A healthy soul in a healthy body
In some ways, the Kia Soul belongs in the same group as the late Pontiac Aztek, the Honda Element and the tiny smart fortwo -- either you love or hate them. Fortunately for the fast-emerging Korean brand, the breadbox image is softened up by friendly lines and shapes that appeal to more people than you might think.
Actually, you can count me among those who like this little toy on wheels. Styling is refreshing, with a visual execution that reflects a dynamic approach. The design from the waist up is quite successful, particularly the tapered window line on each side. And from the rear-view angle, the Soul reminded me of the old Land Rover Discovery with those tall lenses.
The mini-SUV personality is a bold one that will likely win over many consumers -- folks who would otherwise never consider a brand like Kia. Making the deal look even more enticing is a wide range of customization packages and accessories developed by the automaker for real and would-be tuners. Of course, the available paint schemes are mostly in-your-face colors, further identifying the Soul as a motorized toy for grown-ups.
The interior features a home-style layout with a U-shaped dashboard that manages to encompass the overabundant controls of the Soul. At least buyers get plenty of bang for their buck. Some models even add cool extras like LED mood lamp speakers with adjustable brightness. Also, in addition to your everyday electronic gadgets, you’ll find SIRIUS satellite radio and audio input jacks. Various color combinations are available for the dashboard, seats and door panels, too.
I didn’t pay too much attention to the hard plastics inside because a) it’s an entry-level product and b) the amenities quickly changed my mind. The steering wheel offers a nice grip and an ideal amount of buttons for improved ergonomics. Sadly, it tilts but does not telescope.
Seating is quite versatile in addition to being heated up front. The armrests and split-folding seatbacks make the interior that much friendlier and more accommodating. Plus, there’s a compartment under the rear cargo floor that allows you to hide valuables or manage excessive luggage.
The front occupants enjoy generous room, a commanding position as well as good forward and lateral visibility. On the other hand, the narrow rear window and massive D-pillars significantly enlarge blind spots.
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