Reviews

2013 Kia Soul Walk Around

The Kia Soul looks like it's wearing a pair of wraparound sunglasses. Because the rear windows are narrower than the front windows, there appears to be a downward rearward slope to the roof, but it's an illusion achieved by the rising beltline below the windows. There's a final and small third side window, an upside-down wedge to complete the shape.

Bold chiseled wheel arches give the Soul strength. The corners are nicely rounded, erasing the hard corners of a box. The grille is small and tidy, the Soul's mouth no bigger than needed to suck in air for the engine, and the lower bumper/air opening look is called tusk in-house. The front lighting elements are contemporary and stylish, even more so on the Soul! model that includes LED running lamps and projector headlamps.

A black horizontal ding strip on the doors doesn't do much for cleanliness, but adds to the strong straight-line styling and it serves a function. The 16- and 18-inch alloy wheels are larger than often available in this size and class of car.

Big vertical taillamps climb the rear pillars and project a feeling of safety. The wraparound configuration that appeared with the 2012 models makes it easy to draw a relation between the lights and the ears of a hamster like those in Soul commercials. The liftgate and rear window are clean and smooth (and darkly cool when tinted), with an indented handle under a Kia oval logo and a stylish chrome Soul badge off to the side. All get the tusk bumper design, and the Soul! model has LED taillamps.

Interior

Everything inside the Soul is simple, clean and functional, a handsome and ergonomic layout. The cloth is solid, more than basic but never an assault on your senses. Closer to the edge is the black-and-beige houndstooth-like upholstery on the seat inserts of the Soul!

There is one trick option that's a hit with young drivers and drivers-to-be: the throbbing-to-the-beat rim of colored lights around the speakers in the door. It seems a little out of place when listening to talk radio, however. This light can be turned on and off and you can program the way it reacts to sound. It's amusing in traffic jams.

The front bucket seats are comfortable, good for long trips, and the interior vinyl and cloth trim is fine. There are bottle holders in the front door pockets plus cupholders in the console with its own deep compartment, a huge two-level glovebox, map nets on the front seatbacks, a trap-door compartment on the dash (that's molded so things don't slide around), and grab handles over every door. There are auxiliary audio, iPod, and USB port connections, and three 12-volt outlets on the Soul+ and Soul!

The steering wheel is nice, with the usual standard controls the same colors as most cell phones. The three-ring instrument panel looks clean and uses an eave so the gauges are readable in the sun. The center stack is modest with business-like knobs and buttons. It accommodate the shifter and the optional UVO/Microsoft entertainment system that includes a rear camera. Air conditioning proved very effective.

The front seats offer plenty of room, including a full hand space over the head of six-plus-footers. In the rear seat legroom is the pinch point but it'll be fine for kids or four friends of average height.

The liftgate is light and pops up easily. The 60/40 rear seats drop flat in a heartbeat. There's an excellent compartment under the trunk floor, and below that a space-saver spare tire. Figure 19 cubic feet of space behind the seat, about four under the floor, and 53 cubic feet with the back seat folded.

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