Best Bet
  • (4.6) 79 reviews
  • Inventory Prices: $4,817–$11,893
  • Body Style: Hatchback
  • Combined MPG: 27-28
  • Engine: 142-hp, 2.0-liter I-4 (regular gas)
  • Drivetrain: Front-wheel Drive
  • Transmission: 4-speed automatic w/OD
2011 Kia Soul

Our Take on the Latest Model 2011 Kia Soul

What We Don't Like

  • Gas mileage not as good as some
  • Ride over rough pavement
  • Adjustment range for driver's seat
  • High cargo floor
  • No automatic transmission on base trim

Notable Features

  • Manual or automatic
  • Boxy, youthful styling
  • Standard stability system
  • Standard USB/iPod compatibility
  • Available backlit speakers

2011 Kia Soul Reviews

Cars.com Expert Reviews

Editor's note: This review was written in April 2009 about the 2010 Kia Soul. Little of substance has changed with this year's model. To see what's new for 2011, click here, or check out a side-by-side comparison of the two model years.

For a guy in his 20s, I am terminally unhip. I checked out this week's Billboard chart toppers, and I remain skeptical that Flo Rida is anything but a Sun Belt state. It's safe to say I am not one of the trendsetters Kia pegged to drive its 2010 Soul, a new hatchback that goes the way of the Scion xB and Nissan Cube. These cars are supposed to be cool.

Is the Soul? Perhaps, but as it turns out, the question is irrelevant. Whatever you think of its styling, it's hard to debate that the car packs a lot of value for the money, even for a value-oriented econohatch. That should appeal to plenty of buyers, hip or not.

Trim levels include the base Soul, Soul+ ("Soul Plus"), Soul! ("Soul Exclaim") and Soul Sport. (I'm sticking with Plus and Exclaim — no symbols, bro.) I tested a Soul Plus with an automatic transmission. All trims come standard with a stick shift; an automatic transmission is not available on the symbol-less base model.

Youthful Styling?
Relative to the xB and Cube, the Soul looks the most conventional — a bit like a miniature delivery truck. Compared to any other cars, though, its styling is left-field nutty. Some may decide the bug-eyed headlights and stunted tail have a certain charm. Others may find the whole look too cartoonish to take seriously. I never warmed to it, but most Cars.com editors disagree: It's unique, it's different, they said. It's the sort of look young drivers will go for. While they're listening to Flo Rida, apparently.

At about 162 inches long, the Soul falls halfway between the Cube (156.7 inches) and xB (167.3). Sixteen-inch alloy wheels are standard on the Soul Plus, while the Exclaim and Sport get 18-inch rims — impressive for a sub-$20,000 car.

Inside
If the Cube gets the award for richest interior materials and the xB wins for overall roominess, the Soul comes out ahead in cabin design. Click here for a full rundown on all three interiors. Suffice it to say Kia stuck to conventional shapes, so you won't find the upright facings and hard contours that both competitors employ. This feels distinctly more carlike, and elegantly so: Though the materials are hard to the touch, most have a textured finish that looks entirely respectable. The gauges have high-rent, if uninspired, backlighting, and the A/C dials and turn signals move with sturdy, well-oiled precision. Other areas lapse to econobox standards — the center console armrest is rock-hard, and the flip-down grab handles slam shut — but on the whole, quality is good.

I'm not as enthusiastic about the roominess. Relative to other small hatchbacks, there's less space around the gearshift for your knees to spill out. Headroom is good, even in my moonroof-equipped test car, but the driver's seat has limited range to move forward and back. I'm 5-foot-11, and I could have used an inch or so more rearward travel room. Driver's seat height adjustment is standard on all but the base model, but a telescoping adjustment for the steering wheel is unavailable. Telescoping steering is still rare among small cars, but with cars like the redesigned Honda Fit and Ford's upcoming Fiesta getting it, it's clearly on the rise. So to speak.

The backseat is adult-friendly, though the cushions could sit a bit higher for better thigh support. Amenities are limited: Cupholders are limited to one in each door-pocket cutout, and there's no center armrest, which the Cube offers. Folding the seats down creates 53.4 cubic feet of maximum cargo room, which is decent compared to the larger hatchback field, but less than the Cube and xB offer.

