Kia, Road Test Reviews, Vehicles

2010 Kia Soul 4u SX – Road Test

Our summer quest for a new vehicle continues this week with the Kia Soul 4u SX. Although we drove the Soul a short while ago, we decided to re-visit it as a potential purchase after we saw the SX version at the auto show back in February of this year. I asked Kia if they would be kind enough to let me have it for an extended period of time – 3 weeks to see just how much we would like it.

They graciously agreed, but one of my fellow journalists did what we all fear when driving company cars.. he or she got in an accident rendering the vehicle unavailable for yours truly.  Fortunately, that gave me the opportunity to drive the Sorento for two weeks and we thoroughly enjoyed that, but this left us with just one week to evaluate the Soul.

My wife has liked the Soul since we saw it two years ago at the auto show and has been telling me – no – nagging me for months that we should get one again, so here we are.  I liked the Soul when we had it last, but it was a lower-end model. This time I ordered the top-line version because it would be more in keeping with what we would actually purchase.

The Soul is so well priced that going from the lesser version into the upper certainly doesn’t stretch the budget that far, but you get enough extras that it makes a difference in creature comforts.

First Impressions
The leather steering wheel tilts and is just the right size – a nice improvement over the plastic one used in the lesser models. Steering is light, but thankfully not over boosted, so you get a bit of a feel for what the front wheels are doing. The brake pedal feels firm, and overall the Soul is a vehicle you can get comfortable in very quickly.

The instrument cluster is very clear and logically laid out – as is everything else in the car – from the clearly labeled and easy to operate climate controls, to the audio system and the various other buttons and knobs throughout the cabin. Not once did I have to ask “What’s this for?” or “Where the heck is the ..?”

My biggest mental block with the Soul has always been the power – or should I say lack thereof. With only 106 Kw (142 hp) under the hood I knew it wasn’t going to be fast, but after getting behind the wheel for a second time I was again surprised by how well the Soul uses that power. It probably helps that this is a reasonably light little SUV, and it’s got a 4-speed automatic instead of a 5 or 6, so the gearing is well spaced for city driving. Off the line it’s very brisk – once you get used to the pedal travel before the car moves.

It’s quite easy to tear away from the line much faster than you intended. Around town it quickly gets up to speed and has plenty of get-up-and-go for leaving everyone else in your dust. It actually makes driving around the city fun! With big windows and very small pillars there aren’t any blind spots, so changing lanes, parking and just driving around is a pleasure.

On the highway the Soul is surprisingly quiet despite the fact that the engine is turning over at 3,000 rpm at 120 km/h. As long as you don’t expect it to snap your head back and blast past everyone, you won’t be disappointed or underwhelmed with the Soul on the on-ramp. Getting up to cruising speed is uneventful but not terrifyingly slow.

Traveling on the motorway for three days in a row to attend the Toronto IndyCar race gave us an opportunity for a lot of seat time in the Soul – about 700 kilometers overall, and the only complaint I can come up with is that the transmission was more than happy to kick down a gear or two and launch us at breakneck speeds when I just wanted a little bit more speed. When I say breakneck speeds, I don’t mean an overpowering surge of speed, it was more like a lot of noise and the Soul surged ahead, and it happened way too often for my liking.

The last time I drove a vehicle that was this annoying on the motorway was the MINI. It wasn’t as bad as the MINI though when going over bridges – the Soul kept up with other vehicles with ease.

The seats were more than up to the task of keeping us comfortable on our tedious journey home after a long day at the track. I was really surprised by that since I was thinking it was going to be less than ideal. Around the crowded streets of Toronto, the Soul really stood out and excelled at maneuvering through the traffic and in underground parking garages. I think a lot had to do with the high seating position, the very quick input from the steering wheel and the huge expanse of glass – it was a treat to drive and I’d highly recommend the Soul for anyone that does a lot of city driving.

The rearview camera is a nice touch when trying to get really close to other vehicles when reversing into tight parking spots. The Soul is such a perfect size that it fits anywhere and it’s very easy to judge where each of the corners are – Stevie Wonder could park this car in one shot!

The plastics and cloth materials used throughout the Soul are of very good quality – better than many vehicles that cost a lot more money.

Getting in and out of the rear seats is easy because the doors open wide. Like the front seats, the rears are quite comfortable and there’s plenty of room for two people, three would really be a pinch. Headroom is plentiful and knee, hip and shoulder space is better than you’d expect based on the overall size of the Soul.

At one point we had the Soul stuffed with four adults – complete with a lot of photo gear and a cooler – and the little car swallowed it all with ease. Our rear passengers were quite impressed with the size in the back as well as how comfortable it was.

