul sends 142 horsepower to the front wheels in a car that weighs a little more than 2855 pounds. There’s no reason for this car to feel twice as slow as it is; no reason for it to be as slow as it truly is; no reason to sound like the love child of an MRI and a Magic Bullet. Yet the Soul 2.0L 4u does feel slow, it isn’t as quick as it could be, and it does sound like multiple pieces of metal attempting to out-squawk one another. Blame the tranny.
Then you finally reach fourth gear, and though the engine is making its presence known with remnants of opprobrium, it’s time for that off-ramp. The Soul looks tall (it’s 5.9 inches higher than the Kia Forte) but that height isn’t manifested with a painful sense of lofty CoG. Body roll is limited. True, the steering wheel won’t ever be whispering sweet nothings, but what the wheel will do is weight up nicely and react with consistency. Despite the big 18″ 5-spoke alloys the Soul 4u’s ride is never disruptive. When hustled through the corners the Soul reveals a different…. er, soul; a whole bunch of inherent personality traits that remain hidden when accelerating in a straight line.
Potential Soul customers are left with two options at present. Stick with the 5-speed manual transmission – now there’s a revolutionary alternative – or wait for the 2012 Kia Soul’s optional 6-speed automatic. Along with an obvious fuel economy improvement, the rumoured 6-speed won’t suffer from rev drop-offs and the highest gear should bring down engine noise on the highway.
2011 Kia Soul SX
What the complaints and praise in the preceding paragraphs ignore is the Kia Soul’s value equation. Rare is the car, small or not, that offers this much for this much. Kia.ca’s Price Your Kia section generates a taxes-in monthly payment of $436.84 CAD for the 2011 Kia Soul 4u like the one Driven by The Good Car Guy. This price includes a sunroof, leather-wrapped shifter and wheel, sport-tuned suspension, and premium audio with mood lamp speakers, features not found in the Soul 2u. This is in addition to the Bluetooth connectivity, heated seats, keyless entry, steering-wheel mounted audio controls, and cruise control you’ll find in lesser Souls. Perhaps the Soul 4u’s fiercest competition is the special edition Soul SX. For an extra $1800, the SX adds super flashy wheels, an impressive bodykit, a rearview camera, metallic pedals, and a proper centre console.
Missing from the 2011 Kia Soul 4u yet present in the 2011 Nissan Juke SV is a healthy measure of pace and the distinction of being, shall we say, abloom. Present and accounted for in the Soul are several other endearing qualities, the kind you’ll experience while driving and simply owning. Best of all, Kia expects very little from your bank account in order to put you in their Soul.