Hatchback Roominess Compared
 Kia SoulNissan CubeScion xBHonda FitToyota Yaris
Base price$13,300$13,990$15,750$14,750$13,305*
Behind 2nd row (cu. ft.)19.311.421.720.69.5
Behind 1st row (cu. ft.)53.458.169.957.325.7
*Four-door hatchback; two-door hatch starts at $12,205.
Source: Manufacturer information for 2009 models, except 2010 Soul.

No-Frills Driving
Piloting the Soul is a forgettable experience — it's competent enough to satisfy on the daily commute, but it's never really fun. I found power around town adequate, even with two additional occupants and some light cargo. A 122-horsepower, 1.6-liter four-cylinder goes in the base Soul, which only comes with the five-speed manual transmission. All other trims, including my test car, have a 142-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder. It teams with the five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic.

At higher speeds, a fifth cog in the automatic might help. Its lack is especially noticeable in 30-to-50 mph highway traffic, where 2nd and 3rd trade places frequently: Second gear is clearly at the end of its rope, but 3rd leaves you short on power. I haven't yet driven the Cube, but the xB, which also has a four-speed auto but gets the Camry's 2.4-liter engine, has enough oomph to overcome such issues.

You'll pay for that in the xB's gas mileage, though. It's EPA-rated at 24 mpg combined, versus 26 to 28 mpg for the Soul, depending on drivetrain. As of this writing, the Cube has yet to be rated, but other hatches, from the Yaris to the Fit, get slightly better mileage.

The Soul's suspension — a semi-independent setup in back, as most entry-level cars employ — filters out small bumps, but it responds noisily over anything moderate. On the highway, rough surfaces creep up through the seats and steering wheel; over time you'll feel the undulations and seek out smoother lanes.

Curvy roads produce modest body roll, but the steering retains a planted feel over rough pavement. The Soul Sport gets a sport-tuned suspension, which I didn't test. Noise levels in the Soul Plus remain low up to about 65 mph, where wind noise off the A-pillars starts encroaching on music and conversation. Strangely enough, it's at that same speed that the steering wheel gains a comfortable weightiness at the 12 o'clock position that makes it easy to barrel down the highway. At lower speeds there's a bit too much power assist, rendering light, twitchy responses and the need for periodic steering corrections.

Though antilock brakes are standard, the base Soul gets rear drum brakes; all other trims have four-wheel discs. The discs are strong, providing linear pedal response and firm stopping power.

Safety
As of this writing, the Soul has not been crash-tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. It may be worth waiting to see how IIHS scores pan out, considering Kia's track record for small cars. Despite having six airbags each, the Soul's entry-level siblings, the Rio and Spectra, have unacceptable Poor and Marginal side-impact ratings, respectively.

Like the xB and Cube, the Soul comes standard with side curtain airbags, antilock brakes, traction control and an electronic stability system. That last feature is especially rare in the entry-level segment. Click here to see all the Soul's safety features.

Features & Pricing
The Soul's $13,300 base price gets you air conditioning, a CD stereo with full iPod compatibility, power windows and locks and the full range of safety features. That's more than impressive — it's very nearly unbelievable. Consider: At similar prices, hatchback competitors like the Versa, Yaris and Chevy Aveo5 have crank windows, rudimentary stereos and, in most cases, no antilock brakes, let alone a stability system. The Cube, also well-equipped, starts at $700 more; the xB runs an extra $2,450.

Move up the Soul chain, and you can get keyless entry, steering-wheel audio controls, power mirrors, cruise control and a moonroof. With all the options checked, the range-topping Soul Sport runs $18,600.

It's worth noting that Kia's standard warranty — with five-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper and 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain provisions — is among the best in the industry. It's not fully transferrable to subsequent owners, however, as some policies are.

Soul in the Market
Kia is onto something. The automaker's sales have held steady through March of this year amid a meltdown that has brands from Honda to Ford reeling, and the new Soul is reportedly selling briskly. Tough times call for inexpensive transportation and plenty of features for the buck. Kia's lineup is brimming with precisely those types of cars. The fact that the Soul also has a bit of personality is icing on the cake; provided its crash tests pan out well, it's certainly worth a look.

