By Bill Jackson on April 16, 2009
Sometimes small cars surprise me by being capable of carrying unruly cargo, and other times I just find myself muttering, “Man, this thing is tiny!” When I saw the Kia Soul at the Chicago auto show, I thought it would fall into the “pleasant surprise” category.
It didn’t, and there are better cars its size out there for the weekend athlete crowd.
The Soul is tall for a compact car, as it’s aiming for an SUV look. That makes it nice to drive, as visibility down the road is excellent. The tradeoff, though, is that the load floor is higher than in other cars. I didn’t have any trouble with it, but shorter folks might want to take a look around back before buying.
What I did have a problem with was the low roofline and doorsills. When I bent over and reached in to grab something from the center of the rear seat, I banged my head on the roof or sill more than once. The only other time that’s happened in my automotive journalism career was with the Mini Cooper Clubman, which makes it unusual enough to warrant mention — it’s not like I go trying to head-butt cars.
After I stopped seeing stars, I flopped the seats over, which was a simple matter of pulling a knob and folding them down.
I tried loading the bike first, and as one would expect in a smaller car, a wheel had to come off. Only one wheel had to be removed, though, so that puts the Soul ahead of some other little cars.
Loading both camping gear and the bike with the rear seats folded required the usual game of putting everything in the perfect place. It’s not bad, but not surprisingly good, either.
The surprise came when it was time to load the Soul with just my camping toys with the rear seats in their upright position. The Soul was one of the very few test cars where there wasn’t enough room for all my stuff with the rear seats up. The Soul is definitely not the car to take the gang to the campsite.
That’s where it really comes up short, and that’s why it gets a low rating in the “locker room cred” category. You can read a longer, in-depth review of the car here, but in this narrow test it’s just not the best match for the weekend athlete.
Weekend Athlete Scores (out of 10)
Ease of loading gear – 3: I don’t hold the Soul’s size against it, but it’s just not easy to get things into or out of all the time. I can also report that it’s hard to dent with your forehead.
Ease of seat operation – 5: Nothing fancy, and that’s a good thing.
Bike hauling – 6: I was pleasantly surprised not to have to remove both wheels to get the bike in. Good show.
Locker room cred – 1: It’s not up to the job. You pretty much have to buy a rack — not just for a bike, but for any task that requires as much space as taking three friends camping.
All-around – 4: It looks the part, but doesn’t quite measure up.
Assistant Managing Editor Bill Jackson manages the Research section, and he enjoys triathlons and cross-country skiing. Email William