The Kia Soul has been a remarkable success, and it’s not hard to see why. It takes the efficiency of a box, fills it with funk, adds a hamster or two, and voila, it’s a funk-utility. But time and funk wait for no man—or hamster, for that matter—so for the 2012 model year, Kia “refreshes” the Soul in mid-cycle.
The all-new Kia Soul was an early introduction 2010 model, a slightly different spin on the boxy Scion xB and the peculiar Nissan Cube, as well as the equally square but larger Honda Element. The Kia Soul has its own square angles but also displays a wedged shaped body unlike that of the others in this class.
That shape is unchanged for the 2012 model but rather changes the front and rear caps and shuffles the equipment around. The trim lines remain awkwardly named, with Soul, Soul + and Soul !.
More important, however, are the new engines. The base 1.6-liter four has received a power boost. It’s now 138 horsepower, a 13 percent increase over its predecessor, thanks primarily to gasoline direct injection (GDI). And a new 2.0-liter four gives the Soul + and the Soul ! a shot in the arm as well. It’s rated at 164 horsepower which is up 16 percent from last year’s 2.0-liter four.
The invigorated 1.6-liter is thriftier as well. Before GDI, the 1.6 was EPA rated at 26/31 mpg city/highway respectively. With GDI for 2012, the EPA test procedures come up with 35 mpg on the highway, with 27 mpg in the city cycle. The 2.0-liter does better as well, with a 26/34 mpg rating with either manual or automatic transmission.
If that economy’s not enough, the 2012 Soul and Soul + have an optional Eco package for both the 1.6-liter and 2.0-liter engines. The Eco package includes low-rolling-resistance tires, plus the Eco system that makes the throttle pedal less responsive. Full power is still available. The pedal just must be pressed harder and further to get it, and that makes most drivers get better mileage. Other drivers will just complain about a soggy gas pedal.
“Idle Stop and Go,” which stops the engine when the Soul is not moving, will be available later in the year. The engine remains off until the driver releases the brake pedal. As a part of the Eco package, ISG helps the 1.6-liter engine achieve a 29/36 mpg rating, gaining two mpg in the city and one on the highway test cycle. The 2.0-liter gains one mpg in both city and highway ratings.
Kia Soul fans will readily recognize the changes in the Soul’s exterior for2012. Most notably on the ! trim are projector headlamps and LED front accent lights and LED taillight clusters on the Soul !. All Souls, however, get a new hood and front and rear bumpers. The base Soul doesn’t really look the part, with a chrome accented grille and body-color side mirrors—though a black body-side molding really only looks good on white. Steel 15-inch wheels with rather unconvincing wheel covers are standard, though the 16-inch alloy wheels standard on the Soul + are offered as an option or as part of the Eco package on the base Soul, and they significantly improve the looks of the Soul.