Monday, August 31, 2009

KIA Soul combines cool with fuel economy

The 2010 Kia Soul hatchback mainlines fun and funk into a bland brand heretofore defined by the logical appeal of low prices and long warranties.

Leave your left brain at home, clap your hands and say yeah as the eye-catching Soul rolls into sight, lights in its speakers flashing in time to the tunes pouring out of your iPod.

The Soul is the latest player in the offbeat-cool class of small cars inspired by the Honda Element. Exactly the same length as a Honda Fit subcompact, the 161.6-inch-long Soul combines a low price with high fuel economy, arena-like interior room, spunky performance and unique looks in a winning package.

Prices for the 2010 Soul start at $13,300 for a base model with a 122-horsepower, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine and five-speed manual transmission.

Kia offers four equipment levels: base, the cutesy-named + and ! and the less-cloying Sport. Stepping up to the + gets you a satisfying 142-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and manual transmission for $14,950, and the automatic version of the + will cost another $950. Top-of-the-line ! and Sport models get the 2.0-liter engine and go for $16,950 with the manual and $17,900 with the four-speed automatic transmission.

I tested a very well-equipped manual transmission Soul Sport that stickered at $17,650. All prices exclude destination charges.

While it's the same size as the sleek and aerodynamic Fit, the Soul's offbeat looks and roomy interior make it a more direct competitor for cars like the Chevrolet HHR retro wagon, the bigger and boxier Honda Element and the cool-to-be-square Nissan Cube and Scion xB.

The four-cylinder engine in the Sport provides plenty of zip for dicing in traffic. The Kia's long wheelbase and wide track provide a stable, road-gripping ride that encourages sporty driving. The Soul is considerably more entertaining to drive than the bigger xB or underpowered Cube.

Strong fuel economy

The transmission lineup is a bit archaic in a world of six-speed manuals and five-speed automatics, however. The Soul Sport I tested accelerated ably, but a sixth gear would be welcome to boost performance and fuel economy while reducing engine noise.

Despite the dated transmissions, the Soul has excellent EPA fuel economy ratings. The 2.0-liter engine returns 24 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway, while the 1.6-liter achieved 26 city/31 highway.

An innovative exterior design complements those mechanical virtues with a cheeky long-nosed body that features an aft-sloping roof, big doors for easy passenger access and a large and convenient tailgate. From its high roof and big wraparound headlights to a long wheelbase that pushes the wheels to the corners, there's nothing quite like the Soul on the road.

Outward visibility is excellent, thanks to large sideview mirrors and expansive windows all around. And the Soul offers a cavernous 102.3 cubic feet of passenger space.

Lansing State Journal

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Kia's Pitch: No Curves Ahead

The Kia Soul parked in my driveway earlier this morning didn't stay very long. In just a few hours it could be seen over at the local high school, where I left it after dropping off my daughter.

I headed off on foot to do some local errands. When I next saw it, the Soul was surrounded by teenagers.

"It's like it had honey smeared all over it," I told a friend after returning home with this latest entry in a thriving class of resolutely angular automobiles.

The Soul seems to score off the meter with the young-driver demographic, one of the most desirable groups for auto marketers. Win a young customer, the strategy goes, and there's a chance you will have a customer for life.

Much of the time the Soul was with us, my 16-year-old daughter, Shannon, was sitting inside, stress-testing the stereo. From inside the house I could hear its radio, even when it was parked across the street. With all the windows shut.

I had the radio cranked up as high as its 12 setting once, and I thought my ears were going to start bleeding. Shannon had it up to 35.

The Soul has a mood-lighting system inside that can be synched to the audio system. Among other tricks, the door-mounted speakers can be set to produce a pulsing red glow in cadence with your music, an effect that made me think of the furnace grates at a crematorium. Seeing the Soul come down the street at night with that glow emanating from inside, it looked as if Satan was on his way home with another load of sinners.

The Soul's appeal sneaked up on me. Kia unveiled a design study named Soul at the 2006 Detroit auto show; I made fun of it. Responding to a question about when the Soul might go into production, my answer was, "The 12th of never."

Now that it is here -- excuse me while I eat my words -- I have to say, it's kind of cool.

Sure, there are those odd television advertisements with rodents in treadmill cages. Officially, they are supposed to be hamsters; I thought they were rats. But they are hip, whatever species the little animatronic creatures represent, and they get down with some of the best music in car commercials since Mitsubishi's award-winning spots several years ago.