The rear seats fold almost flat and split 60/40 for plenty of storage options – unfortunately, the front passenger seat doesn’t fold forward for more storage/longer items. With the seats up I measured 635mm x 1,168mm x 775mm (25” x 46” x 30.5”) and 1,460 mm x 1321mm x 851mm (57.5”x 52” x 33.5”) with the rear seats folded.

Under the cargo floor is a large and very useful storage tray. The rear tailgate swings up and high – no banging your noggin on that unless you’re a giant. The door is very light-weight which makes it nice and easy to close – unlike some other doors I’ve encountered where you have to be some kind of weight lifter to have the strength to pull it down.

The excellent sounding audio system comprises of an AM/FM CD/MP3 Single-Disc Player, 6-Speakers, Auxiliary and USB input ports, steering wheel audio controls, voice-activated Bluetooth Hands-free telephone and the ever useless Sirius satellite radio. Another unique feature in the Soul – perhaps a bit gimmicky, are the pulsing mood lights around the speakers in the doors, but it kept the wife amused at night.

Standard features on all  2.0L 4u’s include: 18″ alloy wheels, Air conditioning with cabin air filter, Steering wheel mounted audio and cruise control, Power windows with one-touch driver’s express down, Premium audio components (including 6-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3, centre dash-mounted speaker and tweeters, cargo-mounted subwoofer and 315-watt external amplifier) with Sirius® satellite radio, Heated front seats, 2nd row 60/40 split-folding seating, Bluetooth® hands-free cell phone capability, Tilt steering column, Sport-tuned suspension, Power Moonroof, Trip computer, Centre console storage compartment with armrest, Rear cargo under-floor storage compartment, 6-way manual adjustable driver’s seat, leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear shift knob.

Unique to the SX model: Rearview back-up camera and Body Kit (front & rear bumpers, side skirts). The test vehicle also had dealer-installed chrome front grills that dressed the Soul up nicely and gave it just a little more personality in my opinion.

All 2.0 Kia Souls have an abundance of safety features that helped it get a “Top Safety Pick” by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), earning the organization’s highest possible rating in front, side and rear crash tests. The Soul also received five-star ratings in the frontal driver, fontal passenger and driver side-impact crash tests carried out by the U.S. government’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) (

Among the list of safety features are: 4-wheel anti-lock braking system (ABS), 4-wheel disc brakes,  Electronic stability control (ESC), Traction control system (TCS), Dual advanced front airbags, Dual curtain side-impact airbags with roll-over sensor, Dual front seat-mounted side-impact airbags, Anti-whiplash active front headrests and Impact sensing auto door unlock.

The Conclusion
Kia ads use the phrase “The Power To Surprise” and I have to say, that just about sums up the company’s vehicles perfectly. Fuel economy was very good considering the engine only had 300 kilometres on it when I got it. I’m sure those numbers will improve significantly once the engine has been broken in.

Very reasonably priced and loaded with standard features that vehicles costing thousands of $ more don’t even offer
Perfect size
Loads of special custom options (at reasonable prices), making your Soul very unique
Great fuel economy
Plenty of storage compartments, a huge glove box and loads of cargo space under the cargo floor too
5 Star NHTSA rating as well as “Top Safety Pick” by IIHS
Long warranty

Another gear in the automatic transmission would be nice

Immediate Competition:
Dodge Caliber, Honda Fit, Hyundai Elantra Touring, Kia Rio5, Mazda3, MINI, Suzuki SX4, Toyota Matrix, VW Golf

By The Numbers…
Please visit your local dealer for the latest prices and incentives.
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Powertrain:            2.0 L DOHC 16-valve I-4 with CVVT; 4-speed automatic transmission; FWD
Horsepower (Kw):     142 (106) @ 6,000 rpm
Torque lb-ft (N.m.):     137 (186) @ 4,600 rpm
0-100 kph:         9.4 seconds (from previous Soul – this engine was too new)
Curb Weight:         1,295 – 1,355 kg (2,855 – 2,987 lbs)
Cargo Capacity:     Behind Front Seats: 1,511litres (53.4 cu.ft)  //  Behind Rear Seats: 546 litres (19.3 cu.ft)
Towing capacity:     Do not tow with this vehicle

Fuel Consumption:  (Regular / 87 Octane)
City: 8.5 L/100 kms  //  Highway: 6.6 L/100 kms
I averaged 8.9 L/100 kms during combined driving and 10.6 L/100 kms during almost 100% motorway driving

Copyright © 2010 by Iain Shankland. All rights reserved.
Text / Images: Iain Shankland

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