2010 Kia Soul - Photo: Dan Roth/Examiner
The nouveau-box motif is dangerous territory for an automaker to tread these days. Vehicles like the Scion xB and Honda Element are anti-cars, seemingly there to celebrate the things you can do once you refrain from driving. The squared-off styling makes for excellent utility, so loading up one of these rolling celebrations to perpendicularity is impressive. Strangely, the styling sweet spot for something so blunt is shockingly narrow. Scion got a taste of this when the xB transitioned into its second generation. Gone was the charm of the original xB, and Honda's Element has its detractors, as well.
Kia's joining the fray with its Soul small-box. Though not as large as the Honda or Scion, the Soul still offers a small footprint sporting maximized capacity. The Soul also manages to squarely hit the bullseye on the styling funometer. There's whimsy in the Kia that's lacking in some of the new funk-infused rides that try and fail at being fun, and come off as cloying instead. The Soul is an automotive giggle, but it's not a punchline. What's also no joke is the fact that $18,000 buys you a Soul that's loaded with power windows, a moonroof, and an uprated audio system. The Soul drives well and is comfortable, again, something that not all in this end of the market can claim. There's no laughter being generated at the competition by Kia's superbly aimed shot. Well done.