Did you know there is a series of the rodent commercials? Teenagers know. It's actually a single commercial visually (in either 30-second or one-minute versions), but there are several variations, each with the rodents grooving to a different music track.

You can find them all on YouTube, where the commercials had been viewed around 600,000 times the last time I checked. The full-length music videos (sans hamsters) of each song have been viewed hundreds of thousands of times more. Listen for yourself: "Do What You Do" by Marz, featuring Pack and Mumiez; "Fort Knox" by GoldFish; "Junkyard" by the Potbelleez; and "Colours" by Calvin Harris.

Yes, it seems to be working. Owners are blogging about the Soul. Web site hits are adding up. The car itself almost seems beside the point, but Souls are selling.

The Soul is little more than a box on wheels, but there is something oddly compelling these days about motorized boxes. The more boxlike they are, the more stylish they seem to be. The Scion xB -- which was outsold by the Soul in the United States last month -- Honda Element and Nissan Cube are all evidence of box lust among shoppers.

In its transition to production form, the Soul lost some of the visceral appeal seen in a series of concept vehicles that Kia has displayed at auto shows in recent years. I particularly liked the sinister look of the Burner, which I saw at the Geneva show in 2008, with its Goth color scheme of black in various finishes set off by details painted blood-red.

But the production Soul still has a soul.

"It's the color of root beer," my daughter observed of our metallic brown test car. Actually, that paint treatment is called Java. Other choices like Molten, Alien and Shadow resonate better than red, pea green and black, don't you think? Inside, there is only a sand-and-black combination, but it includes hound's-tooth accents on the headrests and seat fabric that can glow in the dark (along with the word Soul).

Two 4-cylinder engines are offered: a 122-horsepower 1.6-liter and a 2-liter with 142 horsepower. The smaller engine comes only with a 5-speed manual transmission; the larger can be ordered with an optional 4-speed automatic. I tested only the bigger engine and found it plenty peppy. Its E.P.A. fuel economy rating is 30 m.p.g. on the highway and 24 in town.

The 2,800-pound front-wheel-drive Soul is built on a modified version of the platform that Kia uses for its Rio subcompact. Driving dynamics were not intended to be a big selling point for the Soul, yet the handling is more than adequate.

Last week, the Soul received a Top Safety Pick rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

The Soul's 100.4-inch wheelbase helps with leg room for back seat passengers. Seating for five, with four doors and a large rear hatch, means the Soul easily packs a party. Even with the optional sunroof, there's plenty of headroom for 6-footers.

Prices starts at a friendly $13,995, and rise through the range with quirky model names differentiated by punctuation: the Soul + and the Soul ! lead up to the fanciest Soul, the Sport, which starts at $18,595. And then there are must-have options like an eardrum-melting stereo and crematorium disco lighting.

Jerry Garrett

Monday, August 24, 2009

2010 All-New Kia Soul Named to "Top 10 Back-to-School Cars" List by Kelley Blue Book's

Kia Urban Passenger Vehicle Honored by Prestigious Automotive Resource Site

# Soul recognized for style, value, fuel economy, warranty and reliability

# All-new Kia five door is an appealing option for students headed back to school

IRVINE, Calif., August 17, 2009 – Directly on the heels of earning a "Top Safety Pick" by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the all-new 2010 Kia Soul urban passenger vehicle has been named to the 2009 "Top 10 Back-to-School Cars" list by Kelley Blue Book's Soul was recognized by the well-known automotive resource site for its fun and quirky styling, impressive interior space, extensive warranty, notable fuel economy and enjoyable creature comforts.

"Soul is the perfect back-to-school vehicle, providing style and options that will appeal to students, as well as safety features, fuel economy and reliability that will give any parent piece of mind,'" said Michael Sprague, vice president, marketing of Kia Motors America (KMA). "Soul, along with the all-new dynamically styled Forte compact sedan and the company's first-ever two-door, the Forte Koup, is a perfect representation of the exciting new direction of Kia Motors as the brand continues its most aggressive design-led product transformation to date."

The list, compiled by editors at, represents vehicles that offer reliability, safety features, affordability, practicality, good handling and attractive styling, effectively appealing to both parents and students. Also taken into consideration is value, with all new vehicles posting starting prices below $18,000, with Soul easily complying with a base starting MSRP of $13,3002.

