2013 Kia Soul Test Drive

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It’s been almost a year since my last test drive, so I’ve really been missing that new car smell. Lucky for me, I was offered an opportunity to do another test drive a couple weeks ago. This time it was for a fully loaded 2013 Kia Soul. It was delivered to me with a full tank of gas, a quick demo of the important features and then the key fob was handed to me and I was on my own to drive it for a week. I’ve been curious about this vehicle ever since seeing those cute hamster commercials on TV. So let’s take it for a spin.

Note: Images can be clicked to view a larger size.

Let me start out with a standard disclaimer letting you know that this will not be a technically detailed vehicle review like you might read in a car magazine or see on a car show. I’ll be honest and tell you that I don’t know much about engines. I do like to drive cars though, so I know what I like and don’t like about them. If you want a lot of info about gas mileage, horsepower, torque and all that, you’re going to be disappointed in this article. But if you want to know what it feels like to sit in and drive the 2013 Kia Soul, this article will provide that level of info.

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Style, fit and finish

Starting at a price of $14,400, Kia describes the Soul as an urban crossover vehicle otherwise known as a CUV. CUV stands for Crossover Utility Vehicle, which is basically a vehicle that has been built with a chassis and drivetrain similar to a car instead of a truck. CUVs have some of the same features and styling of an SUV (Sport Utility Vehicle), but tend to offer a more comfortable ride and better gas mileage due to their lighter construction and smaller engines.

Although the Kia Soul has been around for a few years, I’ve only recently started noticing them driving around town. The Soul is a mid-sized boxy shaped car that looks small-ish on the outside, but feels roomy on the inside. There are 3 trim packages with strange names like Soul, Soul+ and Soul!. I was sent the top end Soul!, with a sticker price of $23,575. Available in 8 colors; I was given the Alien version to drive. Yes, that’s really the name of the color, which is a metallic green that goes great with the black grill and side moldings.

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The Soul offers some nice features on the Soul! trim package like large brake lights in the rear and turn signals on the side mirrors.

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The back hatch opens to reveal a decent sized storage area that can be enlarged further by folding down the back seats. My loaner had an optional stretchy cargo net installed in the back that worked perfectly to keep my grocery bags from sliding around. I need one of them for my Mazda.

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At a time when all but a couple makes / models of cars don’t look alike (and boring) to me, the Kia Soul has a design that makes me take a 2nd look. It’s slightly boxy, but with enough curves to give it a fresh style that sets it apart from similar CUVs like some of the Scion models.

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The 18″ tires with alloy wheels look really nice. During my week with this vehicle, I had a couple days of rainy driving mixed in with normal dry days. The Soul performed well on both dry and wet pavements. I had no problems with sliding or spinning tires, which I sometimes notice with the low profile tires on my Mazda.

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With 4 doors, the Soul can comfortably seat 5 passengers, 2 in the front and 3 in the back. The bench style seat in the back provides room to spread out and offers ample knee clearance – unless you’re 6 ft tall or something. ;)

The loaner vehicle provided to me had the premium package which includes leather seats (the front 2 are heated). I find leather seats to feel slightly hard on my tush, so I would probably not pay extra for them if I were buying this car… but that’s just me. That said, having heated seats is a real luxury on freezing mornings.

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Tech bells and whistles

As mentioned, my Soul! came with the premium package that includes all the tech goodies that a gadgeteer like me would love to have in a vehicle… especially since my 2006 Mazda 3 has almost no tech worth mentioning (sigh).

This car has a push button start with the included Smart Key. That means that you don’t have to press a button on your key fob to open your locked doors. With Remote Keyless Entry, as long as the fob is on your person, when you walk up to the car, you can just touch the handle button and it will unlock. The same goes for starting the car. As long as you have the fob with you, you only need to press the brake pedal and then press the start button. You don’t have to insert the key in the ignition.

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The Soul comes standard with power windows and locks and has all the normal switches built into the door to control them and the adjustable mirrors. The top end model also includes dual powered folding side mirrors, which are handy when trying to maneuver into tight parking spaces.

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The steering wheel controls and dash instruments are laid out well and easy to operate in daylight and night time. The only dash feature that I had problems with was the odometer, which has red LEDs on a black background. I had problems reading it in daylight, but it was fine at night.

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The Soul has 2 large cup holders in the center area between the two front seats. I wasn’t sure if they could hold 2 McDonald’s large sized cups, but I’m happy to report that they do. It’s always important to know your car’s beverage storage capacity.

