The Kia Soul is a five-seat vehicle with an unusual design. Analysts have described it variously as a compact car or SUV. It is available only as a five-door hatchback. The Soul has a lengthy list of standard and optional equipment designed to appeal to youthful buyers. Kia even named some of the trim levels after punctuation marks with names such as + and !. It remains to be seen whether mainstream buyers will accept such unusual features, but the Soul has posted decent sales numbers since its introduction in 2008.
The Soul's base trim has a four-cylinder engine that produces 122 horsepower. The base trim averages 26 miles per gallon in city driving and 31 miles per gallon on the highway. Higher trim levels have a more powerful four-cylinder engine that puts out 142 horsepower and average 24 miles per gallon under city conditions and 30 miles per gallon on the highway. The Kia Soul was designed California and is assembled in Gwangju, South Korea.
Kia showed a prototype of the Soul at the 2008 Paris Motor Show. Dealerships began selling the vehicle for the 2010 model year. Analysts initially criticized the Soul's exterior design and odd trim names, questioning whether the vehicle had broad appeal. The Soul has been a modest success, however, meeting Kia's sales targets. Kia has aggressively marketed the Soul's differences from other vehicles. A commercial featuring the Soul and anthropomorphic hamsters went viral and won several advertising awards.
The Soul can be equipped with base, +, !, or Sport trim. Base includes 15-inch steel wheels, powered accessories, and an audio system with four speakers. The + trim upgrades the engine, changes the wheels to 16-inch alloy, and alters the interior trim to a metallic scheme. The ! trim includes 18-inch wheels, heated exterior mirrors, and dual color upholstery. The Sport trim has a tuned suspension, metal pedals, and trim-specific styling on the exterior. An optional sunroof is available for the Sport trim. Sport and ! trims are also eligible for the Premium package, which includes leather upholstery and heated front seats. A number of standalone options can be factory installed, as well.
Edmunds lists the Soul as a Top Recommended Vehicle for 2011. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety both gave the Soul their highest crash safety ratings. Consumers Digest named the 2011 Soul a Best Buy. Kelley Blue Book put the Soul on its Five Great Deals list. The Automotive Lease Guide says the Soul maintains the highest residual value in its class after three years. Independent automotive reviews have praised the Soul's performance and options, but criticized the styling and confusing trim names.
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