2012 Kia Soul ! Review

The 2012 Kia Soul is a compact hatchback aimed at the Millennial generation, but is perfect for anyone who has a youthful spirit. Youthful styling is what draws younger buyers to the Kia Soul, but it also has a lot to offer like good fuel mileage, practicality and technology. For 2012, the styling on the new Kia Soul has been freshened and boasts new engines that should make the functional hatchback even more attractive.

Outside, the new Soul gets a refresh that didn’t have any major changes, but there are new details like flashy LED running lights on the ! model. From the front, the Soul looks like it’s wearing a pair of wraparound shades. And there is an illusion that appears to be a downward rearward slope to the roof, because the rear windows are narrower than the front windows. The design gives the car a unique wedge shape appearance.

New drivetrains for 2012

The biggest news for 2012, however is what motivates the new Kia Soul. The wedge-shaped hatchback gets two new engines of exactly the same displacement as their predecessors but both deliver more horsepower. The 1.6-liter direct-injection four-cylinder has 138 horsepower (up from 122), and the larger 2.0-liter powerplant gets 164 horsepower (up from 142). Both engines get improved fuel-mileage to go along with the extra power.

The increased mileage can be attributed to the new six-speed automatic and manual transmissions and the engine’s new direct-injection. Mileage has been improved by 1-4 mpg whether automatic or manual, to 27/35 mpg for the 1.6-liter and 26/34 mpg for the 2.0-liter. That’s a significant increase and should be a motivating factor as buyers look at the new 2012 Kia Soul.

Pricing has also seen an increase because of the mechanical upgrades, but it should be worth it. Most buyers should find the cost penalties well worth it because of the extra power and fuel-efficiency.

The Soul ! is well equipped

The Soul ! with the six-speed automatic ($19,600), comes well equipped and includes 18-inch alloy wheels, body-color trim, LED running lights, projector headlights, sand and black interior with houndstooth upholstery inserts, and standard In-vehicle infotainment system with rear camera (UVO). The primary option is a premium package ($2,500) with navigation, XM traffic, leather seat trim, heated front seats, climate control, and push-button start/Smart Key.

Also included on the 2012 Soul ! is standard air conditioning, power windows and door locks,, body-color door handles and mirrors, AM/FM/XM/CD/MP3 stereo, USB and auxiliary inputs, Bluetooth with steering-wheel controls, 6-way manual drivers seat, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, 60/40 split folding rear seat, remote keyless entry, and variable intermittent wipers.  Additional features include stereo tweeters, leather-wrapped steering wheel, Soul logo inserts on upholstery, and metal-finish trim.

The interior is simple, functional and offers the latest technology

Inside, the Soul feels big because of the box shape which allows for extra interior volume. Six-footers can find a comfortable seating position and the front seats offer plenty of adjustment. Gauges and controls are simple and intuitive to use. The UVO in-vehicle infotainment system will be especially attractive to young buyers that allows you to control your cell phone, iPod and more with voice commands.

What makes the design of the Soul so appealing is its functionality. The back seat has enough legroom for kids and average-sized adults to be comfortable. Behind the rear seats there is 19 cubic feet of cargo room, which grows to 53 cubic feet with both sections of the 60/40-split rear seatbacks folded flat. This is similar to most of the competition except for the Scion xB’s cavernous 70-cubic-foot cargo carrying ability. The liftgate is light and opens easily to access the rear cargo area. There’s also an extra compartment under the trunk floor for storing items away from view.

The Soul is nimble and fun to drive.

Kia was able to increase horsepower and improve fuel-efficiency in the 2012 Soul with the use of the latest direct injection. The 2.0-liter engine makes 164 horsepower and 148 pound feet of torque. The 2.0-liter engine motivates the 2,700-pound Soul easily at highway speeds and is quick for passing and merging. For driving on long or steep hills, the automatic’s shifter has up/down manual control to the left of the D position for lower gearing.

The power steering is hydraulic rather than electric, and feels light and responds well in tight corners. The suspension isn’t set for sport, but is good for city driving. Brakes are all-disc on all four corners and are firm and solid in the wet or dry conditions.

Overall, the 2012 Kia Soul offers four-door hatchback versatility, it’s better on gas than the previous generation, and will appeal to the young at heart who needs a highly functional small compact. It’s fun to drive, has plenty of new power and great in urban settings because of its nimble size.

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About The Author

Denis Flierl has over twenty five years combined auto industry and automotive journalism experience that he brings to Automoblog readers. Over the thirteen years that he owned an automotive business, he worked directly with every major car brand in the auto industry and became familiar with all makes and models of cars. His passion for cars led him to spend the last twelve years in automotive journalism where he brings all that experience to his readers as he writes about the auto industry and the latest test cars he drives.

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