The 2012 Kia Soul earns one of the highest Total Car Scores in the economy segment.
Reviewers tip their hats at the Soul's easy access, abundant head room and a surprisingly spacious rear seat. They also point out that it arrives with a long list of standard features, including Bluetooth phone connectivity and a USB port for audio. Plus, when it comes to personalization, Soul owners are able to configure their vehicle's cabins with different colors, unique fabrics, special lighting and hand-picked audio systems.
About the only complaint lodged against the Soul has to do with its lackluster acceleration — a common complaint in the economy car segment. As a tradeoff for fuel economy, the Soul has traditionally been rather lethargic on the open roads.
The Kia Soul is still a very fresh face in this crowded segment —- it was introduced as an all-new vehicle just two years ago. But that hasn't kept Kia from making big changes for the 2012 model year. Both engines, and transmissions, are upgraded for more power and they deliver improved fuel economy. These changes should calm the complaints about its lackluster performance.
The 2012 Kia Soul is offered in just one body style — a four-door hatchback. Oddly, and in a sometimes confusing manner, Kia has named its three trim levels Base, Plus (+), and Exclaim (!).
There are two engines in the lineup. The standard powerplant is a 1.6-liter four-cylinder. Updated for 2012 with gasoline direct injection, it is rated at 138 horsepower and 123 pound-feet of torque. The optional engine is an all-new 2.0-liter four-cylinder. It is rated at 164 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque. Both engines are offered with a choice between a six-speed manual and a six-speed automatic transmission — except for the range-topping Soul Exclaim, as it is only available with the automatic gearbox. Front-wheel drive is standard.
Base models are equipped with cloth upholstery, air conditioning, tilt-and-telescopic steering and 15-inch steel wheels. The Plus models are upgraded with amenities such as heated exterior mirrors, additional storage in the cockpit and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. The Exclaim boasts 18-inch alloy wheels, premium two-tone upholstery, automatic headlights and more.
The optional Eco package, with low-rolling-resistance tires, engine start/stop and a stronger battery, delivers improved fuel economy. Other options include audio upgrades and a Premium Package with keyless entry/ignition, leather upholstery, automatic climate control, navigation and heated front seats.
Transmission choice doesn't seem to have much of an effect on fuel economy with the standard 2012 Kia Soul. The EPA estimates the 1.6-liter inline-four with the automatic (or manual) transmission will earn 27 mpg city, 35 mpg highway and 30 mpg combined. The slightly larger 2.0-liter inline-four with the automatic (or manual) transmission will earn 26 mpg city/34 mpg highway and 29 mpg combined.
The mileage champs are the Eco models, both with automatic transmissions. The Soul Eco 1.6-liter earns 29 mpg city, 36 mpg highway and 32 mpg combined while the Soul Eco 2.0-liter with the automatic earns 27 mpg city, 35 mpg highway and 30 mpg combined.
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