Send Kelsey an email  


Consumer Reviews

(4.6)

Average based on 79 reviews

Write a Review

Bullet proof ride

by ScottyB from Bradenton, Fl on December 8, 2017

I owned my Soul for 6 years and aside from maintenance and a set of tires at 40,000 miles it was rock solid. I put nearly 95,000 miles on the Soul and the interior materials as well as the paint held ... Read Full Review

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4 Trims Available

Photo of undefined
Wondering which configuration is right for you?
Our 2011 Kia Soul trim comparison will help you decide.
 

Kia Soul Articles

2011 Kia Soul Safety Ratings

Crash-Test Reports

IIHS Ratings

Based on Kia Soul !

Head Restraints and Seats
G
Moderate overlap front
G
Roof Strength
G
Side
G

IIHS Ratings

Based on Kia Soul !

G Good
A Acceptable
M Marginal
P Poor

Head Restraints and Seats

Dynamic Rating
G
Overall Rear
G
Seat Head/Restraint Geometry
G

Moderate overlap front

Chest
G
Head/Neck
A
Left Leg/Foot
G
Overall Front
G
Restraints
A
Right Leg/Foot
G
Structure/safety cage
G

Other

Roof Strength
G

Side

Driver Head Protection
G
Driver Head and Neck
G
Driver Pelvis/Leg
A
Driver Torso
G
Overall Side
G
Rear Passenger Head Protection
G
Rear Passenger Head and Neck
G
Rear Passenger Pelvis/Leg
G
Rear Passenger Torso
G
Structure/safety cage
A
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is a nonprofit research and communications organization funded by auto insurers. IIHS rates vehicles good, acceptable, marginal or poor based on performance in high-speed front and side crash tests. IIHS also evaluates seat/head restraints for protection against neck injuries in rear impacts.

NHTSA Ratings

Based on Kia Soul !

Overall
Overall Front
Overall Side
Overall Rollover Rating

NHTSA Ratings

Based on Kia Soul !

Overall
Overall Front
Overall Side
Overall Rollover Rating
Driver's
Passenger's
Front Seat
Rear Seat
Side Barrier
Side Pole
Side Pole Barrier combined (Front)
Side Pole Barrier combined (Rear)
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is part of the U.S. Department of Transportation. NHTSA provides vehicle safety information such as front- and side-crash ratings and rollover ratings. Vehicles are rated using a star rating system from 1-5 stars, with 5 being the highest.

Recalls

There are currently 3 recalls for this car.


Safety defects and recalls are relatively common. Stay informed and know what to do ahead of time.

Safety defects and recalls explained

Service & Repair

Estimated Service & Repair cost: $3,900 per year.

Save on maintenance costs and do your own repairs.

Warranty Coverage

Bumper-to-Bumper

60mo/60,000mi

Powertrain

120mo/100,000mi

Roadside Assistance Coverage

60mo/60,000mi

What you should get in your warranty can be confusing. Make sure you are informed.

Learn More About Warranties

Warranties Explained

Bumper-to-Bumper

Often called a basic warranty or new-vehicle warranty, a bumper-to-bumper policy covers components like air conditioning, audio systems, vehicle sensors, fuel systems and major electrical components. Most policies exclude regular maintenance like fluid top offs and oil changes, but a few brands have separate free-maintenance provisions, and those that do offer them is slowly rising. Bumper-to-bumper warranties typically expire faster than powertrain warranties.

Powertrain

Don't be misled a 10-year or 100,000-mile powertrain warranty doesn't promise a decade of free repairs for your car. It typically covers just the engine and transmission, along with any other moving parts that lead to the wheels, like the driveshaft and constant velocity joints. Some automakers also bundle seat belts and airbags into their powertrain warranties. With a few exceptions, powertrain warranties don't cover regular maintenance like engine tuneups and tire rotations.

Roadside Assistance

Some automakers include roadside assistance with their bumper-to-bumper or powertrain warranties, while others have separate policies. These programs cover anything from flat-tire changes and locksmith services to jump-starts and towing. Few reimburse incidental costs like motel rooms (if you have to wait for repairs).

Free Scheduled Maintenance

Some automakers include free scheduled maintenance for items such as oil changes, air filters and tire rotations. Some include consumables including brake pads and windshield wipers; others do not. They are typically for the first couple of years of ownership of a new car.

Other Years