Up Close: 2010 Kia Soul
It seems Kia’s new Soul, unveiled at the L.A. auto show today, roughly splits the difference between a Scion xB or Nissan Cube and a compact crossover, like the Suzuki SX4. The dash has fairly traditional shapes: The center controls face skyward, the shifter goes on the floor and the gauges sit behind the steering wheel. At first blush, overall quality is a step above the aging Kia Spectra's, if not quite to Hyundai Elantra levels. The backlit instruments look upscale, and dials for the A/C and stereo feel reasonably high-quality.
The seats’ tightly woven textures lose out to the Cube’s for overall comfort, though Kia’s rear seats fold flat. The Cube’s seats, when folded, leave quite a ledge. And Kia might just be the new GM when it comes to no-nonsense functionality: There’s a dedicated spot to stow your sunglasses, the pivoting sun visors extend all the way to the B-pillars, and the rear center seat belt mounts in the seatback — not the ceiling — to keep rear-window visibility clear. Gold star, Kia.
But then we get to styling. I can’t tell what this car is trying to be. It looks too nebulous from the front, too cheeky from the rear. The 18-inch wheels on uplevel models suggest go-fast capabilities … but then you pop the hood and see Kia’s 2.0-liter four-cylinder, which fills the engine bay like Mary-Kate Olsen fills a muumuu. Sigh. At least the Soul ought to be fuel-efficient, with an estimated 30-plus mpg, according to Kia. That beats Scion’s xB by at least 2 mpg.