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My 2 favorite tech features of the Kia Soul are the auto climate control and the SiriusXM radio with built-in navigation and backup camera. I like that you can set the temperature that you want for the interior and the car will use the heater or AC to give you what you want.

I was able to easily pair my phone via Bluetooth, for great handsfree calling. Controls located right on the steering wheel allow for easy phone interaction. The SiriusXM radio automatically paused and resumed with incoming calls.

I also liked the HD radio features for listening to good old local FM radio. Depending on the station, the artist and song title were displayed on the LCD. If you’re not interested in any type of radio, there’s was a CD player and an iPod/iPhone connection…. 30pin cable though, not a lightning connector.

Also up front were two 12V power ports, which are always handy.

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The color touch screen was easy to see in both bright sun and at night.

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The rear camera automatically displays when you put the car in reverse. I would really love a rear camera for my car. They are so helpful for backing up in tight areas.

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Remember those hamster commercials from TV? Well, you can have your own party in the Kia Soul with its built in color cycling LEDs around the door speakers. You can set the LEDs to cycle fast or slow, or you can have the colors change to the beat of the music playing on the stereo.

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This is a fun feature, but I did find it a little distracting while driving at night, which is probably the only time you’d want to use it since it’s not easy to see the colors in broad daylight. I played with it for awhile, but grew bored with it quickly. Younger drivers will like it…

Behind the wheel

First of all, it’s comforting to know that the Kia Soul has been an IIHS Top Safety Pick in the past. The Soul features dual front advanced airbags, front seat mounted side airbags and full length side curtain airbags. It also has anti-lock brakes, traction control and vehicle stability management.

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The Soul! loaned to me had a 2.0L 4-cylinder engine with a 6 speed automatic transmission w/ active Eco system. My eyes just glazed over… ;) More important to me is fuel economy. The Soul has a 25MPG (23 city / 28 highway) rating which is probably slightly less than average for its size. I wasn’t able to really test this with only a few days of driving though.

I’ve been driving a 2006 Mazda 3 5 door for almost 7 years now. It’s a very zippy car, so I tend to compare its zoom zoom ability to all the other cars I drive. The Soul looks like it could be a little jack rabbit on the road, but it’s not quite that frisky. That said, compared to my better half’s larger Kia Sorento SUV, the Soul was very nimble and capable. But compared to my Mazda, it felt a little sluggish on initial acceleration. I really only noticed this when pulling out on the highway and trying to quickly get up to 60MPH. Once up to speed, I had no complaints, and driving it around town at lower speeds was perfectly enjoyable.

The same goes for handling, steering and braking. You know how some new cars feel weird when you drive them, like the car has the control, not you? This wasn’t the case with the Kia. It immediately felt familiar and comfortable and safe to drive.

The Soul was fun to drive on the interstate, highway, twisty rural country roads, gravel roads and city streets. If it were just a little zippier, I’d add the Kia Soul to my very short wish list of potential next cars. But as is, I think the Kia Soul is a very nice CUV that offers a good value for your dollar while being safe and fun to drive.

 

Product Information

Price:Starts at $14,400 ($23,575 as configured)
Manufacturer:Kia
Pros:
  • Roomy interior for a small CUV
  • Great tech features
  • Fun to drive
  • Good value for the price
Cons:
  • A little laggy on initial acceleration
Posted in: Car Gear, Reviews

13 comments… add one

  • Lynn Lopez April 24, 2013, 11:27 am

    Great seat of the pants review. I care about gas mileage, but I also want a zippy car. I was always interested in the Soul like you because of their great commercials. I personally don’t see myself getting a four door car anytime soon, but like you I will pass on this car because of its lack of acceleration.

    I owned a Smart car for 3 years and really hated its lack of acceleration. I now drive a Honda Civic Si and although it has vtec and I tend to drive with a heavy foot, I still get close to 30 mpg in city street driving and well over 30 mpg on the highway. It does not however have the room of the Soul.

    • Julie April 24, 2013, 11:31 am

      @Lynn I think the Soul would be a good car for a beginner/young driver due to all the safety features and also because it isn’t extremely peppy. :)

  • Rob O. April 24, 2013, 12:04 pm

    Love this “real world” kind of review! I know this isn’t the primary thrust of your blog, but I’d love to see more like this and other atypical reviews.

