- The Washington Times - Friday, April 17, 2009

Kia Motors’ new five-passenger vehicle offers another choice to car shoppers looking for fuel economy, lots of space and a unique personality.

The 2010 Soul was designed by Kia Motors’ Southern California-based design team and is the latest in the company’s lineup. It’s actually the first of a line of next-generation vehicles that Kia plans to launch during the next two years.

“Soul offers the perfect combination of style, value and personalized options,” said Michael Sprague, vice president of marketing for Kia Motors America. “It defies categorization, and has a long list of features and available accessories that really speaks to today’s consumer.”

Most automakers know that emotion has a lot to do with a customer’s choice when buying a new or even a used vehicle - and it is styling that generates that emotional attraction. Soul doesn’t offer the latest and greatest technical breakthroughs; it offers styling that sets it apart from its competitors.

Its low, wide stance, combined with an angled window line, rounded nose and large flared headlamps, gives Soul a trendy, youthful appearance.

Soul rides on a new platform that isn’t shared with any other Kia or Hyundai vehicles. Constructed with more than 70 percent high-tensile-strength steel to enhance structural strength without adding a lot of weight, the new Kia body was engineered for high torsional stiffness - an attribute necessary for refined ride quality and handling.

Soul is available in four models: the base Soul, Soul+, Soul! and Soul sport. Most of the differences among the models are visual, such as the color of the door handles, different wheel sizes or unique front and rear fascias.

Soul’s exterior styling allows a surprisingly spacious interior. Passengers will find comfort in the roomy cabin that offers passenger volume of 102.3 cubic feet, about the same as a Honda Element.

The dashboard has a three-dial instrument cluster and LCD illumination. The center-stack design allows easy access to the AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system outfitted with Sirius Satellite Radio. Standard USB and auxiliary input jacks are in the center console with full iPod and MP3 controllability from the audio head unit or steering wheel controls.

For the Soul! and Soul sport, a standard audio upgrade package has center speaker, subwoofer, 315-watt external amplifier and speaker lights that pulse to the beat of the music or simply add mood lighting. Soul features a fully independent, subframe mounted front suspension system with MacPherson struts, coil springs, gas shock absorbers and stabilizer bar. The rear suspension is subframe mounted, using a transverse torsion-beam axle with trailing arms, coil springs and gas shock absorbers for a good ride and minimum cargo-space intrusion.

For those looking for driving fun, the Soul sport offers a sport-tuned suspension, metal pedals, unique and bold red-black interior trim with sporty red-trimmed cloth seats and metal-finish interior accents.

The base 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine is mated to a five-speed manual transmission, producing 122 horsepower and 115 lb.-ft. of torque. For better performance, a 2.0-liter four-cylinder, 142-horsepower engine is available with either the five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic transmission. It’s shared with several Hyundai vehicles.

Fuel economy for the 1.6-liter manual is 26/31 mpg city/highway, while the 2.0-liter delivers 24/30 mpg with either the automatic or manual transmission.

Soul offers the same level of standard safety equipment as all other Kia vehicles, including front-seat active headrests, advanced air bags, front seat-mounted and full-length side-curtain air bags. Anti-lock brakes, stability control, traction control, electronic brake distribution, brake assist and tire-pressure monitoring are standard equipment.

Kia is steadily improving its reputation for building high-quality vehicles at very competitive prices, thanks to its close relationship with its owner, Hyundai.

Soul pricing begins at $13,300 for the base trim, while Soul+ starts at $14,950 and tops out at $17,100. Upgrading to the Soul! runs the price up to $16,950 or $17,900 fully loaded, and the Soul sport starts at $16,950 and tops out at $18,600. The new Soul is proof that style, room and comfort can be had at a reasonable price.

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