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2012 Kia Soul Goes on a Summer Road Trip! (Review)

Who doesn’t love a fun summer road trip? Kia graced us with a 2012 Kia Soul for a week over the July 4th holiday, so we decided it would be the perfect car to take to the beach.

2012 Kia Soul Review
Who doesn’t love a fun summer road trip? Kia graced us with a 2012 Kia Soul for a week over the July 4th holiday, so we decided it would be the perfect car to take to the beach. Check out our week long review of the Soul, which took us from New York City down to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware where we were able to load it up with all the essential beach gear, kill lots of bugs on the New Jersey Turnpike and then clean it up before giving it back.

The Kia Soul was our third Kia this summer that we were given the chance to review. Following our fun time in the Rio in The Hamptons and another road trip down to Washington D.C. in the new Optima, we were excited to see what Kia’s little “box,” the Soul could do.

2012 Kia Soul Review

How Does it Look?

The Kia Soul originally debuted in 2008 and was essentially Kia’s take on the Scion xB. It’s boxy shape was something new from Kia, which was just about to go through a design renaissance. The debut of the Soul gave Kia an addition to its lineup that didn’t scream econobox like the earlier Optima and Rio models.

For the 2012 model year, the Kia Soul got a refresh, which added a refreshed exterior with projector headlights, LED daytime running lights on the top model. The top Kia “Soul!” also gets nice 18″ alloy wheels and the UVO infotainment system that is powered by Microsoft. The interior of the Soul is also not a bad place to be considering that it starts just under $14k. Since the Soul has a higher riding height than the Rio, it was actually quite comfortable. The “houndstooth” seats were a nice touch and overall the materials and design had a higher level of quality than earlier Kia models.

2012 Kia Soul Review

What’s it Got Under the Hood?

The Kia Soul can be equipped with a choice of two four-cylinder engines that are mated to either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. The base Soul comes standard with a 138 horsepower 1.6L engine, while the “Soul+” and “Soul!” are powered by a more powerful 164 horsepower 2.0L engine. We were given the top “Soul!” with a six-speed automatic transmission.

The one way trip from New York City down to Rehoboth Beach is about 200 miles, which takes you through Philadelphia and New Jersey before you land in Delaware. Throughout the trip we were able to test out the Soul’s power, play with its UVO audio system that included lights on the front speakers that would move to the beat of the song and found out just how good the Soul would be for summer road trip.

2012 Kia Soul Review

How Does it Drive?

Although it’s exterior shape makes a design statement that sets it far apart from earlier Kia models, the Soul exhibited a few flaws showed that it was created before Kia’s complete makeover. Although its higher ride height made the interior quite comfortable, it came at a cost. The Soul did not like corners, winding roads or anything that could be labeled as “sporty.” It’s handling was far below that of the Optima or Rio we tested. The lack of sport also applied to the powertrain. The automatic transmission always seemed to have a slight lag and the sounds of the four-cylinder engine weren’t exactly something you wanted to hear. But again, the Soul starts at just under $14k, so maybe it appeals more to those buyers that want “stylish” basic transportation?

2012 Kia Soul Review

How’s the Interior?

After getting over the fact that we weren’t in the more fun Optima, we decided to focus on what the Soul was good at. Since the Soul has a taller and more boxy shape than the Rio, it’s interior feels much more spacious, even though its overall footprint is similar. That same square box exterior also served great for loading up the trunk with a cooler, beach chairs and towels.

2012 Kia Soul Review

Immediately as soon as we got in the Soul we loved its seating position, the funky houndstooth covered seats and the speaker lights that made us feel like a kid again. The first thing we actually said out loud was “this car would be the perfect college car!” It’s compact size made it great to get around the city, but it still had enough room inside for a week’s worth of beach gear.

2012 Kia Soul Review

Would We Buy One?

The 2012 Kia Soul has a very usable shape, expressive styling and comes with a lot of options for under $20k, but sadly out of the three Kia’s we tested this summer, we were the least impressed with the Soul. Maybe it’s the fact that the Rio and Optima are newer models and replaced previous versions that were at the bottom of their segments, but somehow the Soul just didn’t do anything to make us want to recommend it to our friends. It was a great car for the beach, but it’s uninspiring engine, less than stellar fuel economy (we only averaged 27 mpg) and poor handling kept us asking for more.

2012 Kia Soul Review

Now to Clean it Up?

As you can tell our Kia Soul got pretty dirty driving down the East Coast. The Soul’s grille managed to eat hundreds of bugs on the New Jersey Turnpike and once in Rehoboth Beach the birds decided it was the perfect car to drop their “droppings” on. Driving around in a dirty car is not only unattractive, but really bad for your car, so we decided we had to wash the Soul before heading back up to New York City at the end of the week.

2012 Kia Soul Review

The weather averaged 100 degrees the whole time we were in Delaware, but it was possible to clean the Soul effectively without breaking too much of a sweat.

Some quick tips for washing your car during the summer:

1. If possible wash it under a shady tree or covered area. Washing it in the hot sun will not only make it dry much faster, increasing the amount of water spots on the exterior, but it will also make you sweat even more. Luckily our beach house had a small dirt driveway that was covered by a large tree to provide us the necessary shade.

2. Remember to remove those nasty bird droppings, tree sap and other nasty things on the outside of your car asap. The hood of our Soul was covered by bird droppings by the end of the week, but remember to not simply take a towel or napkin to wipe them off. Bird droppings often times have gravel in them, which will scratch your paint. Give your car a full bath to remove them.

3. Washing your car with dish soap, laundry soap or any other household product will likely take more off your car than you actually want. Sure these household products will get that dirt off, but they will also remove waxes, etc. on your paint, causing it to degrade even faster. Head over to your local car wash or automotive supply store to pick up a bottle of soap that is made for cars.

4. Keep your car wet during the whole time will prevent water spots. In the hot summer months the water will dry much faster than normal, leaving soap and water spots on your car if you don’t keep it wet. For best results rinse it from top to bottom. Also maybe have a friend help you man the hose, while you wash it.

2012 Kia Soul Review

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