2012 Kia Soul Review: Time To Roll Like a Hamster

Fun! That is what the Kia Soul is. Despite the Hamster commercials, the Kia Soul is a solid ride that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and it is also a super fun car that actually makes you excited to drive.

Not quite an SUV, a hatchback or a crossover – the Kia Soul is in a realm all its own and is considered to be a compact car with a lot of oomph. Starting at a base price of $14,400 for the 1.6L GDI engine version, prices can go as high as $20k for a 2.0L I4 engine with all the bells and whistles. The Soul also earns its gas stripes with 27mpg city/35mpg on the highway – that is not bad for a car that looks likes an SUV but performs gas wise like a compact. The Soul can also be upgraded from 15″ wheels up to 18″ alloy wheels.

While the Soul won’t tear up the road due to its lack of speedy prowess, it is still impressive on roads and street driving. It did fantastic in stop and go traffic. However, the suspension could have been a bit more bouncy as it it took potholes hard when falling into them. Highway driving is smooth and tight and the ability to switch into manual is another nice feature that turns the driving experience up a notch.

Once again the Infinity Audio system is showcased in the Kia Soul. What makes this audio system a bit different this go around, is the integration of speaker lights. The driver can control the colors and how often the lights throb when the music plays. The louder the sound in your car, the better the speakers glow and pulse in time with music’s beat. While this is a seriously fun and unique feature, it can also become distracting while driving. So unfortunately we had to turn it off after a while. However, even this feature just exemplifies the party aspect of the car. What I do find strange however is that these lights are located in the front and not also in the back, where the passengers sit, and where it might have been more appropriate.

In addition to the Infinity audio system, Kia’s tried and true Navigation system with SiriusXM is also an option with rear-camera display. This interface along is the same as with all the other current 2012 Kia model cars. There is also the standard USB/AUX input jacks. Strangely enough our iPhone 5 wasn’t recognized by the USB port or the audio system. I assume that a software update will fix that.

The interior of the Soul is sleek and certainly fine for a compact vehicle. However, for the price point, I would have liked softer seats as they were a bit on the harder side and the horn on the steering wheel is actually quite stiff and difficult to honk!


The Kia Soul is for someone who doesn’t take driving too seriously but actually just enjoys being in a car that makes you smile. It also has an iPad app! What other car do you know that has an app that emulates the retro video game Rad Racer?! You can use it to take a Kia Soul for a spin in a pixel world or experience other cool interactions within the app.

All in all, the shape of the Kia Soul screams unique and the interior with its optional speaker lights turns your car into a moving party-mobile. The size of the car itself is not too big to be overwhelming and not too small that is seems impractical to stuff your gear and several friends into it. While the suspension could be a bit better and it could certainly do with some more horsepower, the Kia Soul is great car for young drivers or for those that like to take trips and make a statement on the road. Hamster optional. The 2012 Kia Soul is available now.

The Good: A fun car with a unique design and unique add-on packages that up the ante. Decent gas milage. Quirky iPad app. May be a defined as a compact car but it is so much more than that.

The Bad: Suspension could be better. Speaker lights should also be placed in the back. Seats are kind of hard and acceleration could be a bit better.