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Review of the 2015 Kia Soul: Living Up to its Name!

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On: Tue, Dec 15, 2015 at 10:53AM | By: Lou Ruggieri

Review of the 2015 Kia Soul:  Living Up to its Name!

If we are being honest with ourselves, there are some cars we want to buy; and then there are some cars we… have to buy. Be it because of financial restrictions due to school, work (or the lack thereof), family obligations, or any other number of reasons, most of us have had to come to grips with the fact that, although we may want an M3, perhaps we may have to settle for something a little less… premium. 

That being said, today is a great time to be broke—at least in terms of having to buy a cheap car. "Cheap" cars of yore were very cheap. Roll-up windows, drum brakes, no air conditioning, and the worst leftover parts bin interiors on the planet. Today, even the cheapest cars all seem to come with luxuries that could only be dreamt of a decade ago. Some of those "cheap" cars even look good enough to be confused with a car we wanted, instead of settled for. Enter the 2015 Kia Soul. This quirky little box bows in with its second generation and manages to take most of the cheap feel out of a cheap car. There are two options you choose from for your Soul. The first is the gas-powered version and the second is the Soul EV, an all-electric variant that offers up to 93 miles of range.

The revised Soul seems to have a bit more… wait for it… Soul than its predecessor. The exterior bodywork tweaks give the Soul a look that suggests it's a bit more sturdy than the car it replaces. Both longer and wider than the outgoing model, this little car doesn't look quite as little as before. Inside is where the Soul shines. The interior feels good enough to belong in a car costing quite a bit more than something from Kia. Coming with a standard infotainment center that has hookups for USB cables to connect your phone or iPod, mood lighting that syncs itself with the music playing, and even heated and cooled seats. It's pretty difficult to feel like you're in a substandard car when you have heated and cooled seats, isn't it?

The gas-powered version comes with a 2.0-liter DOHC inline-4 that makes 164 horsepower and 151-pound-feet or torque. You can have any transmission you want with the gas motor, so long as you want a six-speed automatic. The EV comes with a 109-horsepower 210-foot-pound electric motor backed by a one-speed transmission (yes, one speed). The Soul isn't a lightweight, even though it looks like one. The regular Soul tips the scales at 3,129 pounds while the EV tacks on another 200 pounds, coming in at 3,336 pounds.

Now, it doesn't take a physicist or mathematician to realize that if a car that produces less than 200 horsepower and weighs more than 3,000 pounds, it probably stands to reason that performance will not be spectacular. And it isn't. While the Soul does look a bit more upscale, and feels a bit more upscale, when you mash the throttle, all of your I-could-mistake-this-for-an-M3-if-I-really-try-fantasies come crashing back down to Earth.

The Soul is still an entry-level car, and that means it still comes with entry-level engines. The 2.0-liter four is on the losing end of the power to weight/ratio game, and that scorecard becomes apparent when it comes to acceleration numbers. 0-60 mph in the gas engine comes up in a modest 8.4 seconds, while the quarter mile traps at 16.4 seconds @ 86.2 mph. The heavier EV performs the same tasks in a slower 9.2 seconds and 17.0 seconds @ 80.4 mph respectively. When it comes to lateral acceleration, the gas-powered Soul posts a passable 0.79 g around a skidpad, while the EV posts a 0.76 g. Braking is one area where the Soul shines, and not just for an entry-level car. The gas-powered car stops from 60 mph in a very impressive 116 feet (which out-brakes an Acura TLX by six feet, to give some perspective), while the EV takes a bit longer at 126 feet. Fuel mileage is another area where Soul owners can puff up their chests a bit. The gas-engined Soul posts a moderately efficient 23/31/26 city/highway/combined mpg, which seems a bit low for such a small car, but perhaps due to a combination of the heavier-than-expected curb weight and the very un-aerodynamic design, mpg suffers a bit more than expected. And, for all its shortcomings in terms of performance and extra weight, the Soul EV simply crushes when it comes to mpg. In normal car speak, the EV posts a ridiculous 120/92/105 city/highway/combined mpg.

When it comes to price, the Soul seems to fit in about where expected. The gas-powered Soul is the cheaper of the two, with a base price of $15,900 on its way up to an as-tested price of $26,715, which is a very affordable range to be in for such a unique ride. The EV, presumably due to all of its electric gadgetry, asks buyers to take a longer-term approach to buying their cars. With a base price of $34,500 and an as-tested price of $36,625, the EV isn't cheap, but in places like the west coast where gas has been lingering on the annoying side of $3/gallon for some time, the initial investment in an electric car might just be worthwhile.

Kia has come a long way from being a company that was known as the microwave makers that tried their hand at cars. The Soul, while still an entry-level vehicle in many regards, does impress in a lot of other ways. It is hampered when it comes to performance, but, in terms of character and practical everyday usability, the Soul has, well… wait for it… soul, and it might just graduate in many potential buyers' minds from a car they have to buy, to a car they actually want to buy.

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