This week we took the keys to a well equipped 2013 Kia Soul to see what all the hip happenin hamster dancing is all about. No other vehicle on the market has been sold to us as a vehicle fit for the coolest of cool hip-hop rodents, so we wanted to know more.
We also wanted to see how efficient it can actually be since it gained notoriety as the most affected vehicle in Kia’s lineup with the forced lowering of mpg ratings last fall. The 2.0 liter Soul we tested lost some 6 mpg off its sticker, getting lowered from 34 mpg highway to 28. Its combined rating was lowered from 29 mpg down to 25 mpg, a pretty hard hit.
Our Soul was fully loaded which means it was equipped with Kia’s larger engine, the 2.0 liter GDI direct injection four-cylinder mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission. Also part of our tester was the Premium Package which gives nice looking 18” allow wheels, leather interior and the top UVO audio and NAV system.
Our first impressions behind the wheel were positive and smile inducing. Despite its car-like stance, it feels SUV tall from the cockpit with a commanding view out the windshield and spacious quarters. The interior design is playful and fun, the fit and finish impressive for a vehicle in this price range.
The upgraded trims in our Soul with heated leather seats and automatic climate control are a nice bonus in a vehicle priced under $25,000. The chairs were comfortable and supportive, the driver controls on the wheel easy to navigate, and the quality of the switchgear well above expectations.
We enjoyed the LED mood lighting that is part of the optional stereo system that gives you color changing effects or flashing light to the sound. Admittedly is is a bit of a distaction to watch when driving at night, but would be way cool for “parking” with a significant other.
On the road, we found the power of the larger 2.0 liter engine to be more than adequate with its 164 horsepower. The six-speed transmission allowed for easy downshifts to pass and never made the Soul feel as if it was lugging. Engine noise is somewhere between pleasant and buzzy, but never thrashy.
Handling with the upgraded tires and wheels was grippy and fun. We found tossing it around corners and curvy roads to bring out our inner hamster. Steering effort and feel are top notch, again bringing a feel of quality to this affordable car that is unexpected.
The big question is of course how well did it perform with the gas mileage. We were pleased to average 26.7 mpg combined city and highway during our week with the Kia Soul. This included many trips with a full vehicle of passengers and having the air-conditioning on. Our Soul tester was rated at 25 mpg combined, so this actual world observation is above what is stated on the sticker.
Overall we liked the fun character the Soul brought to our daily drive. It has more moxie than many vehicles in its price range, and is a great way to have a value packed vehicle that wont put you to sleep. Competitors like the Scion xB and Nissan Cube offer similar concepts, but only the Soul is hamster worthy.