Soul, which also has been included on's "Coolest New Cars Under $18,000" list, offers consumers "a new way to roll" with an extensive list of personalization options and unique exterior styling. Kia Motors' affordable halo car stands out in a sea of sameness with funky and fun features, including speaker lights, part of an available Audio Upgrade Package, that can pulse to the beat of the music or add mood lighting to the interior cabin, enhancing the overall personal lounge feeling. Standard features, including SIRIUS® Satellite Radio capabilities with three months complimentary service1 , USB and auxiliary input jacks in the center console with full iPod® and MP3 controllability via the audio head unit and steering wheel-mounted controls, and Bluetooth® phone connectivity with steering wheel-mounted controls, only add to the overall appeal of this spirited vehicle.

Available in four trims, Soul, Soul+, Soul! (exclaim) and Soul sport, pricing for the versatile five door begins at $13,3002 for the base trim, while Soul+ starts at $14,950. Moving up to the Soul! offers a price beginning at $16,950 and the Soul sport, designed for those with active lifestyles, starts at $16,950 and tops out at $18,600.

For more information about the 2009 Top 10 Back-to-School Cars from Kelley Blue Book's, visit

Kelley Blue Book is a registered trademark of Kelley Blue Book Co., Inc.

About Kia Motors America

Kia Motors America (KMA) is the marketing and distribution arm of Kia Motors Corporation based in Seoul, South Korea. KMA offers a complete line of vehicles through more than 630 dealers throughout the United States. For 2008, KMA recorded its 14th consecutive year of increased U.S. market share. Kia Motors subscribes to a philosophy of building high value, high quality, safe and dynamic vehicles. Kia Motors prides itself on producing vehicles that are exciting and enabling and evoke the Kia tagline "The Power to Surprise."

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Kia Forte Named 'Car of the Month' by

All-new 2010 Kia Compact Sedan Lauded by Online Automotive Resource

# Forte recognized for offering sophisticated styling, value and numerous class-leading features

# All-new compact sedan tops segment by offering consumers the entire package

IRVINE, Calif., August 18, 2009 - The most recent addition to the Kia Motors America (KMA) ever-expanding line-up, the recently launched all-new 2010 Forte compact sedan has been named "Car of the Month" for August by Acclaimed for attractive styling, value and an extensive list of class-leading features, Forte is the latest installment to be launched under the brand’s design-led transformation.

"Forte boasts a number of very appealing qualities, including comfort, dynamic styling, fuel economy and overall great value for the compact segment" said Michael Sprague, vice president, marketing of Kia Motors America (KMA). "We are pleased to be able to offer consumers the complete new car package at a low price point with the confidence of a 10/100 warranty."

The "Car of the Month" program aims to provide consumers with useful commentary, information and reviews on available cars, trucks and SUVs, and features vehicles that offer impressive fuel economy, safety features and amenities.

"With a stylish and comfortable cabin, excellent fuel economy, great safety features and a 'Best in Class' engine, the Kia Forte is everything you need in a car," said a spokesperson for "Add in the low price point and a 10-year/100,000-mile limited powertrain warranty, and the Forte provides an exceptional value."

Available in three trims, LX, EX and SX, pricing for the all-new Forte compact sedan starts at $13,695 for the LX trim, while the Forte EX begins at $15,795. Moving up to the SX trim, pricing begins at $17,195. In addition to competitive pricing, Forte comes well-stocked with a long list of standard amenities, starting with a standard four-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system outfitted with SIRIUS Satellite Radio capabilities with three months complimentary service. Also standard on all models is an auxiliary audio input jack and USB port for connecting personal MP3 players as well as Bluetooth® connectivity with steering wheel-mounted controls, which enables hands-free operation for all compatible cell phones.

Along with appealing standard convenience elements, Forte showcases numerous class-leading features, including class-leading passenger volume of 96.8 cubic feet, class-leading horsepower of 156 with the 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and a class-leading combination of standard safety features with active front headrests, advanced two-stage airbags, front seat-mounted and side curtain airbags, four-wheel disc brakes with an antilock brake system (ABS), brake assist (BAS), electronic brake-force distribution (EBD), electronic stability control (ESC), a traction control system (TCS) and a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS).

About Kia Motors America

Kia Motors America (KMA) is the marketing and distribution arm of Kia Motors Corporation based in Seoul, South Korea. KMA offers a complete line of vehicles through more than 630 dealers throughout the United States. For 2008, KMA recorded its 14th consecutive year of increased U.S. market share. Kia Motors subscribes to a philosophy of building high value, high quality, safe and dynamic vehicles. Kia Motors prides itself on producing vehicles that are exciting and enabling and evoke the Kia tagline "The Power to Surprise."