Kia Soul Sport Review

Soul. Korea.

Not a typo. Not talking about Seoul, the capital city...but the latest import from Korea, the Kia Soul.

Number one question I got from people during the week I had it: "What IS it?"

Answer: A very roomy, reasonably powered and very fun car.

The exterior styling looks better (at least to me) in person than in pictures. The interior, I think, deserves an award. The designer, who came from Audi, found a way to distract from a low budget with inventive textures and colors. It's a mood elevator...and probably makes the Soul feel more fun than it actually is. But that's okay. Flip through enough car magazines and you'll find automotive journalists busting very fast cars because they don't feel that fast. It works both ways.

$16,950 base. The tester had one option...a sunroof for $700. That and $695 freight gets us to $18,345. That's $351 more than the Scion xB I tested (which didn't have a sunroof). And the Soul gets better gas mileage (EPA estimated 24 city/30 highway to the xB's 22/28).

As I noted in the xB review, this segment's getting crowded...the Soul, xB, Honda Element and Nissan Cube all aiming for trendy young drivers....but I think Kia has the edge.

UPDATE: Did an additional week in the Kia Soul Exclaim (which is actually printed as just an exclamation point...as in "Kia Soul !"). Pretty much the same deal as the Kia Soul Sport, except the Sport gets a sport-tuned suspension which the ! doesn't, the ! gets body color front and rear bumpers while the Sport gets "Unique front and rear bumper fascias"...and the $700 optional power sunroof in the Sport is standard in the !. Either one's a strong candidate for the segment.