New Car Review: 2013 Kia Soul

2013 Kia Soul. They call the color "Alien".

Kia's been surprising people for a few years now, but maybe the biggest surprise was how the Soul ended up a big-seller when other seemingly similar funky boxes (Scion xB, Nissan Cube) failed.

Sure, the Soul had the Hamstars (love them or hate them, you know who they are and what car they're selling), and marketing matters. But the Soul caught on because the Soul works.

The boxy shape serves the function of the car...it's very roomy inside. But details keep it from being simply a utilitarian box on wheels. The stylists managed to find ways to get an aggressive look out of the Soul, giving it an edginess that the too-soft xB and Cube just can't reach.

And then there's value. Souls start at $14,400 and are, even at that base level, reasonably well equipped.

Interior view of the 2013 Kia Soul

We drove the ! (not a typo) model, which is the top of the line. Even there, the base price slides in just under $20,000 (at $19,900). For your $5,500 extra, 15-inch wheels become 18s, bumpers and fascias go body-colored, the headlights become auto-off projector units, there are LED Positioning lights, dual power-folding mirrors, a premium audio system, rear camera display and HD Radio, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, a power sunroof and fog lamps. That's a high level of content for $19,900. Our tester checked the remaining option boxes, adding a Premium Package (Nav with Sirius Traffic, push-button start, leather seat trim, heated front seats and automatic climate control) for $2,500, a rear bumper applique for $75.00, a cargo net for $50 and an electrochromic rear-view mirror with built-in compass for $275.00. Add $775 freight and the total is $23,575.

Cheap at $14,400...a decent value at $19,900...but crowding $24,000 and we start to cool a bit. At that price point, you can find faster cars (the 2.0-liter four with Continuously Variable Transmission needs about 8 seconds to get to 60 from a standing start) and you can find ones that get better mileage (the EPA says 23 city/28 highway for the Soul). If you like the spaciousness, the amenities and the attitude, a Soul's a fine pick if the price tag is in the teens. Almost $24,000 puts it out of its league.