  • Jake April 24, 2013, 12:20 pm

    Great review! How does the Transmission feel also? I am a manual driver so an auto doesn’t really interest me… Do you drive manual or Auto Julie? But I am biased… It is fun ;)

    • Julie April 24, 2013, 12:25 pm

      @Rob O. This is my 4th test drive article and I love doing them. Atypical reviews are my favorites. :) I’ll see to it that we do more of them. Anything in particular that you’d love to see us review?

      @Jake I have only driven stick once in my life… I prefer automatic. I don’t want to have to think to much while I’m driving ;) When you ask how the transmission felt, do you mean how well it shifted gears? It seemed smooth to me.

  • Jake April 24, 2013, 1:57 pm

    @Julie It is nice to have a sandwich while you drive ;) I do, some are jerky when they change down. Sounds good!

  • Ryan Chapman April 24, 2013, 2:43 pm

    Wow that gas mileage is low.. I just got the 2013 Focus with the 6 speed automatic transmission (which I am like you and am like whowhatsa?) but my rated gas mileage is 26/36 (which have been pretty consistent) and the cars are in the same ‘sub-compact hatchback’ category so I would expect the Soul to have a better gas mileage if the others can!

    I am also missing the hamsters that are supposed to come in this car.. If we get the Soul in our next rental car (like it says we should) then I will check for them.

    • Julie April 24, 2013, 3:30 pm

      @Ryan I was just reading on the gas mileage issue and apparently at one point Kia stated that the Soul could get 30mpg. But then they changed it to the lower rating… I haven’t gotten on any car forums to see if people are actually getting that number or better on their 2013 Souls… If you do end up getting to drive a Soul, please come back and leave some comments to let us know if you liked or disliked it.

  • Ravi April 25, 2013, 11:43 am

    I’ve heard some complaints about rear and side visibility because of the way the pillars are built. Did you notice any issues when backing or merging?

    • Julie April 25, 2013, 11:56 am

      @Ravi No, I do not recall any issues. I used the backup camera quite a bit for backing up. But when I didn’t, I didn’t notice any issues seeing.

  • Al April 26, 2013, 9:17 am

    Great review. We were looking at a Kia Soul Plus. Great little car. Only two problems. First, Kia and Hyundai (the parent company) lied about the mileage. It was found that they had selectively chosen the test data to use, resulting in higher MPG. When they used all of the test data, the Kia Soul Plus, for example, MPG reduced by 4 to 6 MPG. EPA of 28mpg Highway is not very good for a car that size. Not a company I would choose to deal with. More recently, Hyundai and Kia had a massive recall involving a number of safety related issues. One of the issues involved using the brake to turn off cruise control. Again, big issue. The car is cute, has nice features, is inexpensive. But, do you really want to deal with that company.

    After a great deal of research and test drives, we finally chose a Subaru Crosstrek with all wheel drive and CVT. For the weather here in Maine it is the perfect small SUV. A bit more expensive than the Kia Soul Plus but a lot more car. Recent trip (about 1/3 city and 2/3 highway) yielded 36 MPG.

  • Just Steve! June 7, 2013, 8:42 pm

    Good review…thanks! I bought a 2013 KIA Soul Exclaim in a beautiful Moss Green Pearl (Dark Green…like Forest Green!), and this makes our 3rd new KIA this past year (also a 2012 Forte and 2012 Sorento SX…Made in the USA!). Got rid of all our Fords and so far the KIA’s have been reliable, very well made and packed with value. The 100,000 mile 10 year warranty is just icing on the cake! And 5 year roadside assist and lockout service/travel maps, etc. The Infinity stereo system the Soul has is astonishing…350 watts, seperate amp, 2 tweeters, 4 speakers and a sub-woofer in trunk! Sirius radio, a built in hard drive that holds thousand or so songs, a am/fm, IPod hookups, etc. Wonderful…it’s like they designed the Soul around the stereo system! Mileage isn’t bad if you keep off the gas pedal, lots of upright room inside, comfortable seats…nice looking styling that stands out in a crowded parking lot is a sea of corollas! Love it! BTY I don’t fit the “hip young youth market” demographics that KIA was originally targeting. I’m 57 years old and lone the entry/exit and comfort of this Soul!

  • joana November 13, 2013, 7:25 pm

    I getting a kia soul exclaim maybe ! But i hear people saying is a bad car that they not reliable can anyone help me plse kik me orlandolove101

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